Having started her career in 1986 with an established trade mark and patent attorney firm, Rosemary joined David Keltie in founding David Keltie Associates, (now Keltie) in 1988. She became partner in 1994. She is a Chartered Trade Mark Attorney and a Member of the Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys
We had a coffee with Rosemary to discuss the last 35 years at Keltie. From the early foundations of setting up an IP firm with David Keltie and a telex machine to the COVID-19 pandemic and becoming the successful firm it is today.
Keltie has changed and it hasn’t changed. David Keltie started the firm in 1988 because he was tired of the values of some of the traditional patent and trade mark firms, which could be described as old-fashioned and hierarchical. Many will have heard of David’s dream to create a firm where every single person was given equal value and respect and where there was no ‘them and us’ attitude or perception. He wanted to bring together like-minded people who loved their jobs and wanted to be a part of his dream. He brought all the good things he had learned from working in his previous firms but left all the ‘bad’ things behind. Work quality and understanding the client’s needs and commercial reality were paramount to David. Above all, he wanted everyone who worked at Keltie to feel valued and supported. These qualities have always been at the very heart of Keltie and continue to be part of our ethos.
From the very early days of being a rather ‘maverick new kids on the block’ firm, we have acquired a reputation for being an established and leading UK and EU trade mark and patent attorney firm which we are very proud of. We have changed in size – from three of us in a tiny office in the turret of an old bank building in London to expanding into Cambridge, the Cotswolds and Ireland. We now have a headcount of over 100 and counting.
Looking back over the last 35 years is an eye-opener. When we started Keltie, we had one client for which David was handling a litigation case. We had to work relentlessly at bringing in new clients because David’s restrictive covenant prevented him from bringing clients other than the litigation client. The first trade mark client was a famous British popstar. He phoned us up on the day we opened shop to instruct us to file a trade mark application. Over a few weeks, foreign associates with whom David had built up relationships in the past found out about David setting up on his own and started sending their work to us. Particular firms in the US, Australia, Japan and Canada stick in my mind who continue to support us today but now we can reciprocate on a significant scale. We received a vast amount of work from the EU especially from France and Germany for the first few years until the implementation of the EUTM (European Union trade mark) system. The first recession in Keltie’s time kicked in six months after we started but we were so lucky that we had the support of our foreign associates around the world to soften the blow of that recession.
In the early days, we spent a lot of time on the phone with clients. Our means of ‘urgent’ communication was a telex machine, although we quickly moved onto a fax machine, which was about the most exciting technology in the office at the time. We worked on word processors for the first year before we all had a computer, drafting all our correspondence, patent claims, etc. ourselves (we had no secretaries) and there was no such thing as the internet, ‘online’ services or emails for the first ten years of Keltie. Every day, one of us walked down to the Patent Office to lodge our daily filings. Patent and trade mark searches were conducted by physically going to the Patent Office and searching manually. Nothing was at the click of a button, as it is now. We didn’t have an IT department—just a person to come and fix our computers when required. We had no electronic record system. Our records system consisted of index cards and a big paper diary which contained all our official deadlines and daily reminders. Our records manager would walk around the office with it every day to ensure fee earners had met their deadlines. When we went to conferences or business trips, we didn’t have mobile phones or laptops.
To grow the business, we had no choice but to network and it was usual to be out at networking events three or four days a week. Luckily, we all enjoyed the networking side and we would attend all the events we were invited to, which in those days were mainly solicitors’ drinks parties. The work from UK solicitors was a significant part of our business and those relationships continue. In the early 1990s, we introduced daily morning meetings that the entire firm attended to improve communication because, even with a firm of twelve people, we realised that this needed to be improved as it was so important to us that everybody in the firm knew what was going on in terms of targets, new clients, marketing events and encouraged all members of the firm to be involved in the growth, development and success of Keltie.
The most noticeable changes have probably occurred as a result of changes in IP law and the advancement of technology as well as grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic lock-down changed Keltie, as it did most businesses. Our brilliant IT team did an incredible job of ensuring that the entire firm had Surface Pros to work from home and that everybody was equipped to work from home smoothly (for the most part) from day one of the first lockdown. We learned to work remotely from home and became fully paperless overnight. We quickly got used to having Zoom and Teams video calls, which were new to most of us. As a result of COVID-19, Keltie now has less office space and hot desking. With flexible working, we have had to make a conscious effort to bring people together to maintain the Keltie culture of ‘togetherness’.
