Thursday 28 April 2016

Instagram v Littergram

BBC News reports how Instagram has insisted that a UK anti-littering campaign called Littergram change its name. The UK site, and the associated app, encourages people to take photos of litter and report it to their local authority - taking advantage of the power of social media for a socially useful purpose. Unfortunately being all about photo-sharing, it trod on Instagram's toes too heavily for the comfort of Instagram's owner, Facebook, who seem to be emerging as one of the biggest bullies in cyberspace.

Why on earth should there be the slightest problem between Instagram and Littergram? What possible likelihood of confusion is there? It's a prime example of a big trade mark owner seeking to turn the limited rights granted by trade mark law into something more like copyright - or even a patent-style monopoly. Essentially their argument boils down to the proposition that they own exclusive rights in the suffix "-gram", because there's certainly no similarity between "Insta-" and "Litter-" except the number of syllables and the sound of the second one of them.

But hang on a moment - "-gram" has nothing to do with photography anyway. It refers to writing (e.g. epigram) or drawing (e.g. diagram). So what are they getting so proprietorial about? And why doesn't Littergram go for something more relevant - - "Littergraph" strikes me as rather better. Or did the founder perhaps deliberately choose to make the allusion to the better-known photo-sharing service?

Thursday 14 April 2016

Press release: Metis Partners unveils the top performers in the UK's only IP League Table

As they've kindly sent me the press release, I will pass it on:
Metis Partners is proud to present the latest update in the IP League Table. Over 30 new entrants have been added in the last four months, many of whom made it to the top 20, suggesting that some of the larger, more sophisticated and IP-rich companies now see the benefits of entering the IP League Table. The results also show that the recognition of IP on the balance sheet is one of the features linked to some of the best scoring companies, suggesting that acquired IP assets, as a result of M&A, has encouraged companies to take IP management more seriously.
Kromek Group, a County Durham based radiation detection solution provider has topped the 2016 Intellectual Property League Table (IP100). The company has over 247 patents covering medical, nuclear, and security industries. Kromek has developed an end-to-end process for the fabrication and use of cadmium zinc telluride (CZT) crystals to detect traces of radiation.
Just after Kromek was Aberdeen based COREX, a provider of specialist services primarily in the analysis of geological samples for the oil and gas industry. COREX has over 35 years’ experience in this field.
In third place is Cambridge based B2B software specialists, Metail, who design 3D modelling software for the fashion industry, allowing online retailers to provide customers with a 94-96% accurate model of their bodies to facilitate online clothes shopping.
The IP League Table, sponsored by Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks, Murgitroyd and Jumpstart, and in association with BE Group and Metis Partners, is based upon the assessment of five IP asset classes – Brand & Reputation, Patents, Critical Databases, Software, and Trade Secrets.
The IP League Table profiles and ranks innovative companies within the UK’s private sector, highlighting those which have significantly invested in their IP in the form of IP creation, IP management policies, R&D activities and IP commercialisation. Top performing entrants are published in the IP100, an annual ranking of companies that are considered to be the most effective at commercialising their IP assets.
Stephen Robertson, director and founder of Metis Partners, the award-winning IP advisory firm, said: "IP is a vital measure of the strength and viability of a business. The IP100 is providing a barometer of the importance businesses place on IP, and can be used by lenders and investors to judge the robustness and scalability of companies they might invest in.
"Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks, headline sponsors of the IP League Table, have long recognised the value of IP, and lend to businesses with strong IP assets. We are excited to be able to highlight the advantages that effective IP management can bring to a successful fundraising or exit.
“This was clearly put to good effect by Touch Bionics, an IP-rich Scottish business funded by Clydesdale Bank which was sold for £27.5m earlier this week. This builds on the recent exit of and fundraising of IP100 entrants SwiftKey, eeGeo and Sphere Fluidics.
“The companies taking part in the IP100 will now be able to identify areas for improvement in their IP management and to focus on maximising returns from their IP, thanks to the increase in granularity of detail in the report.
“By shining the spotlight on IP-rich SMEs, the IP League Table is providing companies with a much-needed platform to promote IP recognition, IP management and benchmarks them as IP-savvy. It has become a hotbed of innovation and has created a community where IP-rich companies can share their experiences and successes in breaking into international markets, fundraising, gaining a valuation for their IP and even securing an exit at generous multiples!”
As well as exposure and recognition, entrants of the IP League Table receive membership to the IP100 Club, an exclusive network of IP-savvy companies who lead the way in promoting a culture of innovation and IP creation within the UK. The IP100 Club consists of the top performing 100 companies of the IP League Table, IP100 Champions, sponsors and potential investors. It provides exclusive access to monthly events across the UK which provide information on how to better manage and exploit IP assets, and also give IP-rich companies a chance to network and learn from each other. These events will also give companies an opportunity to meet the Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks, IP100 sponsors and even investors who are looking for new, innovative companies to invest in.

Wednesday 6 April 2016


The Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trademark of India (CG) vide its notification dated 4th April 2016 has given an opportunity to all Applicants and authorised Agents of Trademark Applications which were recently abandoned by the Indian Trademark (TM) Registry to (re)submit their responses or make submissions (where response was not submitted earlier) by 30th April 2016.

This action will benefit the several thousand pending Trademark applicants whose applications were abandoned by the Indian Trademarks Registry due to lack of responses.

For the last several years, the Indian TM Registry had stopped sending Office Actions through the postal service. Instead, they uploaded them online on the TM Registry website. However, there were always delays and other issues in the process. It appears that due to discrepancies and mismanagement, several files and documents were misplaced and the TM Registry could not locate the filed responses which apparently caused a chaos at the Registry. However, instead of attempting to trace the missing documents, the Registry took the decision to simply abandon all applications where the Office Actions were issued (on/off line) and the TM Registry could not trace the responses submitted.

After much ado, the TM Registry has granted a grace period of 3 weeks (until 30th April 2016) allowing all applicants who had filed their responses to re-send copies of their responses. The same grace period also applies to those who did not submit responses because they did not receive the Office Action even though it was uploaded / sent through post. All applications that do not receive responses by 30th April 2016 shall be treated as abandoned.

On the one hand, the move to abandon the applications has been criticised widely as a sign of the Registry not holding itself accountable. On the other, it is also seen as a smart move to clear off the overload that is sometimes caused by non-serious applications.

If you or any of your clients have filed any trademark application in India, you may wish to check the status with your concerned Attorney. If it has been “abandoned”, you still have time till 30th April 2016 to take remedial action and submit a response.

If you are a Fox Mandal client, be assured that we are checking the status of your applications and shall be reaching out to the TM Registry to take necessary actions. Also, if your application has been examined, you must send your instruction to file a response immediately so a suitable response can be drafted and filed on or before 30th April 2016.

PS: As per the latest news, as a result of several writ petitions being filed before different High Courts, on 5th April 2016, the Delhi High Court vide its Interim order has stayed the order of CG. We await the final order and shall keep you informed. 

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