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Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Lions, unicorns and the prospect of a licence

Among the various odds and ends that have crossed this Kat's line of vision of late is a link to a very official-looking web page entitled "Use of the Intellectual Property Office logo" here, which has actually been accessible online since September of last year.  The Intellectual Property Office in question is that of the United Kingdom, where this Kat has many friends who don't mind being teased from time to time are always grateful to receive helpful and constructive comments from members of the blogging community.

Rather fancying that it might be fun to use the Intellectual Property Office logo with permission for a change, this Kat was struck by a sudden thought: he wasn't sure what exactly the logo is. There was a time when the IPO used to use its "raindrops" logo, above left, but a Google search for the words 'intellectual property office logo' shows both that logo and the picture which you can see above, right.  The latter isn't really much of a logo, though: it's just a vertical black line with the descriptive appellation 'Intellectual Property Office' in a plain and simple font together with a discreetly small and stylised version of the "lion and unicorn" crest that the United Kingdom government has used since this Kat was a kitten, and indeed before. It is also the same stylised "lion and unicorn" that is deployed as a logo by practically all of the other government departments, though the version used by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (of which the IPO is part) appears to have a different version of the "lion and unicorn" (left).

This Kat next turned his attention to the Intellectual Property Office logo request form, which prospective users of the logo are required to complete and submit. This form explains to would-be licensees that
"Each request is evaluated on its own merit and separate requests must be made for each intended project. If you’re granted use of our logo, you’ll be sent guidelines on it’s correct use [hmm, murmurs this Kat: to anyone who is sensitive to the English language, the intrusive apostrophe in the word "it's" sits uncomfortably close to the words "correct use" ...] and placement which must be followed. The office retains the right to withdraw permission for use of our logo at any time.

Our logo may not be used to endorse any product or service without express permission. Any attempt to use the IPO logo to represent a service or product that doesn’t originate from the office is strictly prohibited by law [Sadly, no list of services and products originating from the office is appended. How about a Christmas catalogue for 2015, suggests Merpel ...]".
All of this points to a further question: on what basis is the IPO logo protected in the first place?  Section 4 of the Trade Marks Act 1994 prevents third parties registering Royal arms, crests and certain other national insignia as a United Kingdom trade mark, and the lion and unicorn is based on the Royal arms (right). However, using the logo is not the same as registering it as a trade mark.  Use is governed by section 99 of the same Act, which states:
99. - (1) A person shall not without the authority of Her Majesty use in connection with any business the Royal arms (or arms so closely resembling the Royal arms as to be calculated to deceive) in such manner as to be calculated to lead to the belief that he is duly authorised to use the Royal arms.

(2) A person shall not without the authority of Her Majesty or of a member of the Royal family use in connection with any business any device, emblem or title in such a manner as to be calculated to lead to the belief that he is employed by, or supplies goods or services to, Her Majesty or that member of the Royal family.
Section 99, breach of which is a criminal offence, would appear to strengthen the IPO's position that any attempt to use its logo "to represent a service or product that doesn’t originate from the office" is strictly prohibited by law. Curiously, the phrase used in section 99, "in connection with any business", does not reflect the formula "in the course of trade" which is the norm for civil infringement under section 10 of the same Act, which in turn reflects the words of the English text of the Trade Mark Directive which it implements (the word "business" appears just once in the Directive, in Article 5(3)(d), which speaks of "using the sign on business papers and in advertising"). Is any subtle nuance at play here, he wonders?

Finally, this Kat had a thought: perhaps the UK government had registered the logo as a trade mark. After all, criminal sanctions against an unlawful user are all very well but, if you fancy an injunction, damages, an account of profits or delivery up, there's nothing like a trade mark for getting the job done.  So here's a challenge for readers.  Starting from what now passes for the IPO's home page, here, what is the smallest number of mouse-clicks that will enable the reader definitively to answer the question "has the IPO logo been registered as a trade mark?" -- bearing in mind that you might have to make a few guesses as to who might be its proprietor.  Whoever achieves the shortest sequence of clicks is hereby promised a pint of Badger at the Old Nick, or its equivalent. Merpel feels like making the same promise to whoever achieves the longest sequence too ...

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeremy
one can get to all the logos in four clicks using "intellectual" and "office" in the search(if I can count correctly)

to arrive here

http://www.ipo.gov.uk/tmownerid/search?domain=1&id=21226&app=0&mark=UK0002501853A

which is interesting in itself.

It seems the rain drops logo is listed but not the Lion and Unicorn as such !

I didn't realise Filament Fred etc were worth a registration!

Philip Eagle said...

Either five or seven depending on how you define it.

Starting from IPO homepage:
Trade marks
Search for a trade mark
Keyword, phrase or image
search "intellectual property office"
Result list showing device/word IPO mark - click on UK0002501853A
Click on "view owner's other trade marks" to see device only mark.

Anonymous said...

2 clicks - click on the email address for a freedom of information request (or alternatively the contact form), then write a message asking the UKIPO if their mark is registered, then hit send...

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