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Scots food and drink firms warned to protect IP as exports boom

Posted: 25th April 2017

Companies from the country’s food and drink sector are being urged to ensure they are protecting their rights abroad after exports hit an all-time high.

Aidan Clarke from Marks & Clerk welcomed the boom in Scottish exports which totalled £5.5bn – but cautioned businesses on the importance of guarding their intellectual property (IP).

The trade mark attorney, who is based in the firm’s Glasgow office, said: “The hot topic when it comes to exports has been Brexit, with the industry currently focussing on trade negotiations and ensuring the flow of goods.

“But as exports reach record levels there is another threat to businesses that is much less talked-about, affecting worldwide trade, and it centres around IP rights.

“When you move into new markets without adequate protection you could be in serious trouble. Others could use your brand name, potentially stopping you from operating in those markets – or worse, you could face an injunction.”

The companies which get caught are often coming off the back of immediate success, have limited legal knowledge or resources and have moved into new territories unprepared.

They may excel at product marketing or logistics, but simply overlook the intellectual property element.

Marks & Clerk says it’s not unheard of for companies to seek help only AFTER they have started trading overseas – which carries huge risks.

Clarke explained: “You really must be proactive and secure the right protection before you get there, rather than trying to mop up afterwards. We have assisted companies who have already started trading in China for example, and later realised ‘we should maybe think about IP’.

‘Nowadays, you can never be too early in China – as soon as you’re trading there others will be very quick to copy. There are new laws to help those whose trade marks have been taken in bad faith but you will still be on the back foot and may even have to take the case to an appeal.”

In short – companies should not rely on their trading activities at home as a defence to infringements.

In some markets, if you don’t have a trade mark registration you simply have no rights.

Business Comment

Business Comment is the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s bi-monthly magazine. It provides insight on Edinburgh’s vibrant business community, with features on the city’s key sectors, interviews with leading figures and news on new business developments in the capital.
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