In an effort to reflect the broad nature of its work, the Patent Office has decided to re-brand for the 21st century. With effect from 2nd April 2007, the Office formerly known as Patent will become known as the UK Intellectual Property Office or UK-IPO.
The move reflects the change in the Office's work since it was set up in 1852, when it dealt just with the granting of patents. Since then, its work in trade mark registration and copyright has grown in importance as people seek protection in a digital world.
The move, which comes out of the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property, is the first stage in a wide ranging review of the legal and regulatory framework surrounding intellectual property. A more substantive change will take effect in October 2007 in the area of trade mark registration. Previously, the Trade Mark Registry took responsibility for what they called the "purity of the trade mark register" by examining trade marks themselves and making decisions on whether or not a mark could be registered when a conflicting mark was revealed. However, from October, although a search will still be carried out, the Registry will not oppose the registration of the mark if a conflicting mark is found.
They will merely notify the owner of the previous mark and let them fight it out with the applicant. The change has been trumpeted by the Registry as being designed to 'reflect the actual position in the marketplace', although some commentators have seen it as a move by the Registry to pass the buck to trade mark owners. It remains to be seen whether the move will improve the process or whether it will lead to smaller companies with shallower pockets being unable to defend their rights. Published - March 2007