THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Innovation and enterprise blog

33 posts categorized "Intellectual property / IP"

01 August 2018

IP Corner: Patent databases, which one is right for you?

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Here at the British Library's Business & IP Centre we meet many inventors who are starting out on their journey through to patenting their inventions. The majority understand that their first action should be to search to see if their proposed invention is truly ‘new and innovative’ as it must be in order to obtain patent protection. What inventors will be searching for is known as ‘Prior art’ which is basically anything that shows the proposed invention is already known and is therefore not new. Prior art doesn’t have to be a patent, it could be a newspaper advertisement, a magazine or journal article or even a product on sale in another country. 

Most inventors will have heard of, and some may even have used, the Espacenet database. Espacenet is a patent search database containing data on over 100 million patent documents worldwide. Searching the database is fairly intuitive, but if needed there is a very informative Help section to aid the novice searcher. Espacenet is a great starting point for any would be inventor and is freely available via https://worldwide.espacenet.com.

What is generally less known by inventors is that here at the Business & IP Centre we subscribe to another search database that our registered readers can use for free. This database is the Derwent Innovations Index or DII as it is also known. 

DII is a search database that provides access to more than 30 million inventions as detailed in 65+ million patent documents. Once a search has been run, clicking through from the results list, users are able to view details of the relevant patent including any patents and/or articles cited as ‘Prior art’ against it. For most patents there are also links through to Espacenet to view the full published specification.

Espacenet also does this, so what are the advantages of visiting the Business & IP Centre and using DII

Well, it should be remembered that patents are technical documents which are written in such a way as to meet all the relevant criteria for obtaining a patent but, by providing only the most important information, give nothing away. 

With Espacenet you are searching the patents as published; the title or abstract, bibliographic data, description and claims all exactly as written in the original documents. This can make keyword searching problematic, not everyone will necessarily use the same keywords to describe the same subject, and often searchers will need to resort to classification searching to ensure they are searching in the correct technical area. Add to this the fact that patent titles can be slightly ambiguous and patent searching can become slightly more difficult.

With the Derwent Innovations Index (DII) what happens is that when a patent is published a member of the DII team who is experienced in the particular technical area covered by the patent takes the patent specification and does the following:

  • Writes a more concise title that describes the invention and its claimed novelty
  • Then writes an abstract giving a 250–500 word description in English of the claimed novelty of the invention
  • Finally, DII also add their own ‘Class codes’ and ‘Manual codes’ to the records: Derwent Class Codes allow the searcher to quickly retrieve a particular category of inventions whilst Derwent Manual Codes indicate the novel technical aspects of the invention.

To give you a quick example of this, the title of patent WO2018064763 on Espacenet is ‘Compactable bicycle’ as shown below:

Espacenet example
Espacenet Patent search

Whereas on DII the title is written as:

Derwent Innovations Index
Derwent Innovations Index

The Espacenet bibliography and abstract looks like this:

Espacenet bibliography
Espacenet bibliography

Whilst the DII bibliography and abstract looks like this:

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DII bibliography

Note: DII highlights, Novelty, Use and Advantage within the abstract.

Another advantage DII has is that using the Advanced search option searchers have the ability to ‘build’ a search by searching keywords, classifications, inventor/applicant details etc. and then adding search sets together as desired.

DII advanced search
DII advanced search

Searchers then click on the live link in the Results box to view the results list from where they can select relevant patent records to save to a Marked list. Searchers can then email the results from the Marked list to themselves to view later if they wish.

With the Espacenet database searchers can download and print out copies of the front pages of relevant specifications (known as covers) or they can select titles from their search results list to export to either CVS or XLS. Copies of full patent specification can also be downloaded and printed out if desired.

Both Espacenet and DII are extremely useful for searchers. Each database has their own strengths and weaknesses, but if you visit the Business & IP Centre we will be happy to discuss your needs and show you how to get the best from both databases.

Maria Lampert, Intellectual Property Expert at the Business & IP Centre London

Maria has worked in the field of intellectual property since she joined the British Library in January 1993. She is currently the British Library Business & IP Centre’s Intellectual Property Expert, where she delivers 1-2-1 business and IP advice clinics, as well as intellectual property workshops and webinars on regular basis.

24 July 2018

Meet Martha Silcott, breaking taboos, one period at a time

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Each year 1.4 billion tampons are flushed, ending up in the sewer system, causing flooding and pollution. Water companies spend 88 million pounds per year getting all the un-flushable items out of the sewers. What can be done to solve this problem? Martha Silcott is on a mission to find a sanitary solution for this sanitary problem with her corn starch, biodegradable fab little bags...

Tell us a little more about FabLittleBag?

FabLittleBags are biodegradable opaque, sealable sanitary disposal bags that prevent aquatic pollution and actually make disposal feel good!

What inspired the creation of the product? Did you have a ‘Eureka’ moment that convinced you that this was a good idea?

