Powerhouse Trade Missions


Jane Lambert

Yesterday I received an email from the Department for International Trade, which began with the words: "The Northern Powerhouse has a GDP of almost £350 billion, which is about the same size as Belgium." Quite impressive you might think until you tot up the
which comes to 14.933 million and compare it to Belgium's population of 11.251 million.

Never mind!  The email also notes that we still have 
  • a lot of airports (probably more than we need or is good for the environment), 
  • very good rail links to London (though the Pacer trains that link the cities of the Powerhouse are  not so good and it's a pity that electrification of the Trans-Pennine line is "so hard" (see Manchester-Leeds rail electrification is too hard and could be cancelled, Transport Secretary says 22 July 2017 but we should be able to take advantage of Crossrail2 by driving to Broxbourne and gliding into London through the brand new tunnels which are less hard to build or electrify);
  • lots of new companies, and 
  • some fine research universities 
among other assets.

Thr thrust of the email, however, was the promotion of Northern Powerhouse branded trade missions to California, Amsterdam, Cologne, Dusseldorf, China and Boston between 24 Sept and 28 Nov 2017 for the healthcare, food and drink and other industries. For me, the most attractive destination would have been Amsterdam on 3 Oct with its Concertgebouw, Dutch National Opera and Ballet, Rijksmuseum and other goodies, but that tour is fully booked. There are, of course, always the USA, China and Germany and other destinations that are to be announced later. Apparently, 16 are promised for businesses in the North of England including those we know about.

If you plan to go on any of those trade missions, be careful not to disclose anything that you might wish to patent, register as a design or otherwise keep under wraps except in confidence (see Duty of Confidence). However, there is a year's grace period for design registration in Britain and the rest of the EU (see Registered Designs and Registered Community Designs) and don't forget the international exhibition exception provided by s.2 (4) (c) of the Patents Act 1977. Make sure that any non-disclosure or confidentiality agreement is to be construed and enforced in accordance with English law. We are harmonizing our trade secret law across the EU with the Trade Secrets Directive which will come into effect o 9 June 2018 just before Britain flounces out of the EU but we are not there yet (see my article on The Trade Secrets Directive 7 July 2016 NIPC Law).

You must also be aware of the ease with which it is possible for IPR owners to get without notice injunctions just before international exhibitions in Germany and some other countries and serve the orders on the first day (see the penultimate paragraph of  Pre-Action Correspondence: What to do if you get a Stroppy Letter ....... or worse 4 Aug 2017 NIPC Law). That nearly happened to one of my clients not long ago. The antedate in Germany is to get a German lawyer to file a Schutzschrift ("protective brief") with the court in which the application is likely to be made setting our reasons why such an order should not be granted. You should also take a look at the arbitration schemes that exist in Italy and Switzerland (see my article Resolving IP Disputes at Trade Fairs 1 June 2017).

Wishing everybody who goes on any of these missions the best of luck.  Should anybody wish to discuss any of these matters, call me on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message on my contact form.

Further Reading

Northern Powerhouse Index