Every Tuesday and Friday World Trademark Review presents a round-up of news, developments and insights from across the trademark sphere. In today’s edition, we look at how India may remove the controversial GST exemption for unbranded food products, the Chicago Cubs tackling an increase in counterfeiting following on-field success and a look at the Japanese government’s partnership with ARIPO. Coverage this time from Trevor Little (TL), Tim Lince (TJL), Adam Houldsworth (AH) and Timothy Au (TA).

Legal radar:

Thai IP department to upgrade services – The director-general of Thailand’s IP department, Thosapone Dansuputra, has emphasised the crucial role of intellectual property in the country’s efforts to transition from a middle-income to a higher-income economy. His department is set to upgrade its IP Mart service, turning it into an effective online marketplace for inventors and investors. The new offering, Thosapone stated, will include a free valuation service to facilitate lending. The department’s IP Innovation Driven Enterprise Centre will also be developed to better share knowledge on IP creation and monetisation. These developments occur against the background of the Thailand 4.0 initiative to grow the country’s economy through creativity and innovation. On first glance, this appears to be the right direction to go, given the findings of a recent ASEAN study which suggested that trademark-rich sectors play a vital role in the region’s economies. (AH)

India seeks end to unbranded food exemption from GST – India’s commerce and industry ministry has asked the country’s finance ministry to remove the Goods and Services Tax exemption currently enjoyed by unbranded food. As we reported in July, the exemption led some companies to abandon their registered trademarks. To that end, the ministry is concerned that it will lead to an upswing in counterfeit trade, and has criticised it as unfriendly to consumers. The commerce and industry ministry’s call echoes similarly proposals from the All India Rice Exporters’ Association that all rice brands be brought under the tax. (AH)

Flood of applications in anticipation of Canadian trademark revolution – Brand owners are flocking to register Canadian trademarks in advance of amendments to the country’s IP laws, planned for 2019, according to an article in the Law Times. The changes will see an upheaval in Canada’s system, ending the requirement for the applicant to show use of their marks. Describing the changes as “huge”, Cynthia Rowden of Bereskin & Parr said that the amendments have created fears that there could be an increase in trademark trolls registering marks in order to demand pay-outs from brand owners. She observed that many brands have reacted by making a slew of defensive registrations. This upsurge, Rowden claims, could also be due to the changes in fee arrangements which will come into effect. (AH)

Japan’s government partners with ARIPO in training initiative – The Japanese government has teamed up with the African Region Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) to train 1,000 individuals across Africa in IP systems. The World Intellectual Property Organisation will also support the initiative by helping to design the course curriculum. Takuya Sugiyama of the Japan Patent Office has said that the training will “promote public awareness for intellectual property in Africa” and “will lead not only to encouraging investments in Africa by foreign countries including Japan, but will also help to drive sustainable economic growth in African countries”. (TA)

“Made in Prison” label to appear on Russian products – According to the Moscow Times, a trademark application for “Made in Prison” has been submitted by Russia’s Federal Prison Service. The mark suggests, according to the article, that a “Made in Prison” label will appear on some products in Russia, indicating to consumers when products were made by those incarcerated in a correctional facility. Russia has the highest incarceration rate in Europe (and one of the highest in the world), and around 30% of Russian prisoners (approximately 219,000 people according to 2014 figures) work in prison, with jobs including labor at sewing machines making gloves and slippers. The question, of course, is whether a “Made in Prison” label will encourage or discourage consumers from buying product. (TJL)

Market radar:

Chicago Cubs seek to enforce trademarks following on-field success – The Chicago Cubs have suffered a significant increase in enforcement issues since winning last season’s Baseball World Series. The team, whose past successes have been limited, has suddenly found its branding the target of counterfeiters and infringers. The club has not taken this lying down: the Chicago Tribune reports that the Cubs have become the MLB’s most frequent user of the TTAB since the start of their championship season, opposing 47 applications. As experienced trademark counsel will be able to attest, sometimes the price of success is an increase in brand protection work. (AH)

Twitter’s new character limit – Twitter could be set to double its signature 140 character count, as a handful of select accounts begin testing a new 280 character limit. The social media giant has said the move is aimed to help users “easily express themselves”, although the reception to the decision has been polarised, with some calling it a risky strategy. Though Twitter’s usage growth has stalled for several years, its influence in the branding world is not one to be underestimated. Going forward, this change – if it is implemented to all users – will have a noticeable impact on how brand owners communicate with their customers and how they advertise and promote themselves online. (TA)

On the move:

Marks & Clerk UK trademark head makes the move to Kempner & Partners – It has been announced that Matt Sammon will join Leeds-based IP law firm Kempner & Partners as a partner. Sammon previously served as head of UK trademarks at Marks & Clerk. An experienced portfolio management, he is also adept in trademark transactions. (AH)

Duane Morris snags Bert Greene for its new Austin office – Former Norton Rose Fulbright lawyer Bert Greene has joined Duane Morris, and will help establish the firm’s new Austin bureau. The office – one of the firm’s 21 outposts in the US and 29 around the world – gives Duane Morris a foothold in one of the country’s most vibrant innovation hubs, where many high-tech brands have a base. (AH)

Product radar:

Anaqua unveils new product offering – Anaqua has released ANAQUA 9, a software platform that is designed to facilitate an understanding on the part of corporations and law firms of how their IP is functioning. The press release announcing the new software states that it “offers a simplified web layout where users can quickly access integrated dashboards and patent analytics that would otherwise take an extensive amount of time to find”. It adds that the system, which includes the ability to integrate trademark data, allows users to identify opportunities to both monetise and save money on their IP. In July we spoke to CEO Bob Romeo after it was announced that Anaqua and Lecorpio were to merge. At that time, he promised a roll-out of new offerings and today’s move appears to be the first such release as the company expands its offerings. (TL)

Media watch:

How to avoid buying fake goods – The New Scientist has written a piece advising consumers on how best to avoid inadvertently purchasing counterfeit goods. Citing the UK Food Standard Agency, it recommends looking out for the four ‘P’s when dodging fake alcohol: drinkers should be alert to excessively low ‘prices’, shoddy ‘packaging’, drinks sold in disreputable ‘places’, and be careful when buying routinely counterfeited ‘products’ like vodka. Fake foods, the article states, are harder to avoid, inspiring supermarket chains like Walmart to develop public databases to show the provenance of its products. As far as medicines go, the piece advises consumers to stay well away from online drugs; half of which the World Health Organisation estimates to be fake. (AH)

And finally…

Join us in China – Brand Strategy China 2017, a high-level knowledge-sharing event for professionals tasked with protecting the integrity and maximising the value of their brands in the region, will be taking place in Shanghai on December 7. Hosted by World Trademark Review, the event will provide a highly focused one-day programme delivering practical, actionable takeaways for professionals tasked with protecting the integrity and maximising the value of their brands in the region. The full programme is available here, and readers of this blog who book before October 12 using the code WTRBLOG can save $200 off the standard delegate rate. Click here now to reserve your place at the discounted rate. (TL)