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UK IP attachés

In What’s your IP Strategy? GC draws attention to the UK governmental attachés providing IP support to British companies operating outside their home country in certain key jurisdictions. In a series of web interviews, we speak to some of those attachés to find out about the IP issues on the ground where they are – and how companies can be prepared.

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The UK intellectual property attaché programme began in 2011 with the first appointment of Tom Duke as the attaché for China, based in Beijing. The scheme was set up to support British businesses in protecting their IP portfolios in complex jurisdictions - where there are challenges in navigating the IP systems or where the systems are developing. In the last three years IP attachés have also been appointed in South East Asia, India and Brazil, all with a three-fold remit of managing the UK’s bilateral co-operation on IP with government departments, providing individual one-to-one support to UK companies experiencing IP related issues, and undertaking business outreach and awareness-raising to help companies understand different markets and avoid common pitfalls.

For the first part, the attachés reach out to partner organisations in the relevant jurisdictions, including domestic IP offices, business chambers and IP associations. The attachés promote British interests and facilitate best practice and information-sharing between the UK and the government bodies, enforcement agencies and judiciaries of each jurisdiction.

In the second role, the attachés host outreach events and provide free information to UK companies on IP-related topics, but also field questions from companies preparing to operate in the relevant market, or that are already operating there and facing an IP issue. They do not provide legal advice, but as Tom Duke puts it: “We work directly on hundreds of British company cases a year and we see quite a high volume of issues put to us, so we are very happy to share the benefit of our experience and the approaches that we’ve seen with companies that might have problems.” This could include advising on business planning, or connecting businesses with organisations that can assist with specific concerns.

UK IP attache Being based on the ground in these locations, the attachés have an intimate knowledge of the markets they serve, and are a valuable resource for companies looking to maximise their IP portfolios and protect their assets. Since its inception, the attaché program has given support to over 500 businesses, helping to protect £400 million worth of IP assets, and has appeared at around 350 events, reaching out to over 8,400 business interests.

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