Julian Gyngell's talk on "Phonewords and Finance", kindly hosted yesterday at the London office of McDermott Emery & Will, was a treat for those who attended. In short,
* Australia has instituted a system by which Smartnumbers, these being the numerical bases for alphanumerical telephone numbers, are auctioned to the highest bidder, subject to minimal conditions and limitations (thus a bid may be made for 13-473462623, which is the numerical equivalent of 13-IPFINANCE);The event was both pleasant and informative -- and there's more to come. Julian's paper is likely to be published towards the end of this year in the Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice (JIPLAP). If you want to be notified when it comes out, email me here and I'll let you know.
* the successful bidder for a Smartnumber acquires no more than a licence to use that number in any alphanumerical form, but this licence is transmissible even, it seems, to parties that are disqualified from bidding from it initially;
* there is no clear guidance as to whether the use of a Smartnumber in which the alphanumerical form incorporates a trade mark or trade name constitutes a trade mark use which can be prohibited by the trade mark owner;
* there are no provisions for the interplay between (i) Smartnumbers, (ii) trade marks, (iii) domain names and (iv) company names, though particular problems arise where a word which is a generic term for some products is a well-known trade mark for others (eg APPLE)
* there appears to be no accepted basis for the calculation of the value of a Smartnumber at its point of acquisition or disposition, nor has any practice yet developed with regard to the place of the Smartnumber within the balance sheets.