Bona vacantia -- a quick query

Bona vacantia, as every Latin-speaking reader of this weblog knows, are goods that have, through no fault of their own, become ownerless. In the United Kingdom the ownership of bona vacantia passes to the Crown and there are presumably so many bits of ownerless property floating around that the government has set up a special office to deal with them: the Bona Vacantia Division of the Treasury Solicitor's Department. It's not clear how much the Bona Vacantia Division has to do with intellectual property, though. The site has a click-through to domain name auctions, but when you click through all you get is this.

Anyway, a somewhat perplexed friend of the IPKat has asked him if the Bona Vacantia Division automatically becomes the owner of registered trade marks where the owner has ceased to exist and has no successor. If so, is it possible to buy trade marks from the Division and how does one go about it. This Kat hasn't a clue and wonders whether any of his readers has any current or recent experiences of acquiring intellectual property rights from the Bona Vacantia Division that can be shared with readers of this blog. Please help if you can!

Merpel says, "And I thought bona vacantia" was the Latin for a nice holiday ...

Abandoned cats here
Bona vacantia -- a quick query Bona vacantia -- a quick query Reviewed by Jeremy on Tuesday, January 13, 2009 Rating: 5


  1. There are guidlines on purchasing IP from the Crown on the bona vacantia website (Form BVC11 at

    Essentially, you fill in a short form, and wait to see whether the Crown is willing and able to sell the rights. If the IP can be sold, you pay an amount + £250 towards the Treasury Solicitor's costs.

  2. Yes, the Treasury Solicitor does inherit all the trademarks that are left in existence when a company is dissolved. Note that you must deal with the administrator until it is dissolved. The guidance is here.
    Over the years I have bought three of four trademark registrations from them. The price keeps going up. It's a very useful resource if you come up against an unused mark during a clearance search.

  3. I believe that the Bona Vacantia Division does automatically acquire registered trade marks of a company that is dissolved without disposing of them first, provided that the company is in England and Wales (but apparently not in the Duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster).

    I went through the procedure of arranging for a client to purchase a trade mark from the Division in 2007. There are guidelines (BVC.12) including a questionnaire here.

    After submitting the questionnaire, the Division made an offer for the sale of the trade mark. Its charge for a single trade mark was a consideration of £1000 plus costs of £250 plus VAT.

    When we accepted the offer, the Division promptly provided a standard Assignment for my client to execute and return with a cheque. The Assignment was sealed by the Treasury Solicitor about three weeks later.

  4. If a throw a soiled matress into the road, does it become bona vacantia?

  5. I believe that the Intellectual Property Office were looking at bona vacantia as a possible solution to the orphan works problem.

  6. The main source of BV IP is companies being struck of the register. However, when a company is struck off, it can still be put back on the register, following an application and an order of the court. TS has a policy therefore of writing to the last address of the struck off company and asking them if they have any issues, before the sale goes ahead to the prospective purchaser – they idea being that they may have forgotten a valuable piece of IP. Also, the assignment has a horribly wide indemnity in it in favour of the TS.

  7. A further query: What happens if the trade mark has been licensed for use by a third party before the owner/company is dissolved? Does the license continue? To whom are any royalties paid?

  8. Further to the query above, does taking over of a trade mark by BV means that creditors have no say or role in dealing with the company owned trade mark when the owner company goes bust.


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