For businesses across Scotland, the European Union (EU) represents a key market for exports.
According to the Scottish Government’s Global Connections Survey 2013 – released in January of this year – almost half of all Scottish exports go to countries within the EU. Worth some £12.9 billion to the Scottish economy, this market is vital to the success of many businesses across a number of sectors.
As most seasoned businesses will attest, one of the key planks to a successful exporting strategy is having a strong intellectual property portfolio in place. The benefits are clear – by having trade marks secured in the countries you export to, you can build brand recognition while ensuring you have appropriate protection in place to ward off potential imitators.
It is welcome news then that the European Parliament has approved a trade mark reform package which aims to modernise the current system and will, once operational in 2016, benefit Scottish companies in a number of ways.
The headline change is that trade mark registration will become cheaper and more efficient. The dual system of national and EU trade marks covering all 28 member states is to remain, with reduced renewal fees set to appeal to SMEs in particular. Businesses which fear illegal imitations damaging their brand and bottom line will also be relieved to learn that the reforms make it possible to impound counterfeit goods being transferred through EU countries.
In addition, the Office of Harmonization in the Internal Market – the EU’s trade mark body – is to become the EU Intellectual Property Office, which could lead to further modernisation in years to come.
While there are many changes being made, it is the reduced impact on a company’s bank account which will register as the largest positive. Some SMEs may be of the opinion that they cannot afford to protect their intellectual property, instead opting to channel all available resources to product development and marketing. However, this is likely to prove a costly decision in the long run.
When we worked with an Edinburgh-based venture called Ocelot Chocolate on building up their trade mark portfolio, not only did they make the decision to secure trade mark protection in the EU, but in the interests of future-proofing, they also opted for China and Hong Kong. Ocelot’s owners recognised that having intellectual property protection gives them added brand security when operating in international markets and is a worthy investment – and are reporting increased turnover each month.
The message, then, to Scottish businesses is clear – seek protection in the countries in which you wish to operate and you stand a much higher chance of exporting successfully.
And if those countries include other EU member states, that protection will soon be becoming a little more cost effective.
• Campbell Newell is a UK and European patent and trade mark Attorney with Marks & Clerk, the UK’s largest intellectual property law firm