Take care when closing down…

Messrs Manish Joshi and Duncan Welch were once in partnership together, as “Joshi and Welch”. By all accounts they were both skilled trade mark attorneys – this author has heard nothing but praise for their professional abilities. However, it seems that they fell out – why, I genuinely have no idea, but fall out they did.

Now, that’s always going to be a stressful time. Professional partnership was once described as “like a marriage, but harder to get out of”, and we all know how stressful a divorce is. However, IPReg have pointed out that no matter how difficult it is for the professionals involved, it is the interests of clients that much come first. Such is the nature of professional work.

Joshi & Welch made a few slips along the path of their separation, it seems. A client paid for an overseas filing but the funds were not forwarded to the overseas agent who had carried out the work on J&W’s instructions. That’s potentially serious for the client, as the overseas agent is likely to be displeased and reluctant to assist with the case further, whereas the client may need them to do so in order to press their application forward to grant. The client complained to the Legal Ombudsman, who found in the client’s favour – but J&W didn’t comply with the Ombudsman’s ruling.

J&W also let their professional indemnity insurance lapse. when they ceased trading. Now, you might wonder why PI cover is needed after a firm stops trading, but the reason is simple – UK law allows you to bring an action for up to six years after the event, so a new claim might arise at any point in this time. PI policies typically provide cover for claims that are brought while the policy is in force, so don’t catch these. When a firm closes, the appropriate course of action is to secure “run-off cover”; a one-off premium covers all and any remaining claims. J&W didn’t do so; there is a suggestion of a disagreement between them that hampered this.

The situation is perhaps best summed up by IPReg in their comment:

What was clear to the Board was that there had been a great deal of bad blood between the Respondents during and since the break up of their business relationship in J&W Ltd. That bad blood and the consequent litigation had become all encompassing for both, and had drawn focus from the duties owed by both as members of IPReg.

We’re here for our clients first, and ourselves second. IPReg’s decision is a reminder that we must not forget that.

If you’re interested in the fuller details, the judgement is available here:

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