Sitting on the toilet thinking “there must be a better way of doing this” as I performed the LooRoll Wrap with reams of toilet roll for the umpteenth time… Recalling the times when round at friends houses and there was no bin in the downstairs loo so I resorted to doing the Handbag Smuggle. I got cross that there was not a better solution out there, I researched it expecting to find one, I didn’t so I decided to invent one myself. I did loads of research in the British Library, researching the market, the companies involved, the blockages caused by flushing etc. My Eureka moment was when I finally figured out the design of FabLittleBag; its unique one-handed opening and that it had to seal – I ran around the house gathering bits of sandwich bags, sellotape, staplers etc. and made a Blue Peter version.

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Martha Silcott, founder of FabLittleBag

What steps did you take to protect the IP in your design?

I learned a lot about IP form the British Library sessions and their intro to an organisation called Ideas 21 – so I had a free session with an IP lawyer to establish if it was a starter or not – and it went from there, applying for my patent in 2006.

Did you use the resources and training available through the Business & IP Centre to research and launch the business? 

Yes, general market research; access to huge data resources at no cost, if you were to buy the info yourself each one costs thousands of pounds! IP information, a basic course on social media later on, all very useful along the journey.

Tell us more about how are you working with the British Library to bring FabLittleBag to more users?

We are currently trialling FabLittleBag in two toilet blocks, these are ones which have a very high level of blockages causing cost to the Library and inconvenience to users. The Library has a lot of through traffic and we know that approx. 60% of UK women flush their tampons and with other habits and cultures passing through blockages are a real challenge for the Library loos! So our gorgeous new dispensers are installed in these blocks and we have already had direct email contact from a few users telling us how fab they think FabLittleBag is! We are offering all British Library users who email us a free sample pack of FabLittleBags to try, so don’t be shy!

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The best disposal solution. Period

What is the vision for the future of the company? Where will FabLittleBag be five and 10 years from now?

We have BIG plans! We already have customers from lots of countries all over the world but we want to ensure that any Binner that dislikes doing the Loo Roll Wrap and wants to feel more in control and calm at point of disposal have FabLittleBags in their life and that we convert as many Flushers out there as possible into Binners – frankly whether they use FabLittleBags or not, we just want to stop the flushing of non-flushables and so prevent blockages and aquatic pollution at source.

One of our Missions is to #screwthetaboo and break down the ridiculous taboo that still exists around periods in 2017! Involving men and boys is important in this journey as they are involved even if it is not them having periods! Replacing feelings of awkwardness and anxiety around disposal of sanitary products is a core mission of ours, helping women to feel more relaxed and calm as they know that even if there is only two bits of loo roll there, or there is no bin, because they have FabLittleBag, they will be able to disposal of the product easily and without stress. We also want to support our chosen key charity (WellBeing of Women) and to expand our charitable impact as we grow, also helping to support smaller local charities and some abroad where the issues of menstruation has huge negative impacts of girls and women’s lives.

So five years' time to be a normal ‘must have’ in the handbags and bathrooms up and down the UK, Europe, USA, etc. and other countries where disposables are still the most common form of managing ones period (therefore disposal solutions are especially needed). 10 years time to be so successful that our charitable foundation Fab Friends, is making a huge positive impact on menstrual health and practical management for millions of women across the globe.

FabLittleBags will continue to be trialed at the British Library to help prevent the negative impacts of flushing sanitary products.

26 April 2018

IP Corner: Happy World Intellectual Property Day!

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April 26th 2018 is World Intellectual Property Day. “What?” I can hear you asking, why should there be a special day to celebrate Intellectual Property? Well, stop for a minute and take a look around you and I can guarantee that, whether you realise it or not, you will be surrounded by Intellectual Property.

Like the book you are reading (e-book or otherwise!), the iPod or MP3 player you are using to listen to music, the music itself, even the clothes you are wearing, every product or service we use in our day to day lives is the result of innovation. These innovations may be big improvements in function, or small changes in design that alter the way a product looks, either way these improvements will generally be protected by Intellectual Property (IP).

Intellectual property (IP) is like any other piece of property and the owner of the intellectual Property rights controls what if anything happens to those rights including who can benefit from the work or from the investment the rights holder has made into the creation of the product or service.

So how does this affect you and your business?

Whatever business you are engaged in it is very likely that you are using and probably even creating a large amount of IP and, if you want to get the best possible commercial results from its ownership, you need to think about the steps you need to take to protect, manage and indeed enforce your rights.

  • Protect – register your IP rights where possible.
  • Manage – keep a record of all the IP you have and any IP that you license from third parties. Ensure renewal fees are paid and licenses are up to date.
  • Enforce – as the rights holder it is your responsibility to keep an eye out for any IP infringement and to take action to stop it. If you do not intend to enforce your IP rights then perhaps you need to reconsider whether or not you should register your rights.

So let’s look at each form of IP in turn;

2000px-RegisteredTM.svgThe first piece of registrable IP most businesses will have is a trade mark. Trade marks are used to indicate the origin of goods or services. They may be symbols, words, colours or even a combination of these, the choice is yours, but whatever the makeup of your trade mark it needs to be distinct enough to allow consumers to identify your products or services from those of your competitors.

