Campaign to strengthen our trade mark and IP system

12th Oct 2022

We have launched a campaign to boost UK growth by strengthening the UK’s vital trade mark and IP system.

Growth chart

IP-rich industries provide 1 in 5 jobs across the country and contribute £770bn to the UK’s GDP each year. 

British innovators up and down the country rely on the UK’s world-class system to protect their big ideas so they can take them to the international stage and drive growth at home.  

However, our IP and trade mark system is being run down because we have allowed a system to develop whereby practitioners with little-to-no connection to the UK can represent clients here.  

Support our campaign and write to your MP. 

If you are a member, please log in to download our template letter.

Writing today to new Minister for Enterprise and Markets, Dean Russell MP, who is responsible for IP and Brexit opportunities, CITMA calls on the Government to look at amending the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill [‘Brexit Freedoms Bill’], currently progressing through Parliament, to make simple changes that will help achieve the growth the UK urgently needs.

We are asking that to represent someone other than yourself, or your business, at the UK IPO you must:

  • Be appropriately regulated with suitable insurance (which is the case for any person regulated under the Legal Services Act 2007); and
  • Be an appropriately qualified professional with knowledge of the UK system. 

By implementing these requirements we believe it will drive up standards, make the system easier to navigate and ensure there is a level playing field. 

CITMA President, Rachel Wilkinson-Duffy said: “The UK’s trade mark and IP system is second to none in the world. However, it is increasingly being clogged up by overseas trade mark practitioners who see the UK as a registration hub of convenience because of our loose rules. This is stifling innovation and growth in our economy and harming consumers.

“The result is an uneven playing field whereby our main competitors insist on practitioners being properly qualified and regulated, as well as having a genuine place of business in their jurisdiction. We, on the other hand, only require a UK address for service, even if that’s just a PO Box or virtual office.

“We are urging the Government to change the rules by amending the Brexit Freedoms Bill to ensure that anyone who appears before the UK IPO is properly regulated and qualified with knowledge of the UK system. These simple changes will free our innovators from red tape and allow them to get on with creating world-class innovative products that will deliver the growth we so urgently need.”  

New research commissioned by CITMA reveals the extent of the problem: 

  • Foreign based attorneys/firms now account for 35% of firms in the Top 100 UK trade mark filers at the UK IPO compared to just 16% in 2019 before our departure from the European Union.
  • ‘Haiwai Consulting’ – a dormant company with one director, no employees and assets of £100 in their most recent filings at Companies House – filed 1,532 trade mark applications on behalf of its ‘clients’ in just six months in 2021. A remarkable achievement for a company that prior to 12 March 2021 had never filed a single UK trade mark application.

CITMA chief executive, Keven Bader, said: “It’s staggering that in just the last three years, the number of overseas practitioners in the top 100 trade mark filers at the UK IPO has more than doubled to 35%. Equally worrying is that some foreign firms can start deluging the system with thousands of applications out of the blue. 

“This results in unnecessary disputes and complications – meaning our own innovators are forced to spend time and money on legal paperwork rather than developing their products and selling them to the world.”

The consequences of so many foreign-based practitioners taking advantage of our lenient system are serious. Wilkinson-Duffy explains:

“Not only have we allowed an uneven playing field to emerge, but we are allowing unqualified and unregulated overseas practitioners to act for clients despite having little or no knowledge or understanding of our system.  

“In addition, when things go wrong, customers have no protection or redress against these overseas-based practitioners.

“The simple, cost-free solution we are calling on the Government to implement will fix these problems, and will help drive growth in our economy. I hope Ministers will listen.”