If you apply for a trademark, and there was a filing against the limited company that filed, how liable would the directors be on a personal level?
Alasdair Taylor's Answer
If I understand this question correctly, you are asking the extent to which the directors of a company could be personally liable in respect of costs awarded in:
- trade mark opposition proceedings (presumably before the UK trade marks registry),
- filed by a third party,
- against a trade mark application filed by their company.
Without a lot more information, I can’t give anything approaching a definitive answer. I may however be able to give some guidance.
The first question is the extent to which the company itself could be liable for costs arising from the opposition proceedings. To answer that question, see Chapter 7, Section 5, of the Manual of Trade Mark Practice:
Costs awards in opposition proceedings are relatively modest by the standards of the UK courts, but they can be enforced through an application to the High Court (in England).
Once liability to pay costs has accrued against the company, the question of the directors’ liability will, I think, be answered on the basis of the usual principles.
The starting points is that the directors won’t usually be liable (that’s the point of limited liability). However, there are circumstances where the courts will “lift” the veil of incorporation. For a discussion of these sorts of circumstances, see:
If you are already involved in opposition proceedings, I suggest you speak to a trade mark attorney or an IP solicitor about this. In any event, if you think there is any risk of personal liability, you should of course take professional advice.