Hello, my name is Martin Noble and in this webinar, I'm going to have a look at some of the issues that affect intellectual property rights in the light of Coronavirus or COVID-19.
The long-term effects are largely unknown, but there has been a significant impact in the wake of this unprecedented pandemic.
So, I'm going to have a look through, as I've said, the impact on intellectual property practices and in particular these areas here, I'm going to have a look at how it's affected falling prices investment in IP, how it affects branding and trademarks, for example.
Also, how it can affect information sharing.
Then we'll move on to some of the practical side of things. So, how you complete transactions that might involve IP, for example. And then finally, we're going to have a look at the impact on mitigation.
So, looking at firing Practices, now I can't tell you how it's affected farming practices around the world, but I can give you a few tips in terms of what's been happening at the UK IPO. It's quite clear that I just pointing out to the worldwide situation that patent and trademark offices around the world are adapting the working practices as we all are to cope with coronavirus. So this means, for example, moving away from paper, avoiding the use of post where possible, and paper and fax services, and also using online services such as web based, filing portals, and e-mail.
So what is going on at the UK IPO?
For example, there is no facts. The fax machine has completely been shut down. The UKIP has also introduced the concept of interrupted days. So for example, since the 24th of March, if a deadline falls in, in an interrupt a day, then the deadline itself has been extended. And currently, the UK IPO is giving people at least two weeks notice before we come out of the interrupted day period. And at present, we are currently within the period.
There are other measures, as well, So, for example, you can receive certified copies of documents, if you agree to save them in a digital format, rather than receiving hard copies.
Now, I wrote about this when we had the 2008 recession.
I'm not going to go into great detail here, but that is a wealth of information and research that supports the fact that companies that invest in IP and take steps to protect the IP during a downturn tend to come out of it fast, stronger than those who don't.
one thing that I would say is that this also means policing your rights, as well as investing because during this unprecedented time, there will be those unscrupulous individuals and organizations that try and take advantage of the fact that perhaps attention is diverted elsewhere.
To shortcut the time, effort and skill set has been put into, you know, innovating in order to make a quick buck for themselves. And that kind of activity tends to be more prevalent in hard times.
And that takes me quite neatly onto a little spotlight on branding during the covert 19 pandemic because organizations have found that it has changed the way in which businesses reach their target audience.
So investing in IP is one way of trying to ensure that you do communicate and keep in touch with those target audiences. Any business, for example, that relied on footfall has had a significant impact because of the closure of the High streets under the Government restrictions.
And so businesses have had to find other ways of reaching consumers. And in a very short space of time, they've had to change those practices.
So, this concept of using content, marketing, which too many businesses, was quite foreign, Now becomes, content marketing is king, so I've put it. one example is Doubletree, which is a brand owned by Hilton, part of the hotel group. And they always used to create the customers that guests with a chocolate chip cookie. And people have tried to emulate making the cookies, but the recipe has always been known as a bit of a secret corporate secret. But one of the things they've done, and it's attracted quite a lot of attention, is they've actually released the version of the recipe into the marketplace, and it had a real positive effect on their guests and consumers.
Again, it's just one way of them being able to keep in touch with people, because than not able to, in what would otherwise be the traditional way of people turning up.
Many subscription models, for example, are also opening their doors for free, at least for temporary Paris, or perhaps for much longer introductory periods to try and affect crop people's attention and hope that they would then stay with those subscriptions when they enter into the payment period.
But what is important in terms of trademarks, for example, is that if you're a business and you've had to change your business activities, then what you need to do is ensure that your trademark portfolio is also aligned with what you're actually doing. Trademarks are susceptible to attack from third parties. If you don't use them in the way that you've registered them. So non use is an issue. But the opposite of that is that if your registration isn't broad enough to cover what you're doing, then perhaps you ought to be thinking about whether your registration should be broadened to make sure it's in line with your business activities as they have, may have changed quite significantly.
Another aspect of Coburn 19 is information sharing.
IP protects, but I've mentioned here, it's also a way of sharing information and ideas. And it underpins, for example, the patent system in the UK, which regarded as the strongest IP right with the strongest monopoly. But in return for the monopoly that a patent teahouse, they also have to share the information with the general public as to how their patent can be worked.
So for example, as many companies rushed to find vaccines, for example, IP could provide the tools for protecting, you know, collaborations between multiple parties, for example, and I'll put that a government ventilator challenge.
There'll be, I'm sure, a wealth of information and legal documents that underpins the collaboration between the parties involved in art.
And licensing will be a feature within not. And we may also say they rarely used crown use defense, which is where it can be a defense for someone to use a patent if it has been legitimized by the state.
