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IP mediation service launch for SMEs - how useful will it be?

26 March 2013

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is encouraging SMEs  (small and medium enterprises) to use its recently introduced mediation service to solve disputes between rights holders and others. However, a rights owner should first consult the IPO website as the service cannot deal with all disputes, such as those concerning:

  • distinctiveness of a trade mark
  • trade mark opposition and invalidation proceedings on absolute grounds
  • IPO decisions like refusal of a patent application.

Experienced mediation providers such as CEDR (Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution) and In Place of Strife are already frequently used and the Law Society and Bar Council also provide information on their qualified mediator members.

The scheme aims to reduce SMEs’ costs of dispute resolution, but common issues such as IP right validity or the need for an injunction may limit this. Rights owners will need to carefully consider its suitability and what outcome they want from any dispute resolution procedure. The IPO scheme will have value, but may not provide an alternative to other mediation services or the courts.

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