What has been one of your biggest achievements over the past year?
Simply surviving – when the covid-19 UK lockdown started in March 2020, most businesses did not know what was going to happen. We transferred all our files so that all our staff were able to continue working from home. It has very much been business as usual and, if anything, we have been considerably busier than normal. Nevertheless, continuing to trade in difficult circumstances was a success in its own right. More significantly, we also managed to open our Portuguese office, which has been operating since 1 January 2021 to service our EUIPO work post-Brexit. To open a new office in these circumstances was an achievement to say the least!
Which technological tools do you rely on most to get the job done?
There is no major magic here – we use most of the standard search facilities, including TMView, the excellent similarity search tool on the EUIPO database and the online search facilities at the UKIPO/EUIPO and WIPO virtually daily. Like many businesses at the moment, we hold most of our meetings via Zoom and other video conferencing facilities.
What impact do you expect Brexit to have on UK trademark infringement actions and how likely are the UK courts to diverge from their EU counterparts in decision making?
I suspect that there will be an increase in initial disputes before the UK courts following Brexit as various businesses try to jockey for position between the United Kingdom and the European Union. Again, at first, there may be some attempt to move away from Court of Justice guidance on some issues but overall, I think it makes sense that the law remains the same for most businesses that trade both in the United Kingdom and the European Union.
How could the domain name protection system be improved?
In UDRP proceedings, at present, the existence of a trademark registration in the name of the domain name owner is virtually a complete defence. This needs to be removed – presently, it is too easy for an unscrupulous applicant to register a mark in a relatively quick jurisdiction, which then enables them to argue that they have a legitimate interest in the mark. At present, this places the onus upon a claimant in UDRP proceedings to have a worldwide watch to monitor and be able to oppose any such trademark applications.
What impact has the covid-19 pandemic had on your practice and what permanent changes do you expect as a result?
Like most businesses, our commercial world is in a state of flux and no one really knows how their business or indeed the business will be operating in the long term. However, it is likely that our staff will be working more from home and remotely for the future. Although we have recently taken new premises, this is primarily to allow for business expansion and recruitment.
Mark Hiddleston is a director and founder of Hiddleston Trade Marks, a UK firm established in 2015, with over 25 years’ trademark experience. He has substantial experience in the clearance and prosecution of UK and EU trademark applications and the handling of oppositions and cancellation actions before the UK Intellectual Property Office and EUIPO and worldwide. Mr Hiddleston is a senior editor and contributor to the United Kingdom Trade Mark Handbook – the leading authority on UK trademark practice and the European Union Trade Mark Handbook.