So, just moving on to some more practical issues. We are all now working from home, Or many of us are some people still in the office and their workplaces, but there comes some practical considerations about how you complete transactions that include IP. For example, How do you enter into a contract with another party or multiple parties on a remote basis?
But actually, I'm pleased to say that English law is, is very flexible in this regard. Generally speaking, you just have to be able to evidence that both parties are quite clear about what they've agreed and that they are acting in accordance with that agreement.
So, you can have something quite simple as an e-mail Exchange, where one party says, This is what I am prepared to do with the other party saying, Yes, I'm happy to do that, and you can then, in fact, have a legal agreement come into force into being.
There are, as I've mentioned, that some ... providers that are already in the marketplace and have been for some time before, covert 19, came along, which provide platforms that parties can use in order to evidenced that to a document. For example, a PDF version of an IP license has been signed and accepted by certain signatories.
And all that does is, it effectively provides a way of being able to avoid one party from arguing at a later date that they didn't agree to the terms. Someone's given login details, they sign up. They initial, every page, the initial the end, with an electronic signature, and English all recognize this, as far as a normal contract goes, that would be sufficient for an agreement to come into force.
And I've already mentioned that intellectual property officers have had to get to grips with different working practices, and many of them are already used to online filing.
one type of document, or transaction that is worth mentioning, and this is in the middle of the slide, is the swearing and witnessing of documents where the law at the moment hasn't quite caught up. In the sense that, for example, if you need a document to be witnessed by a third party then that third party has to be in the vicinity of the person signing.
And I know that some of my colleagues have had to deal with this so far. It could be as simple as putting the document on a table and then socially distancing yourself as a witness. Whilst the signatory signs that document, they then step away and socially distance from the person who's witnessing the document.
And then obviously, everybody ensures that they wash their hands properly afterwards, et cetera, et cetera. Follow government guidance. But there are ways of swearing and witness in documents during covert 19.
Finally, I'm going to have a look at the impact on litigation and IP disputes.
I'm sure you'll be aware that there was a massive judicial building shutdown at the start of the pandemic as it affected everyone.
The court buildings then started to re-open gradually, and the court system has worked out which buildings should be used and, which ones should remain closed. We are saying now that some cool buildings are actually looking to re-open. The court system was actually found or found its place in an exclusion as, as part of some of the restrictions in that necessary core business hunt to continue. And it was effectively left to judges to decide whether or not hearing should take place in person.
one could imagine that or certain types of hearing wear having the parties present and dealing with urgently meant that they had to take place. But as far as IP litigation is concerned, initially many matters did not take place in person.
There was an initial switch to telephone hearings, and we are now seeing much more of a move to video conferencing.
If you wanted to issue an IEP claim, for example, IP cases have already been using for some time, the online filing system that's available. So, actually, covered 19 doesn't have any impact on that. On the course, are willing to accept documents, which are electronically signed.
Just as, for example, in many cases, the UK IPA. So, that has not been affected, clearly, there has been a bit of a delay in some of the responses. In response times in terms of how quickly the Court might get back to you, but generally speaking, the online system is working.
There have also been meshes, similar to the UK IPO, where the court has been more willing to grant extensions to deadlines. Particularly where the parties have been affected by coverity 19, in one way or another.
It's difficult to tell precisely how this is having an effect on everyone at the moment in terms of if you had to make a court application. But I do know from speaking to Colleagues to actually there was a real insistence on making progress through the court system and holding hearings either by telephone in videoconference. So actually.
There are some juice, some people that think that is actually more difficult to postpone, because of Qubit 19. If the facility is take, you are available, as they are becoming more widely available, for hearings to actually take place.
And as I've put that on my notes, many of the court buildings are now looking to ward's, opening on a broader basis with social distancing in place.
I think that video or telephone hearings will be more prevalent. And as I said to my last point, they are something that will be here to stay something that we will have to get used to.
It's very much. If you like business as usual, the court system is carrying on, as best as I can with. Litigates, is also supporting using the online systems, for filing, et cetera, and hopefully being pragmatic in the way that they deal with opponents in terms of trying to create extensions when necessary.
So, finally, just a few key points. I will say, that I pay still remains a very useful tool in the Business Toolkit, both during and after Kogod ....
And, in this respect, some practical advice is that businesses should take steps, to understand what IP rights they have. So, for example, they should be carrying out an IP audit. So, they are sure of what IP rights they have, whether they're best protected or not, whether any registration would put them in a better position or not.
And, of course, whether they need to be a little bit more proactive policing that IP rights, because, as I've mentioned, any business to invest in their IP, more during difficult times, is likely to come out of it stronger. The other end. And so, finally, I would say that IP systems still up and running, and are here to help businesses during this difficult time. And it could be particularly beneficial.
So, thank you very much for listening.
I hope I provide some useful input for you, and look forward to receiving some questions.