5 October 2023
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In the past few years there has been an upsurge in the number of unqualified and unregulated businesses acting as representatives to file trade mark applications, in the UK and elsewhere.

Unfortunately, clients of these businesses cannot be guaranteed of the quality of the services they provide. Unregulated representatives often do not have the standards of education, training and experience which is compulsory for trade mark attorneys, do not have the compulsory ethical and professional standards of trade mark attorneys and their clients are not protected by the redress mechanisms of a regulator. When things go wrong, there is little that can be done. Also, communications containing legal advice between a trade mark attorney and their client are protected from being disclosed to any other parties - legal professional privilege is a right conferred by law, but only to regulated attorneys. 

The below tables highlight the differences between trade mark attorneys and unregulated representatives.

All registered trade mark attorneys in the UK must meet the following requirements:
  • complete a rigorous examination and training programme
  • maintain their competence each year by undergoing continuing training and other development activities to ensure their knowledge, skills and expertise are maintained at a high level
  • manage their professional finances rigorously, ensuring that client monies are kept separately
  • comply with the ethical behaviours and standards of professionalism set out by IPREG (the Intellectual Property Regulator)
  • have appropriate professional indemnity insurance
  • maintain a client complaints procedure which set out clearly their responsibilities to their clients
  • accept the rulings of IPREG in the event of disciplinary or other action

Unregulated representatives do not need to meet any of the above requirements.

In addition, registered trade mark attorneys are obliged to:
  • act with independence and integrity
  • maintain proper standards of professional service and client care
  • work in a timely manner and with due skill and care
  • act in the best interests of their clients
  • keep the affairs of their clients and former clients confidential
  • protect and promote the public interest
  • support the constitutional principle of the rule of law
  • be committed to improving access to justice
  • not act where there is a conflict of interest
  • only act within their field of competence
  • work with other lawyers in a professional manner
  • ensure fees are justifiable and that arrangements for liens over files are transparent
  • not unfairly discriminate against any person
  • ensure publicity of their business is fair, honest, accurate and not misleading
  • comply with their duty to the court to act with independence
  • act in the interests of justice.

In addition to the above requirements and obligations of registered trade mark attorneys, to be a Chartered Trade Mark Attorney is to be recognised as a leading practitioner in the field of trade marks in the UK. A Royal Charter is a unique seal of excellence and underpins the expertise, trust, skill and quality of service provided by members of the Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys (CITMA). It also recognises the pre-eminent position Chartered Trade Mark Attorneys play as leading legal experts in the trade mark community, and the support those members provide their clients and the public.

The next time you need to decide who will be your representative at the UK Intellectual Property Office, consider the direct benefits of using a Chartered Trade Mark Attorney who represents the highest standards in the UK for quality of education, professionalism and regulation.

Kate is a Solicitor and Chartered Trade Mark Attorney with over 25 years’ experience in relation to trade marks and related copyright, design and internet matters. Her work includes advising on the adoption, registration and enforcement of trade marks internationally, with a particular focus on the leisure and retail industries with a global reach. She has a particular expertise in counselling clients on international filing and enforcement strategies and avoiding dilution of the value of trade marks. Advising charities has also been a key aspect of Kate’s work and she was awarded an MBE in 2016 for services to education. Kate is the former President of the Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys and currently chairs the Representation Advisory and Working Groups of CITMA.

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