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08:43 on Wednesday
7 March 2001

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Shops urged to protect trademarks under new law


Local shop owners are being urged to act quickly to protect their trade marks under newly introduced changes in trade mark legislation that for the first time covers small independent operators while also offering massive cost savings for big stores.

The Peterborough office of patent and trade mark attorneys Urquhart-Dykes & Lord says that a wide range of retail operators, including high street shops, mail order services and e-commerce businesses, should now consider seeking trade mark protection for their names.

“This is a significant development for the whole retail industry,” said Dr Christine Lund-Beck, a Peterborough-based partner with Urquhart-Dykes & Lord. “A number of trade mark applications have already been submitted under the new rules and we expect to see further developments as the Trade Mark Registry reveals how the rules will be interpreted.

“However, firms that make early applications will have an advantage because they are likely to avoid the complications of competing with others to register similar names.”

In the past, the Trade Mark Registry considered that retail activities were too generalised to be granted trade mark protection. Big store chains that sold their own branded goods had to register trade marks for each product under relevant sections from a list of 42 categories. In contrast, small shops which sold other manufacturers’ branded goods could not obtain trade mark protection for their own name.

“The old situation placed a financial burden on larger stores and denied protection to small, independent shops,” said Dr Lund-Beck. “The process to register a trade mark for a single product in one category could cost a basic £425 plus another £150 for every additional category, not including extra administrative and legal fees in complicated cases. There would also be renewal fees every 10 years of £200 and £50 respectively.

“The fees could total a significant amount for multiple retailers that sell a wide range of their own branded products, such as supermarkets.

“In contrast, small independent shops that sold only other manufacturer’s products were forced to register such things as their own carrier bags in an attempt to obtain some measure of trade mark protection.”

The new rules, which came into force on 18 October, follow two court cases brought by the British Retail Consortium on behalf of Debenhams and Dewhurst in the UK and a decision by the Board of Appeal at the European Union’s Community Trade Mark Office.

However, the Trade Mark Registry will still refuse trade mark definitions that are considered to be too general and trade marks which are too descriptive. Applications for registration will need to specify the characteristics of the retail service being offered and the market sector involved.

Dr Lund-Beck explained: “A shop would have to declare, for example, that it brings together for the benefit of others a variety of goods to enable customers conveniently to view and purchase those goods. As usual, it will be important to employ precise phrases in trade mark applications and to take into consideration the Trade Mark Registry’s decisions on the large number of applications that are already pending.”

October 2000

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Contact:
Dr Christine Lund-Beck
Urquhart-Dykes & Lord
Telephone: 01733 340011

www.udl.co.uk

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