On 30 September, the UK Intellectual Property Office published a practice note which, in effect, reduced the opposition deadline for UK national trade mark applications, and for UK designations of trade mark applications under the Madrid Protocol, and the deadline to extend the opposition period, by one day. This "clarification" has ramifications for those who are considering opposing a trade mark in the UK and may also affect those who are currently locked in opposition proceedings initiated after this change was introduced.

Why the change? In summary, the UK IPO reviewed the periods normally allowed under Rule 17 and Rule 18 of the Trade Mark Rules 2008 (as amended) and came to the conclusion that in the sentence “the period (within which to bring an opposition or file an extension) of two months beginning with the date on which the application was published”, the term “beginning with” requires that the publication date be included in the calculation of the opposition/extension period. The UK IPO’s line of reasoning follows the case of Zoan v Rouamba (2002) 2 All ER 620 and commentary in Halsbury’s Laws of England.

Are you currently a party to UK opposition proceedings? If the opposition papers were filed “out of time” under the new rules but prior to 30 September 2010, the UK IPO will turn a “blind eye” (admitting this is partly due to their error). However, if opposition papers were filed “out of time” under the new rules on or post 30 September, this may be bad news for the opponent or good news for the applicant. You should seek advice on approaching the UK IPO without delay, if they have not already contacted you.