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Since my last trade mark tip on 15 June 2017, the IPO has published a timeline of the Process for applying to register a trade mark. It's a really useful graphic which does a lot of my work for me,
We are now at stage 6 - "Publication."
If you go back to the timeline you will see a note in brackets. If the examiner has no objections your application will be published in the trade mark journal for 2 months which can be extended to 3 during which time anybody can make "third party observations."
That is true but not the note is incomplete in several important respects which will become apparent if you click the number 6 or the accompanying note on the graphic. The graphic links to a page entitled "Check the Trade Marks Journal".
For most people, the Trade Marks Journal is about as interesting as the telephone directory and equally impenetrable but it will be examined avidly by businesses called "watch services" whose job is to spot applications for trade marks that might possibly conflict with another mark. It may also be read by your competitors who fear you may be up to something but don't yet know what and possibly by busybodies with more time on their hands than is good for them. They are the ones who could delay or even defeat your trade mark application and they will certainly waste your time and cost you money, Ugh!
If you instructed a patent or trade mark attorney to make your application on your behalf there is a good chance that most of the busybodies and maybe some of your competitors will back off because they know that your attorney will respond if they make an objection. But if they think you are on your own they may make a "third party observation" or even launch an "opposition."
Now oppositions are something you really have to worry about because they go before a hearing officer whom you may remember from my last tip. In that article, I said that hearing officers decide disputes between applicants for trade marks and examiners. These are called "ex parte" hearings because they are between you and the examiner. Hearings between you and people who don't want you to get or keep a trade mark are called "inter partes" which literally means "between other parties". "Inter partes" proceedings are much more like trials in the civil courts than "ex parte" hearings. Parties are represented by barristers, solicitors or attorneys and the loser has to pay the winner some costs. As Mr Trump might tweet if he is a few letters short of 140, "bad news" or even "very bad news".
Much less worrisome are "third party observations" which are made under s.38 (3) of the Trade Marks Act 1994:
"Where an application has been published, any person may, at any time before the registration of the trade mark, make observations in writing to the registrar as to whether the trade mark should be registered; and the registrar shall inform the applicant of any such observations."The next paragraph adds:
"A person who makes observations does not thereby become a party to the proceedings on the application."If you click the link "object to a trade mark application" link on the "Check the Trade Marks Journal" page, you will be taken to a page headed "Objecting to other peoples trade marks and the legal costs" You will find that most of that page is on oppositions but there are the following lines on third party observations:
"At any point after we have accepted and published an application for registration, and before it is actually registered, anyone can make what we call ‘third party observations’.I wouldn;t bother clicking the link under "file" because it is mainly about patents. Basically, you can send your observations by post, fax, email or traipse down to Newport and hand them over to reception. If you do go to Newport you might like to check out what's at the Riverfront Theatre where you might see Ballet Cymru if you are very lucky and the excavations and museum at Caerleon (see Tip #2).
You can tell us if you think that we accepted the application in error. You must bring to our attention any relevant facts of which we may not have been aware at the time we accepted the application.
Making a third party observation is not a formal legal action, and we are not bound to act on them. We may rely on evidence given in an observation to support any later objection to the application.
There are several ways to file third party observations with us."
Well, that's all for now folks. Next tip will be about Oppositions.
Meanwhile. third party observations put me in mind of Alexander Pope:
"Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
And without sneering, teach the rest to sneer;
Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,
Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike;
Alike reserv'd to blame, or to commend,
A tim'rous foe, and a suspicious friend."