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| 1 minute read

As SVB collapses, what happens to its Intellectual Property?

There have been many news stories about the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank over the weekend, leaving tech companies worrying their money may be lost. It's good news to see that both the UK and US governments have stepped in to help secure the respective arms of the bank, with the UK side being acquired by HSBC, a large and stable international bank which is able to absorb any risk involved.

A few days ago I wrote an article (which can be found here) about what happens when you acquire rights from a company which is in the process of being dissolved, and similar considerations will apply to HSBC's acquisition. If you acquire a company and ownership of rights stays with the existing company, then nothing needs to change, but in cases like this where rights are likely to sit with the US parent bank, then there will need to be careful consideration of the correct steps to be undertaken. It appears that the assets of SVB in the US have already been transferred to a newly established "bridge bank", and so this entity will likely need to assign or license any relevant rights either to HSBC or to SVB UK as part of the acquisition.

I was interested to see what registered rights SVB holds in the UK, and actually there appears to be very little. The "Silicon Valley Bank" name is not a registered trade mark, potentially due to concerns about absolute grounds objections being raised, but I would at least have expected the bank's logo and other branding elements to be registered. Interestingly, both SVB US and SVB Germany appear to own some registered trade marks which are used by seemingly unrelated parties. 

There will of course be an explanation as to how or why the bank came to hold these registrations, but for the parties whose brands they protect, it should be a priority to ensure that if those rights should belong to them, they are legally transferred as soon as possible. Under the US banking system, a "bridge bank" is expected to liquidate the failed bank within a set time period, either by finding a buyer for the bank as a going concern, or by liquidating its assets, including those registrations. Should they be transferred to another party, it may be difficult or impossible for the "true" owners to re-acquire those rights longer term.

The knock-on impact on SVB's UK arm sparked fears it could lead to the collapse of many smaller UK tech firms, with more than 200 tech bosses signing a letter calling for the government to step in.


financialservices, trademarks, intellectualproperty, brands & trade marks, financial services, commercial ip & contracts