From the beginning, our core value centred around the equality of all members of the firm. We were not going to be bound by the traditional structures found in many legal firms; every role is valuable and nobody is above another. We wanted everyone to be involved in the operations of the firm and all members of the firm were invited to attend conferences and networking events, whether they were fee-earners or not. We encouraged a learning culture built upon developing lasting relationships on a personal level with our clients, colleagues and associates, both existing and prospective.
Today, Keltie is anything but the new kid on the block. We are respected as a top-tier patent and trade mark attorney firm. We have the best talent and a patent department serving all disciplines. We attract new clients because of the Keltie name and our well-deserved and hard-earned reputation built throughout our years of providing quality work. We are a partnership of 17 and have a total headcount of 110. We have continued to grow despite two recessions, Brexit and COVID-19. Growing has been challenging and no doubt will continue to be, but it encourages change and change can be good. I hope that what hasn’t changed is Keltie’s support and commitment to all its people and our respect for and inspiration for each other. This is something that remains at the heart of Keltie’s culture.
Dramatically! The world is unrecognisable from what it was 35 years ago in terms of technology and digitalisation. The nature of our job as trade mark attorneys has changed significantly as a result of technological changes and changes in the legal framework. In 1988, the day-to-day work of a trade mark attorney consisted of conducting trade mark searches, filing and prosecuting trade marks, conducting searches, handling oppositions and revocations at the UK IPO and advising on infringement and passing off. Everything was done on paper, and correspondence was sent via post, telex, or fax. Today, tasks such as searching, filing, and research are conducted electronically at the click of a button. Also, with the advent of social media, our day-to-day job has changed because a significant part of our working day relates to online infringements, domain name disputes, and social media take-downs, in addition to handling IP matters in the digital and virtual world, which has meant we have had to adapt our strategy advice on trade mark protection to take into account the global nature of trade marks brought about by the internet.
Unlike in the early days, our records are maintained on electronic platforms and management tools, through which clients have instant access to their portfolios.
The legal framework relating to trade marks has changed over the last 35 years. Our focus in terms of EU advice to clients changed overnight in April 1996, when the EUTM was brought into being and we had to become experts in the EUTM regulations and procedures. We quickly learned to adapt our strategy advice to clients to take into account the impact of the introduction of the EUTM. In the same year, the UK joined the Madrid Protocol, which brought another change to contend with and we started filing International Registrations directly with the UKIPO for the first time. Leaving the EU caused an even bigger impact. In the run-up to Brexit, we adapted again to the legal changes in preparation for the impact of Brexit on our clients' EU and UK rights.
The qualification and education of trade mark attorneys has changed and the examination system seems to be even more geared towards the commercial aspects of our careers. The introduction of CPD for trade mark attorneys is also a significant change to our profession in the last 35 years and this continues to evolve. Of course, nowadays, the change in technology and the effect of the lockdowns means we attend webinars more often than in-person events.
I suppose the key change will come with advancing technology, which will play an ever-increasing role in the trade mark profession. AI and machine learning tools will be increasingly used in all aspects of the day-to-day work of an attorney, including searching, portfolio management, and legal research. Online brand protection will become even more important with the continued growth of virtual reality, the metaverse, e-commerce and digital marketing and an increased need to focus on domain name disputes, social media and online infringement, and online counterfeiting. Globalisation means we will have to work more closely with our foreign associates to ensure clients are advised when strategising their trade mark expansion plans. I anticipate that more trade mark attorneys will look to specialise in certain areas as trade mark law becomes more complex with the advancement of technology.
I love my job! As so many of us say, it is a real privilege to be a part of this profession. I am passionate about obtaining the very best result for clients including when faced with legal challenges and difficult conundrums whether through legal arguments or negotiations. I enjoy working with our associates all over the world and meeting at trade mark conferences and business trips overseas. One of the reasons I joined the profession was the idea of the commercial aspect of trade marks combined with the legal side. The need to continue learning is also an important and enjoyable aspect of my job.
I learn new things every day and continue to do so. One key thing I’ve learned is that life is all about people. People are the only thing that really matters. Being kind, patient, and understanding of people is a quality fundamental to a happy life. Being resilient, whether to adapt or in times of adversity, is another quality that I hope I have acquired over the last 35 years as a part of my working and personal life. I’ve learned to listen to both sides of the argument and to accept that often the answer depends on your perspective of a situation and that there is often no ‘right’ answer.
Highly knowledgeable in trade mark law and practice, Rosemary advises global clients acting for many well-known companies of international repute. Her client base particularly includes the gaming, automotive, pharmaceutical, insurance, financial trading, fashion, beverage and food sectors. As Lao Tzu said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." We hope that Rosemary’s story has inspired you as much as it has inspired us.
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