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Shireen Smith

Shireen Smith is an intellectual property lawyer focused on trade marks. She has authored two books: Legally Branded, and Intellectual Property Revolution which aim to raise awareness of intellectual property and internet law. She founded Azrights Solicitors in 2005, with the aim of making IP easy to access. Email shireen@azrights.com. Twitter @ShireenSmith or @Azrights.

trade mark

In the previous issue of the Newsletter, Jordan Furlong highlighted how artificial intelligence and expert systems are being deployed in law firms, and will transform the legal industry. One implication of this is that law firms will be “marketing themselves as enterprises whose value and identities are independent of their lawyers”.

If you’re minded to follow Jordan’s advice and focus your marketing efforts on building your law firm brand rather than the brand of individual star lawyers within the firm, then you’ve probably got ambitions for your law business. It makes sense, therefore, to find out about protecting your intellectual property.

Every law firm or barrister’s chamber will have intellectual property to protect, although the actions to take will be different depending on the business, the intellectual property involved, and the aspirations for the business.

Despite the UK Government commissioning the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth in 2010 to ensure the UK has an IP framework best suited to supporting innovation and promoting economic growth in the digital age, there is still a marked lack of awareness in the business community about intellectual property and what it means.

Digitalisation is creating new rules for many industries, and challenging business models. The impact of the internet on intellectual property law is substantial, making the subject relevant to all businesses not just for those in the creative industries.

Interflora v Marks & Spencer

Should you bid on a competitor’s trade mark in AdWords? This is a simple question, but not one that has a simple answer.

The High Court ruled in 2013 that you should not, as doing so would amount to a trade mark infringement.

The case before the court involved Marks & Spencer and Interflora. M&S had made an AdWords bid on the name “Interflora”. Users who searched that name were given results that directed them to M&S’s flower delivery service. Interflora claimed that this was an instance of trade mark infringement. The judge agreed, saying the adverts may lead the average well-informed internet user to think that M&S was a member of Interflora’s network.

As simple as it is to find images online, one could be forgiven for thinking it is just as easy to know which images may be used. Unfortunately, the complexities of copyright law and the limited awareness of its rules can make the process of finding and using images a potential minefield for businesses. No matter how widely used and well known an image may be, if it is still subject to copyright it is not within the public domain, which means you need permission to use it. And fair-dealing defences to infringement are typically narrower than might be expected.

Tools such as TinEye or Google’s search by image mean it has never been easier for copyright owners to discover infringing uses of their images online. So, it is imperative to take precautions, and seek legal advice when using images, particularly online.

Are lawyers getting it right giving free advice to prospective clients to impress them with their lawyering skills?

When Bing Crosby sang “You’ve got to accentuate the positive/and eliminate the negative” back in 1944, he probably wasn’t thinking about the internet and promoting business reputation. But at its simplest, those two ideas are the underlying principles behind managing your online reputation, and moreover, they’re intrinsically linked. You can either be proactive in promoting your business online, or you can sit back and hope none of the hundreds of millions of people online have made negative comments about your business.

There is a tendency to label anyone who is in the business of making money out of domain names a cybersquatter, and in the process to regard them as guilty of fast practice verging on the fraudulent. But is it appropriate to regard the growing body of entrepreneurs, known as “domainers”, whose livelihood turns on building up large portfolios of domain names, cybersquatters?. Although some domainers may well be cybersquatters, many of them are not cybersquatters in the sense in which the term is generally understood in the law.