This month has seen a legal breakthrough in England & Wales as the Intellectual Property Office, the government body in charge of overseeing trade marks, has granted a multimedia trademark to Japanese technology company Toshiba. The motion mark is effective for a one-second clip which shows their logo zooming outwards as several multi-coloured shapes representing Origami appear and disappear in the background.

Google have also become the first company to register a hologram, displaying the letter “G”, and British companies have now registered motion marks, including a property developer and dairy food company. The door is also open for companies to seek to register sounds under the same regime.

Many different mental pictures and potential uses come to mind at the thought of technology like the hologram, with our first thoughts often jumping to science fiction classics like Star Wars and Red Dwarf, for example. Others will immediately recall the various holographic musical performances that have been engineered after the death of the artist, including Tupac Shakur at Coachella and Michael Jackson at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards. The latter, in fact, instigated a highly complex legal dispute involving a 19th century German- and British-derived technology and a side-lawsuit for cyberstalking, before a settlement was eventually reached in 2016.

While most of us usually associate this technology with our consumption of books, film and TV, I doubt it will come as a shock to many when I say that some of the world’s biggest corporations have committed significant time and expense to this area for another reason entirely. Multimedia (and virtual reality) technology is frequently seen as central to their future marketing and advertising strategy, with its application limited arguably as much by the imagination of the user as the capabilities of the technology itself.

The potential dangers with the development of this kind of technology have been considered in extensive and often alarming detail in our culture and the media, while there has been a recent spate of news coverage and even a US Congress hearing about the appearance of shockingly convincing “deepfakes”, generally demonstrated through fake videos of celebrities like Keanu Reeves and Mark Zuckerberg speaking.

This seems an appropriate moment to remind ourselves that the accuracy and viability of some of the extraordinary and often dystopian technologies we see in film and TV should be taken with a pinch of salt, if not laughed off altogether.  Human beings have proved to be largely quite poor at predicting the scientific advances of the future – I for one was expecting jetpacks and hover cars to be commonplace by 2020 when I was a child, and it certainly looks at the moment like I am going to be disappointed! But setting aside our failings as prognosticators, to my mind it is an indisputable fact that our development as a species has exploded to an unprecedented degree over recent centuries. This can be seen in the fact that the first trade mark ever was granted in 1876 (6 weeks before the first patent applications for the telephone were filed), for a pale ale beer bottle which is still under that same protection today along with the moving Toshiba logo.

This rapid advancement of science and technology places a major burden on legal systems, as new and previously unanticipated issues either need to be integrated into the existing laws, or the creation and regulation of a dedicated system of rules becomes necessary. In my opinion it is too often political pressures, cost and public opinion which influence the prioritisation of which areas are addressed and the substance of the laws which are made, and the field of intellectual property is no different. It is therefore vitally important for companies to ensure that they have sufficient legal protection and options available to them so they can obtain a favourable result in the event of a contravention by another party.

While this is a relatively young and constantly developing area of law, we here at Farleys would be happy to assist if you require advice into this or any other legal matter, so please call the team today on 0845 287 0939 or submit your enquiry online.