Friday 21 October 2022

Protecting your Brands, Designs and Technology Abroad

Photo Jeremy Segrott Licence CC BY 2,0 Source Wikimedia Commons


According to Business Wales, International Trade Week takes place between 31 Oct and 4 Nov 2022.  The Welsh Government has published an Export page which provides advice and guidance on exports and overseas investments.  One of its recent articles is Protecting your UK Intellectual Abroad which it published on 16 Sept 2022.

That article advises:
"To protect your intellectual property outside of the UK, you usually need to apply in each country you want protection in."

Although the author has confused intellectual property with intellectual assets this is good advice.  As the article also says, intellectual property rights are territorial and if you want to protect your brands, designs, technology or works of art or literature outside the United Kingdon you probably need to apply for a trade mark, registered design or patent in the countries or territories in which you seek protection.  Works of art and literature and the performances of actors. dancers, musicians and singers and other performing artists are slightly different since copyrights and rights in performances arise automatically in each of the countries that belong to the Berne and Rome Conventions.  

In Protecting Intellectual Assets Abroad (6 Oct 2022 IP after Brexit)  I explained that trade marks, design registrations and patents could be obtained singly by separate applications to each national or regional intellectual property office or collectively from a single filing under the Madrid ProtocolHague Agreement or Patent Cooperation Treaty.   Applications for patents under the PCT proceed in two phases.  As novelty, inventiveness, and utility are required by all countries' patent laws applications are examined centrally for those requirements.  If an invention passes that first stage it proceeds to national intellectual property offices which consider whether it complies with their local laws.  Equivalent procedures take place for designs under Hague and marks under Madrid.

Intellectual asset owners should beware that overseas protection can be very pricey.   In addition to the prosecution fees in each nation or regional office, registrations have to be renewed every so often.  In some countries, patent renewal fees will actually increase as the patent ages.  The validity of your patent, trade mark or design registration can be challenged in the courts or intellectual property offices of the countries in which you seek protection.   If anyone infringes your intellectual property right, you usually have to go to court to enforce it.  Defending invalidity or revocation claims or pursuing infringers can be very expensive, particularly in common law countries like Australia. Canada, Hong Kong, India, the Irish Republic, New Zealand, South Africa or the USA.  Unless your company is very well established you will probably benefit from taking out before-the-event insurance.

How do you decide where to protect your intellectual assets?   Generally, it should be where you have a market or a competitor.   If your company is big enough to export or invest abroad it has probably developed an intellectual property strategy which is integrated into its business plan.  If not, identify the asset that needs legal protection in the country concerned and seek the appropriate protection.

The Menai Science Park will hold a hybrid in-person and online seminar on IP protection overseas on 18 Nov 2022 at which expert patent attorneys,  specialist IP insurance brokers and lawyers from Ireland, India and Argentina will discuss those topics.  The science park expects an international audience for that event.  That is just one of many services that M-SParc offers to businesses in Northwest Wales that want to export or invest abroad.  We can introduce you to the UK's IP attaches abroad, the British Library's Business and IP Centre and its regional partners as well as many other resources.

Anyone wishing to discuss this article may call me on 020 7404 5252 or send me a message through my contact page,

Monday 10 October 2022

Welsh Vodka Litigation- AU Vodka v NE10 Vodka

Jane Lambert

Chancery Division (Mr Justice Mellor) AU Vodka Ltd v NE10 Vodka Ltd and another [2022] EWHC 2371 (Ch) (21 Sept 2022)

Whisky Galore is the title of a novel by Sir Compton Mackenzie about the shipwreck of a cargo vessel off the Hebrides in the Second World War. The ship had been carrying whisky and the story is about a battle of wits between islanders who had salvaged the freight and hidden and the authorities who were doing their best to stop them.  I was reminded of that novel by the passing-off action that AU Vodka Ltd has brought against NE10 Vodka Ltd.

AU distils and distributes the vodka in the gold bottle and NE10 the vodka in the metallic blue.  Both companies are incorporated in Wales and carry on business in Swansea.  The action has been brought in the Intellectual Property List of the Chancery Division in London even though it could have been brought in the Business and Property Courts of Wales in Cardiff or the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court.

The first round of the proceedings was an application for an interim injunction to restrain NT10 from marketing and selling its products until judgment or further order.   It was heard by Mr Justice Mellor who delivered judgment in AU Vodka Ltd v NE10 Vodka Ltd and another [2022] EWHC 2371 (Ch) on 21 Sept 2022. The judge dismissed the application because he found that there would be a  greater risk of injustice to NE10 were he to grant the order than there would be to AU in refusing it.  I analysed his judgment in Passing-off: AU Vodka v NW10 Vodka in NIPC Law on 9 Oct 2022.

The next stage of the litigation will be a trial which the judge directed to take place in January,  In that hearing the court will consider the substantial issues.  The judge did not have to consider the merits of the case for the interim injunction application.  All he had to do was decide whether AU could win.   Mr Justice Mellor said at para [80] of his judgment that there was "a serious issue to be tried" but the case was "finely balanced."

Anyone wishing to discuss this case can call me on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact form.