2 July 2018Europe

LSIPR 50 2018: Uniting the IP chorus

Tim Moss has been heading the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO), which grants around 5,000 patents and 55,000 trademarks each year, since May 2017.

He previously ran Companies House, where he worked closely with the IPO. His work at the UK’s registrar of companies was delivery-focused, in terms of the practical work he did around company creation. The prospect of having ownership of education and policy relating to IP, as well as the delivery side of the business, was a major factor in Moss’s decision to join the IPO, he told LSIPR.

Moss confided that when he started in his new role at the IPO, he knew “a lot about the business of the IPO but nothing about IP”.

With the UK’s departure from the EU on the horizon, he’s had to learn quickly.

Businesses, lawyers, and trade associations continue to express concern about the UK’s IP landscape post-Brexit, but Moss is not worried.

“We have a good IP system and we will have a good IP system, we just need to ensure a smooth transition from one to the next,” he explained.

However, he’s not under any illusions; speaking to LSIPR in February, Moss said: “There are some bits of the IP system that won’t work after our exit from the EU. There are 1.2 million trademarks and 300,000 registered designs which, unless we sort out the system, will not exist past March 2019 (when the UK is expected to leave the EU).”

“This cannot be allowed to happen, and it won’t be,” he stated, and it appears that Moss is a man of his word.

The latest draft of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, released on March 19, confirmed that owners of European Union trademarks and Community designs will have their rights protected in the UK after the Brexit transition period, without any reexamination.

Although the exact mechanism for achieving and paying for this is still a matter of detailed negotiation, it’s certainly a step in the right direction. However, according to Moss, the IPO team understands the issues and possible scenarios that Brexit may bring and it is planning for a range of those going forward.

The IPO is inviting and engaging in sector-specific discussions to ensure that IP issues for industries and professions are well understood, as negotiations around Brexit get underway. Moss is urging stakeholders to use all the routes available to ensure the UK government is as well informed as it can be, so the IPO isn’t the “lone voice” advocating the importance of IP.

Despite the latest development in March there are still many unanswered questions. The role, if any, that IP lawyers in the UK will play in EU cases post-Brexit is still unclear, although Moss believes cases will continue be brought in the UK because of the quality of its “world-leading” legal sector.

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