For the half-year to 31 December 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Rebecca Gulbul, Lucas Michels and Marie-Andrée Weiss.

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Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Dear Interest, Dear Policy -- a case of taking the epistle

The United Kingdom's Intellectual Property Office is one of the IPKat's favourite institutions.  It is user-friendly and has a pretty effective website too.  Every so often, however, the Kat feels that there's something slightly missing.  Last week IPKat team member Jeremy received the following missive, this being a circular email to people who have indicated an interest in knowing about upcoming actions before the Court of Justice of the European Union and who may want to give the UK government a friendly tip or two about what to tell the 'Luxemborgs':

Dear Interest,
We have received notification of an appeal to the Court of Justice against a judgment of the General Court: C-281/10. It concerns the application of the Community Trade Mark Regulation.
This case can be viewed on our website at: http://www.ipo.gov.uk/ecj-2010?debugstate=3
If you would like to comment on this case please e-mail policy@ipo.gsi.gov.uk before 08 September 2010.
Regards
International Policy Directorate
Intellectual Property Office
Ouch! What can be more impersonal than being addressed as "Dear Interest"? "Dear Office" perhaps? Even "Dear Chair" isn't quite so bad.  The "Dear" bit is fine; it suggests some sort of meaningful relationship -- such as that of a civil servant and his public -- but "Interest" just doesn't do it for most folk (this Kat has asked numerous people if they like being written to as "Dear Interest" and has yet to find one who does.  Anyway, being a helpful and kindly soul, and noticing an error, Jeremy (a.k.a. Interest) responded as follows:
Dear Policy (if I may)
Your circular reads " We have received notification of an appeal to the Court of Justice against a judgment of the General Court: C-281/10. It concerns the application of the Community Trade Mark Regulation".
I think you mean "Community Design Regulation"
Best wishes
Jeremy
He received a swift and courteous acknowledgement by return:
Dear Mr Phillips, many thanks for pointing this out.
Regards
International Policy Directorate
Intellectual Property Office
A corrective email might have been sent to the circular's original recipients (though the IPKat didn't receive one), but the Kat was gratified to receive so personal a response.  Then it struck him: if the IPO could write to him as "Mr Phillips" (he never stands on ceremony), perhaps it could after all send circulars in a friendlier vein.  Accordingly he wrote:
Dear Policy
Thanks for your email.
I hope you don't mind my asking, but there's something that puzzles me.
The IPO has an excellent reputation for its friendly, helpful communications. Yet your emails are always impersonal missives from " International Policy Directorate", addressed to "Interest". Apart from the fact that I've not yet met anyone who appreciates being addressed as "Dear Interest", this mode of address just seems so cold and impersonal. I get friendlier letters from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs.
Can you please tell me why your circulars are so impersonal?
Best wishes
Jeremy
The Kat is certain that a response must have been sent, but he has turned his computer upside down and shaken the spam box again and again -- to no avail.  He just can't find it!  Can any reader please supply the text of the missing missive? (Please post it as a comment below).

Dear interest here
Very interesting here [note for younger readers: this is what people used to laugh at in the days before Monty Python ...]
No interest here

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

In my experience, the IPO consistently doesn't answer any email that might be embarrassing or even faintly difficult, which I think is a shame. But perhaps this is SOP in the Govt Policy Practice Manual?

Dave said...

I thought that government had a policy of replying to all correspondence?

However, as someone who has to send out these type of mail frequently, I would be interested in hearing the solution. Since many emails are not "firstname.surname@" using software to automatically extract a name to be added to the email might give many odd forms of address (assuming that such software exists). The obvious answer is to use the time-honoured "Dear Sir/Madam". On the surname/forename front, sticking to surnames is preferable - even if it is a little formal, no-one is likely to be offended by a surname. There are still people who would however be offended by the impertinence of a mere government official addressing them by their first name...

Anonymous said...

At least the e-mail did not begin: "Annwyl diddordeb,".

ron said...

In all fairness to the IPO, they do seem to publish brickbats as well as complements on their customer feedback pages at http://www.ipo.gov.uk/about/feedback/feedback-previous.htm although not surprisingly the compliments come first.

I agree entirely that "interest" is an odd sort of salutation that I have seen nowhere else. I wonder how machine translations would render it into other languages?

Ilya Kazi said...

Interest suggests an assumption regarding the careful selection of the mailing list.

Dear recipient would be a fine generic address.

Anonymous said...

Could be worse. A colleague once framed and hung on the wall of his office a letter from a business offering detailed and accurate information about third party companies and their personnel which found its way to him at his company's registered address. It commenced "Dear Mr. Limited"

Anonymous said...

My latest emails this morning miss out the "Dear" altogether, so perhaps your email has had an effect after all!

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