Speed Dating

IP law developed in the 19th century when manufacturing was all important. That may explain why it was impossible to register a trade mark for services in the UK until the Trade Marks (Amendment) Act 1984 and why it was unclear whether software could be protected at all until The Copyright (Computer Software) Amendment Act 1985. It may also explain why there is no holistic means of protecting services in the UK.

This problem arose when a young graduate who had thought of some innovative features in speed dating attended one of my IP clinics to find out whether she could patent them. I had to tell her that patents protect only products and processes. Services could be protected only indirectly. A trade mark could protect the brand. Copyright could protect a service manual. The law of confidence could protect any trade secrets. And may be design law or even patents could protect equipment used in delivering the service. But there was no patents for services as such.

The same client came to me a few months later after she had set up her business and consulted me on data protection and other issues. She also asked me to settle some terms and conditions of service.   This was not easy as the service had to be non-discriminatory while still protecting staff and customers. I also had to manage the company’s liability for loss or damage that could not easily be covered by insurance.

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