Hiddleston Trade Marks
"Engaging in professional bodies is one of the easiest and best methods of learning"
What led you to establish your own firm and what tips would you offer others considering the same?
I had increasingly come to the conclusion that the world of trademarks was changing and so the services that we provided for our clients also needed to change. Clients in the United Kingdom have become increasingly cost conscious and savvy about the services that they want. I wanted to establish a firm that could adapt to the market and be flexible to our clients’ needs. When we take on new clients, we try to determine what they want in terms of service, billing, reporting and procedures.
My top tips for anyone setting up their own business would be as follows:
- Plan carefully.
- Do not panic. People say that setting up a business is one of the most stressful activities in life. For me, it was stressful and “all go” for the first six months. However, it was not as bad as I had imagined. There will be a lot of admin; for example, you must reinvent the wheel when setting up systems. Some things will happen that you could never have foreseen. Nevertheless, if you keep going, there is always a way around a problem.
- Be adaptable. When I set up my business, I created a business plan, but I had to throw this away after the first six months. In all businesses, things can change quickly. You must seize the opportunities when they arise.
How are client demands changing, and what effect has this had on the management of your firm?
Clients are becoming more sophisticated in terms of the services that they require. For larger companies, there are often budgetary constraints which mean that you must keep a close eye on costs. In a fast-moving technical world, responses are expected quickly. You need to adopt a much more client-focused approach.
In relation to small and medium-sized enterprises, there is still a large amount of ignorance surrounding IP matters. Nevertheless, many smaller clients are more prepared to handle and file their trademark applications directly. Sometimes this works, but sometimes it can lead to disasters which we then have to sort out.
You are active at INTA and the Chartered Institute of Trademark Attorneys. In terms of professional development, why is such engagement important for law firm practitioners?
The key words are innovation and international. IP professionals handle cases not only in their own countries, but also through colleagues around the world. Engaging in professional bodies is one of the easiest and best methods of learning about developments globally. Moreover, trademark law and practice is constantly changing. For busy practitioners, the quickest and most efficient means of keeping abreast of both local and international developments is through professional bodies.
You have an expanding practice relating to domain name disputes and the UDRP is due for review. Would you make any changes to the mechanism or to the way that domain names and trademark disputes are decided?
I believe that the UDRP procedure works well and efficiently. It provides a streamlined and highly cost-effective method of dealing with domain name disputes. However, in an ideal world, it would be good if there was further harmonisation and uniformity in the approach to fees, procedures and principles. It would also be good if many of the procedures gave weight to conceptual and phonetic similarities, in addition to visual similarity.
Finally, how different do you feel trademark practice will be in five years, and how can practitioners best prepare for the future now?
The trademark world has been changing rapidly and is likely to continue to change. In the United Kingdom, Brexit may lead to an increased emphasis on UK filings and practice. There has also been a significant increase in disputes. I am a UK trademark litigator, which means that I can handle litigation before the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court, which is a cost-effective, streamlined litigation procedure. This has proved extremely effective for smaller clients – who previously may have been deterred from acting before the court – and is effectively a game changer.
The key points to consider for the future are as follows:
- Be adaptive. Consider how you can improve your services for clients.
- In the United Kingdom, litigation and dispute work will increase and the profession needs to be prepared for this.
- Talk to your clients – work with them to determine what they need and what they are likely to need in the foreseeable future.
Mark Hiddleston is director and founder of Hiddleston Trade Marks, a UK firm established in 2015. He has more than 25 years’ trademark experience, particularly in the clearance and prosecution of UK and EU trademark applications and the handling of oppositions and cancellation actions before the UK and EU IP offices.
He is a senior editor and contributor to the United Kingdom Trade Mark Handbook, one of the leading authorities on UK trademark practice.
Click here to see his WTR 1000 2019 profile.