The cost of registering trade marks in the UK will fall under plans proposed by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). The move is a response to reduced EU trade mark prices and to falling demand for marks.
The IPO has proposed reducing fees and introducing more flexibility into the payment terms and giving more assistance to people when they first apply to register trade marks. The cost of some patent applications will also fall under the plans.
Minister of state for intellectual property David Lammy said that the proposals will help businesses which depend on their intellectual property (IP) to protect it despite economic troubles.
"In the current economic climate, there is a risk that businesses will not protect their Intellectual Property, which will harm both those businesses and UK competitiveness in the longer term," he said.
The body which registers Europe-wide trade marks, OHIM, recently announced that it would cut fees by 40% and Lee Curtis, a trade mark law expert at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM, said that this would impact UK registrations.
But the IPO has said that its reduction in fees is a response to OHIM's.
"A fee reduction for applications to the European trade mark office has this week been agreed by the EU Member States, a move long supported by the UK," said an IPO statement. "The proposals contained in the Intellectual Property Office consultation document will help maintain the UK as a competitive option for businesses looking to protect their intellectual property."
The IPO is consulting with the public over its plans, which include reducing the fees paid for electronic filings of trade mark and patent applications and reducing the fees paid to oppose other people's applications.
The plans also allow people to pay just 50% of the fees when applying to register a trade mark. When the IPO has produced its report on its eligibility for registration the applicant can then choose whether to proceed and pay the other half of the fee to register the mark.
It will also provide telephone support in making applications and informal advice on whether people should proceed with registrations that are opposed or with which there are problems.
Lammy said that the move should keep the IPO competitive in the face of OHIM's price cuts.
"We welcome the fee reduction announced by the European trade mark office. However we also recognise the need for the Intellectual Property Office to keep improving its services, ensuring national registration remains an attractive choice for UK businesses, where such registration is appropriate," he said.
"The consultation looks at measures which will help businesses to continue to register intellectual property rights in a downturn and continue to meet the needs of all customers," said Lammy.
The IPO said that the move is also a response to a fall in trade mark and patent applications. It said that applications were down by 12% in 2008.
The IPO has proposed reducing fees by about £30 for electronically-filed applications. It wants to increase the fees paid when requesting time extensions, but reduce from £200 to £100 the fee paid to oppose someone else's trade mark.
Responses to the consultation are due by 1 June.
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