Details of the IP attorneys practising in the UK and regulated by IPReg are available on the Registers.
Listings of European qualified attorneys are available on the European Union Intellectual Property Office website and the member databases held by the UK profession’s representative bodies, CIPA (“the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys”) and CITMA (“the Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys”) can be found on their websites. An attorney need not be a member of CIPA or CITMA to be a regulated attorney, but non-members may not refer to themselves as "Chartered Attorneys".
Choosing a regulated attorney will provide you with some additional protection as only those attorneys and firms that are subject to IPReg’s regulatory arrangements, are required to:
- carry professional indemnity insurance which protects you against negligent work or a failure to account for your money
- adopt and follow a formal complaints procedure
- comply with IPReg's Overarching Principles and Code of Conduct which set out the minimum standards of ethical behaviours and professionalism. Breaches of these rules can lead to IPReg taking disciplinary action against the attorney or firm
- maintain their competence throughout their careers and provide evidence to IPReg that they are doing so
Only registered attorneys are in the Legal Ombudsman Scheme. The Legal Ombudsman deals with complaints about costs, delay and poor communication where those issues fall short of breaches of IPReg's rules.
By instructing a registered attorney, you are also protected by legal professional privilege, meaning certain communications between you and your attorney cannot be disclosed without your permission, even in court.
It pays to shop around before deciding which advisor you want to instruct. Look hard at the information on their websites and aim for a face-to–face initial meeting if possible. If you are not comfortable with the individual you meet, try another!
Don’t shy away from talking about money. IPReg's rules require regulated attorneys and firms to be transparent about their costs and to provide their clients and prospective clients with the best available information about costs (fees plus other expenses such as overseas agents' charges). While it may not always be possible to provide a fixed fee up front, regulated attorneys should be able to justify their fees to you and explain how they are calculated. Our consumer leaflet provides some useful questions to ask your attorney about their fees and how they provide their service.
Any discussions at such meetings will be treated as confidential; disclosing sensitive commercial information to a prospective advisor in such a context will not invalidate your subsequent claim to patent or design protection. Disclosure in the public domain, by contrast, can do so. Before talking about your new ideas to possible external investors you should ask them to sign a confidentiality agreement; if they don’t agree, walk away.