5 July 2013

Isle of Man Trade Marks

I have had some queries recently regarding trade marks in the Isle of Man, and as I made a weekend visit to the island recently, I thought some explanations on trade marks could be worthwhile.

Douglas, the capital of the Isle of Man
The Isle of Man does not have its own trade mark law or Trade Marks Registry. It is covered by a United Kingdom trade mark including designations within International Registrations.

But there is not a Trade Marks Registry
The Isle of Man Government make reference to trade marks in some guidance they provide in relation to choosing a company name.

The UK Trade Marks Act 1994 makes reference to the Isle of Man:

"This Act also extends to the Isle of Man, subject to such exceptions and modifications as Her Majesty may specify by Order in Council; and subject to any such Order references in this Act to the United Kingdom shall be construed as including the Isle of Man."

This makes the Isle of Man unique among the UK's overseas territories and Crown dependencies because the UK's legislation is applied directly - or, in other words, there is not (and there is no need for) a local trade mark law enacted by the Isle of Man Government. It is normal for the overseas territories/Crown dependencies to enact local legislation themselves, which can either provide a local registration system, or provide for automatic protection of UK registrations (as has happened in the Falkland Islands, for example).

Despite claims to being the oldest continuous parliament in the world, the Tynwald has not introduced its own trade marks law
Furthermore, I understand Orders in Council have been made to ensure European Community Trade Marks cover the Isle of Man.

It should also be mentioned that the United Kingdom's ratification of the Madrid Protocol is "in respect of the United Kingdom and the Isle of Man."

The Isle of Man is one of three Crown dependencies, the others being the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey (aka the Channel Islands). They are known as offshore financial centres and each has their own versions of the pound, e.g. the Manx pound (although British currency is also accepted). Tourism is another important part of their economies.

The Manx people are patriotic judging from the significant flying of the island's flag, although the Manx language is sparsely spoken nowadays and the local (English) accent - after years of immigration from the mainland - is not easily distinguishable from that of parts of the North West of England.

This windy island is perfect for flag flying
Culturally they are similar to mainland Brits and a popular brand in the UK is likely to be a popular brand in the Isle of Man. However, the cost of living in the Isle of Man tends to be higher than that of the UK mainland.

This store is equivalent to a UK version where every item is £1 whereas in the Isle of Man most of their prices seemed to be £1.20 
Their relationship with the EU is not exactly straightforward but freedom of goods is allowed between the Isle of Man and the European Union. A Common Purse Agreement with the UK means the Isle of Man is effectively in customs union with the rest of the EU.

In the case of local infringement of a registered trade mark then enforcement would need to be taken through the Isle of Man courts.

Although there is no Trade Marks Registry, there is a local Domain Registry. This manages .im domain names which have proved popular with providers of instant messaging software.

The Crown dependencies are culturally and economically closely linked to the United Kingdom and the fact that the Isle of Man is covered by UK trade marks is helpful to British, Manx and overseas businesses. Nevertheless, trade mark owners may wish to secure registration of a local domain name as a way of engaging with Manx consumers; it is inexpensive.

The other Crown dependencies, Jersey and Guernsey, have independent trade mark laws so do not overlook them if your business expands and spills over into the Channel Islands. (I've not covered Jersey or Guernsey here but please do not hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions regarding protecting trade marks in these jurisdictions.)

With a Scottish independence referendum scheduled for next year, there has even been speculation that Na h-Eileanan Siar (the Western Isles), Orkney and Shetland may request Crown dependency status, perhaps creating more considerations for trade mark owners across these numerous islands in north western Europe.