- More businesses forced to defend IP as trademark applications surge
- McDonald’s, Amazon, MasterChef all involved in UK disputes over brands
The number of oppositions to UK trademark applications has more than doubled to a record high of 8,026 in 2021, up from 3,584 in 2020* says leading intellectual property law firm Mathys & Squire.
Mathys & Squire explains that the rise in disputes over UK trademarks has been driven by Brexit. The UK left the EU trademark system in January 2021, meaning that any business wishing to protect a trademark in the UK now needs to make a separate application in the UK. This has caused a major rush to file trademark applications, resulting in a surge in the number of oppositions being filed.
Earlier this year research from Mathys & Squire found there had been a record number of applications for trademarks, with 195,000 applied for in 2020/21, up 54% from 127,000 in 2019/20**.
The Intellectual Property Office (IPO), the Government agency that handles trademark, patent and design registrations, was recently forced to recruit more than 100 new staff to clear a backlog of trademark applications. This elevated level of trademark applications – and disputes related to them – is likely to be a long term trend as the UK’s departure from the European Union trademark system is a permanent one.
Disputes over trademarks, known as trademark oppositions, occur when a business files a trademark application with the IPO and another person or business attempts to ‘block’ it. The IPO will determine in opposition proceedings whether a trademark application should be refused on the basis of an earlier right or other grounds such as bad faith.
Recent disputes over well-known trademarks in the UK have included:
- Amazon opposed an application by a Dubai-based coffee producer covering a range of food and drinks products registering a similar mark
- McDonald’s opposed an application to register the trademark ‘McVegan’ in the UK – it won and was awarded costs
- Shine TV, the producer of the BBC’s MasterChef TV series, successfully opposed three applications for marks incorporating the words “MASTER CHEF ACADEMY” for education and training services
Harry Rowe, Managing Associate at Mathys & Squire, comments: “The Brexit-fuelled dash to file trademarks in the UK has inevitably led to more disputes. Businesses need to ensure that they police the register to maintain the distinctiveness and value of their brands.”
“It is likely that this is no short-term spike in disputes – this is what trademark protection in the UK is now going to look like.”
“Brexit has opened up a whole new battlefield for businesses with valuable brands to protect. Prior to Brexit, trademark owners could protect their trademark across all the EU member states in one application. Now that the UK is no longer covered in an EU trademark, trademark owners must file two separate applications in order to achieve the same protection.”
“There is now twice as much ground to cover for businesses seeking to protect their investment in their brands.”
Founded in 1910, Mathys & Squire is one of the leading full-service intellectual property law firms in Europe, with over 110 years of experience in the protection and commercialisation of IP rights.
The firm has more than 60 qualified attorneys and offices in London, Paris, Munich, Luxembourg, Cambridge, Oxford, Manchester, Birmingham, Brighton and York as well as teams based in China and Japan.
Mathys & Squire is highly ranked in leading legal and IP directories, including The Legal 500, Chambers UK, IAM Patent 1000 and WTR1000.