Under section 276 of the Copyright design and patents act, it is an offence to refer to yourself in the course of business as a "patent agent" or "patent attorney" unless you are registered on the UK register of patent attorneys.
Section 277 allows a person who is on the European list of patent attorneys to use the term "European patent attorney" or "European patent agent" without any contravention of section 276. However, Section 277 does not go far enough. In the current situation, a European Patent Attorney may be at risk of legal action if they advertise in a telephone book or internet database under a category of a "patent agent" or "patent attorney". Such telephone books and internet listing databases are generally able to provide only one category to cover qualified patent agents and attorneys, and since the term "patent agent" or "patent attorney" is broader (covering both UK and European qualified people) it is one of these terms that tends to be adopted. In the present situation, a European but not UK Patent Attorney arguably must be careful about listing themselves under the category "patent agent" or "patent attorney". This situation unfairly restricts the trade of European Patent Attorneys.
Section 277 could be simply rephrased so that use of the term "patent agent" or "patent attorney" by a "European patent attorney" is acceptable WHERE IT IS CLEAR FROM ANY INDIVIDUAL LISTING ON ANY DATABASE UNDER THE CATEGORY "PATENT AGENT" OR "PATENT ATTORNEY" THAT THE SERVICES BEING OFFERED ARE THOSE OF A "EUROPEAN PATENT ATTORNEY" OR "EUROPEAN PATENT AGENT". Such a statement in the individual listing provide clarity for the public and allows European Patent Attorneys to advertise themselves without fear of unfair legal action that restraints trade.
Why is this idea important?
Free trade is an important principle in the UK, and the current legislation is so skewed towards a special interest group (UK "patent agent" or "patent attorney") that it does not ake the time to consider other traders such as European Patent Attorneys.