23 November 2005

Branding for the Bar?

In its white paper "The Future of Legal Services: Putting Consumers First" of 17 Oct 2005, HM government proposed legislation for "reforming the regulation and delivery of legal services, in order to put the consumer first." The obvious intention of the proposed legislation is to stimulate still further competition in all sectors of the legal services market including advocacy and specialist work such as intellectual property and technology.

Competition is a very good thing and I personally can't wait until the few remaining restrictive practices that the Office of Fair Trading criticized in its report on "Competition in the Professions" disappear, but competition works properly only if the market is informed. With a practising bar of nearly 15,000 it is hard to see how solicitors let alone the public at large who now have direct access to the Bar for most of its services can properly make a choice as to who to go to for a particular job.

The law is not the only economic sector where there are a lot of players and the way that other industries respond to this situation is by branding. I do not see any reason why it should not work for my profession too. Accordingly, I have registered NIPC, the name of our chambers as a UK trade mark for
“Barrister services; legal services provided by barristers; advocacy, legal advice, drafting, arbitration and mediation services”

in class 42 as well as conferences and seminars and publications in classes 41 and 16 respectively. As my chambers are rather different from everyone else's in that I am the only one who practises intellectual property full time, we need not market everything that we do under the NIPC mark. We can brand only the services that we do best where we can be sure that they are supplied by a proven expert and that we can deliver them with absolute reliability.

I think that the easiest service to brand immediately is advice and representation in domain name disputes. I was in several of the early domain name cases in this country long before the UDRP and Nominet DRS were established. I was one of the first (if not the first) counsel in the UK to bring a case under the UDRP. I have written quite a lot on the subject and I am now a WIPO domain name dispute resolution panellist. I am pretty confident that I can deliver consistently sound, swift and cost effective advice and representation in administrative proceedings before WIPO, NAF, the Asian Domain Name Dispute Resolution Centre and other service providers in the UDRP and registry specific disputes, as well as before Nominet and all the country code schemes managed by WIPO.

If I get it right I shall brand other services as well as conferences and publications.

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