19 November 2015

Kuwait to increase trademark fees significantly

It has been reported through various sources that in December 2015, the fees for trademarks in Kuwait will increase significantly.

I understand this will include filing, publication and registration fees. Furthermore, I believe that applications already on file will be subject to the new publication and registration fees (if they're not becoming due imminently). This is not something that would have been anticipated when originally filing applications and applicants are going to need to budget for some substantial additional fees.

Can anything be done to alleviate these fee increases? Yes, applications can be filed now and will be subject to the existing application fees. A legalised Power of Attorney is required for Kuwaiti applications but this can be late filed so it seems advisable not to delay if you want to take advantage of the current application fees.

However, examination does not happen that quickly in Kuwait so you are going to need to budget for the increased publication and registration fees.

Looking ahead

Kuwait is a member of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, usually known as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The other members are Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

As the states look to implement a unifying trademark law (not a unitary law) this fee increase may be a reflection of this. The official fees of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are some of the most expensive in the world. Kuwait's fee increase could be seen as a way of them putting their fee structure in line with the two members that receive the most trademark applications.

Therefore, could we see fee increases in Bahrain, Oman and Qatar too? I feel it is fair to anticipate doing so. It could be sensible to consider filing in these countries sooner rather than later if they're likely to be of commercial interest in the future. Bahrain and Oman are members of the Madrid Protocol and can be designated in International applications. If there are fee increases locally, expect them also to elect to increase the Individual fees payable to them under the Madrid Protocol.

17 November 2015

The Gambia joins the Madrid Protocol

The Gambia will become the next member of the Madrid Protocol when it joins up on 18 December 2015.

African membership of the Madrid System continues to grow, although being the smallest country on the mainland of Africa, the addition of the Gambia will not make a significant impact on the worldwide Madrid System map.

Furthermore, although a lot of African countries are now members of the Madrid System, not all of these have made local legislative amendments to reflect Madrid membership and the enforceability of International Registrations is highly questionable.

This does not appear to be the case for the Gambia though, which has a relatively modern trademark law.

The Gambia has previously been infamous for its significant delays caused most notably by an enormous backlog in printing Trademark Journals. However, in recent times it has made tremendous efforts to get applications advertised and made significant inroads into its backlog.

Nonetheless, resources are at a premium at the Gambian Registry and an increase in filings caused by Madrid designations may push the Registry's capabilities even more. Of course, if you designate via Madrid and do not get a refusal in the designated time then you have an assumed registration (although this does not necessarily rule out a future challenge). Covering the Gambia through a Madrid designation will be an attractive option to many.

When it comes to Provisional Refusals, the Gambia has made a declaration under Rule 17(5)(e). Such ex officio Provisional Refusals can only be contested "before an authority external to the said Office" e.g. a tribunal or court.

The Gambia joins only China and Madagascar in making such a declaration. In practice, even if the Gambian Registry can cope with examining all its International designations in the required timescale, examination can be sketchy and it's not anticipated that the Registry will be issuing rafts of Provisional Refusals, probably very few.

12 November 2015

Misleading invoices - a small win for the UK Intellectual Property Office

The UK Intellectual Property Office was pleased to announce this week, "IP scammers face record financial liability".

Those involved in the business of maintaining intellectual property rights will be familiar with the unsolicited letters that are sent to proprietors with exorbitant fees for maintaining these rights, or for putting these rights into a "directory". Furthermore, many of these requests look like they come from official Intellectual Property Offices, at least to many IP owners who are not familiar with dealing with Intellectual Property Offices on a regular basis.

Various Offices around the world have made it an important task to educate their customers about these organisations, for example, see the warnings from the UK, OHIM, the USA, Norway and New Zealand, and also some examples of the actual letters from WIPO.

The judgement handed down by the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (and found here) orders the defendant, Intellectual Property Agency Limited and its sole director, Harri Mattias Jonasson, to pay £500,000. This is maximum this court can impose.

Bearing in mind the defendants made a profit of over £1.1 million, this is really only a small win for the Intellectual Property Office, and probably an even smaller one for those that have been duped into paying such inflated fees.

There is a lack of sympathy in some quarters for IP owners who go ahead and pay "silly" money. This is a little unfair in my view. These legal steps, added to continued awareness by Intellectual Property Offices and IP professionals alike, will hopefully go some way to making these businesses less lucrative.

However, it's flabbergasting that a firm can make such significant profits on the basis of UK rights alone, and I dread to think how much money this "industry" makes worldwide.

My own firm is very reasonably priced when it comes to UK and worldwide renewals. Perhaps we are missing trick (I say in jest). Those that have been duped, or could be in the future, will be pleased to know there are many firms out there who will provide a service tantamount to its value and who can also act as a barrier to the scammers.