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Alistair has a BEng in Civil Engineering from the University of the West of Scotland (UWS). He spent two years with a Glasgow-based patent and trade mark firm before coming to Keltie in 1997. He qualified in 1998 to become a Chartered Trade Mark Attorney. He is a  Member of the Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys.


In 2003, Alistair became Partner. Based in the London office, he is co-head of Keltie's trade mark practice. He specialises in trade mark, design, and copyright law. He represents clients in industries including gaming, entertainment, software, and healthcare. The 2011 to 2023 editions of Chambers and Partners rank Alistair in Band 1 of UK Trade Mark Attorneys. He is also an IP Star ( Managing Intellectual Property IP STARS publication) 2023 and is a Global Leader in World Trademark Review’s Global Leaders 2019 and 2023. This guide includes the world’s foremost law firms and corporate trademark experts. The World Trade Mark Review 1000 2023 states, "Alistair has all the attributes that a top attorney needs. He is very experienced, has a great understanding of the brands that he works with, and, crucially, he has a winning mentality."

You're once again listed as a WTR Global Leader, what do you think makes a good trade mark attorney?


It sounds obvious, but aside from knowing the law and practice inside out, you need to invest time in understanding your clients, their businesses, products or services, and goals. It doesn’t do any harm to understand the businesses of their competitors too!


For clients with sizeable portfolios, you also need to distil large amounts of complex information into reports that can be quickly and easily understood by the client contact. This allows them to make informed commercial decisions based on your advice. It was always instilled in me that communication is key. You need to listen, understand, and be decisive in the advice that you give. You also need to understand that sometimes the best action for a client to take is to do nothing at all.


How do you feel the trade mark industry has changed over the last five years?


Aside from Brexit, from my perspective, technology has had the most significant impact. This is both in terms of legal technology assisting us in our day-to-day work and also in opening up new business areas. It’s fascinating to be working on portfolios and cases relating to sectors such as virtual and augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, and, of course, the metaverse, which brings a new dimension to business and IP.


I have always considered Keltie to be a European and global firm in the sense of the work that we do, but that has never been truer than today. A significant proportion of our trade mark practice relates to international portfolios, and particularly technologies and services that can easily be rolled out on an international scale.


In your experience, what is the main challenge, or challenges, clients are currently facing in the world of trade mark practice?


Policing and enforcing trade mark rights in a focused and cost-effective manner is a real challenge for many clients, particularly in the online environment. We often find that new clients with existing portfolios have not developed any strategy around this. They are dealing with issues ad hoc rather than having appropriate monitoring services and an established traffic light system for addressing potential issues. This is an area where we can make a real difference for our clients.


How do you envisage the area of trademarks (especially in light of ChatGPT and AI) changing in the future?


AI should increasingly benefit the IP profession in allowing us to improve and streamline processes, enabling us to serve clients more efficiently and cost-effectively. I can also see there being a shift towards attorneys focusing on high-level strategy and contentious matters.


As for ChatGPT, here is what it had to say “It's important to note that while AI can bring efficiency and accuracy to trademark-related tasks, it also raises legal and ethical questions that need to be addressed. Trademark laws may need to adapt to accommodate these technological advancements and the unique challenges they present. Legal professionals, policymakers, and businesses will need to stay informed about AI developments in trademark law to navigate these changes effectively”.


What has your career highlight been so far, and what advice do you give graduates looking to embark on a career as a trademark attorney?


It would be difficult to identify one highlight, but I enjoyed learning from mentors such as Alasdair Hume and David Keltie. I take the greatest satisfaction from positive client feedback, developing the skills of our paralegals and junior fee earners, and seeing and enjoying the successes of our team. As to advice for graduates, I’d say that communication, attention to detail, and having a real inquisitiveness are attributes to focus on.


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Continue reading about An interview with Alistair Gay, Partner at Keltie
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