Earlier this week, the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO) published the Facts and Figures; Patent, trade mark, design & administrative data 2013 and 2014 calendar years, which provides an interesting insight into the filing trends and administrate data over the past two years. Full details of the report are viewable
The report indicates a steady year on year increase in the number of UK national trade mark applications filed at the UK IPO between 2010 and 2014, with the total number of applications rising from 31,763 in 2010 to 51,016 in 2014. The 51,016 applications filed in 2014 represent a 9 per cent increase on the 46,362 filed in the previous calendar year.
Although it is difficult to identify accurately the myriad factors that may be responsible for this consistent and fairly substantial increase in domestic applications, one significant non-financial contributory factor may include the growing awareness of brand value and the importance of trade mark protection.
Heightened public awareness may be attributable to an increase in the number of trade mark matters being reported in the mainstream media. The past year alone has yielded a vast number of topical trade mark articles, many of which we have discussed in our own articles, discussing subject matter ranging from high profile disputes involving well-known brands to celebrities registering their names to protect their image.
There is also an increased awareness of the importance of trade mark protection in a commercial context, particularly amongst SMEs and tech companies. The technological boom of the past ten years has revolutionised the corporate landscape, advertising and traditional business models with a growing number of companies relying on the goodwill in their brand to generate income and encourage investment, rather than trading in tangible assets. This period has seen a shift from the traditional corporate model in which the primary economic resource would consist of a portfolio of tangible assets, to a new model adopted by many tech companies whereby large IP portfolios are a significant contributor to the company’s net worth.
It is interesting to note that the number of International Registrations Designating the UK are down by 14 per cent over the same period, with the total number of UK Designations decreasing from 3,969 in 2013 to 3,482 in 2014.
While once again it is difficult to identify the precise contributory factors that are responsible for the trend, it is not unreasonable to assume that more applicants are opting to designate the European Community rather than the UK in order to gain cost-effective protection in all of the 28 Member States. This trend will almost certainly be reversed if the UK exits the EU following the “in-out” referendum, scheduled for 2017. Although it will be interesting to see whether the majority of foreign applicants decide to designate the UK under the Madrid Protocol or whether they decide to benefit from local advice from the outset by instructing UK attorneys to file national applications, in view of the uncertainty relating to permissible specification terms caused by IP Translator.