Tuesday, 18 June 2013

The Impact of Lookalikes

One of my least favourite IP issues. The soi disant Intellectual Property Office has released a report on the impact of lookalikes, because everything must be measured and quantified in the interest of evidence-based policy-making (notwithstanding which, section 52 has been done away with). What this means is that the special pleading that started about the time of the Bill that became the Trade Marks Act 1994 is still going strong - and what that means is that nearly 20 years on the special pleaders haven't convinced anyone, but still hope to do so. Well, it worked with copyright in sound recordings ... What a way to build a legal system.
The issue of lookalikes is one that has been on the policy and business agenda for at least two decades. Well-known brands, and brand-owners' groups, have long advocated [for which read "pleaded for"] specific and adequate protection against lookalikes under United Kingdom law, particularly in the context of possible business-to-business harm. More recently, the issue has also become more prominent on the agenda of the European Union both in the context of so-called "freeriding" in relation to trade mark law, and with respect to possible unfair commercial practices.
 Maybe it's the fact that the EU is now seized of the matter that gives it a new lease of life, and leads to the waste of taxpayers' money on trying to collect some evidence that will convince someone instead of trying to reform trade mark law so it works for small businesses. But at least the evidence adduced here is at worst inconclusive, and at best pretty clear that on balance lookalikes aren't a problem for consumers, and not even much of one to brand owners. Excellent! Even better: the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 already fill any need for legislation, or at least most of it.

The report is available from the Intellectual Property Office - 2013 web page.

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