As well as standard trade marks there are several other types of mark such as Collective marks, used to distinguish the goods and/or services of members of a particular association, or Certification marks, given for compliance with defined standards to anyone who is able to certify that their products meet certain standards e.g. ISO/TC 181 Safety of toys.

Trade marking is not to be approached lightly as your trade mark is likely to be one of your most valuable business assets.

Copyright-symbolNext, Copyright. Most of us when we think of copyright we think of books, music, films etc. but copyright will also exist in your website, the flyers or brochures you may produce for your business, the menus for your restaurant or café. All of these, provided they are your own original work or you have a license to use them if they were created by a third party, will be protectable.

Mark all of your original copyrighted material with the copyright symbol ©, the name of the rights holder and the year of creation, e.g. © British Library 2018.

If you are a designer then registered designs are probably something you should consider as registered designs protect what it is that makes an item attractive or appealing to its intended market. As the holder of the registered rights you will be assured an exclusive right to the design and thereby protection against unauthorised copying of the design by third parties.

PatentedFinally, Patents (this is the biggie!)

A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention. It provides patent rights holders with protection for their invention for a limited period, usually 20 years, subject to the payment of annual renewal fees. Having a patent for your invention means that your invention cannot be made commercially, or distributed or sold without your written permission. You get to decide who may or may not use the invention for the duration the period of protection. However, once the patent expires, after 20 years or if you stop paying the renewal fees, the invention will no longer be protected and will enter the public domain. Basically, it becomes available for anyone to use as they wish.

Probably lesser known, but just as important IP rights are Know How and Trade Secrets. Know How is the practical knowledge of how to do something, to get something done. This sort of knowledge will not necessarily be included in a patent for example, but will be necessary to finish the product, project or job. For examples of Trade Secrets; think of the Coca Cola recipe or the recipe for Irn Bru. These rights are not registrable and need to be protected using contracts and/or confidentiality agreements.

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This post just touches on the subject of IP really as a way of highlighting World IP Day and anyone thinking of using IP or making any financially crucial or business crucial decisions based on IP should speak to an IP Attorney. The website of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys can help you locate an attorney in you local area via their website at www.cipa.org.uk . Most IP attorneys offer a free 30 minute one to one advice session.

Alternatively, you can visit your local Business and IP Centre (BIPC) for free, impartial, non legal advice. You will find a list of BIPC’s at https://www.bl.uk/business-and-ip-centre where you will also find our workshops, webinars and events you might find of interest.

A final comment; innovation through the years has shaped the world we live in, from the simple hand cast nail invented more than 2000 years ago to the invention of the wheel and the wheel and axle concept, from Gutenberg’s printing press to the telephone, the electric lamp to penicillin, all of these innovations have made our lives easier, better and more interesting and, hopefully, the inventors and innovators of our generation will continue the trend.

 

Maria Lampert, Intellectual Property Expert

05 July 2017

How Intellectual Property helped Julie Deane start a £10 million business from her kitchen table

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So many small businesses lack IP awareness and understanding, but IP is something of an unsung hero and can prove critical in making or breaking a business.

The Business & IP Centre team are dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and SMEs understand what IP is and why it’s important, what IP they might have created and how they might increase their business success and profitability by protecting and exploiting that IP in the future. Over the years the team have supported thousands of small businesses unlock the value of their IP, and much of the support we provide in the Centre uses case studies and real-life stories to demonstrate how having a handle on your IP gives you a huge commercial advantage.

One such example is Julie Deane OBE, founder of The Cambridge Satchel Company, who has taken her business from the kitchen table and a £600 start-up budget to a global success story with a turnover of £10 million. Along the way Julie has overcome numerous business challenges including managing designers, manufacturers and overseas distributors, establishing web and physical retail sites around the globe and dealing with thousands of imitator brands. Here, in a free 30 minute podcast with the Intellectual Property Office, Julie lays the truth bare on how she’s developed strategies to tackle copycat websites, build the brand, keep putting the quality of the product at the heart of the business and “hang on to the passion that made you start the business in the first place.”

 

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 Here are our 3 ‘top tips’ for what you need to know when it comes to your Intellectual Property:

  1. Think about trade marks - Is your business name protectable in the countries that you wish to trade? Is it already being used or does the word have another meaning in a different country. Future investors will want to know that you have the rights to trade in the countries that they wish to trade in, and you need to consider this right from the start to give your business the best chance of success.
  2. If you’re creating a ‘thing’ - Do your research before filing for a patent; is there a market for your product? It is expensive and takes a long time to protect your idea so make sure you do your market research and can be confident that somebody will buy it at the end of the day. If you have paid for your product to be patented and want somebody to manufacture it for you, you also need to ensure you have agreements in place limiting their rights to your initial idea or design.
  3. Founder’s agreement - It is easy to set out a document with your business partner right at the start when setting up your business agreeing things like % of ownership and what should happen in the case of a dispute, or if one of you wish to sell then business and the other one doesn’t. Once a dispute has started it is much harder and messier so you need to make sure all parties are clear on this from day one.

You can find further help, support and information on IP in any of the eleven Business & IP Centres up and down the country, including the British Library in King’s Cross. Speak to any one of our specialist staff face-to-face, over the phone or by email. You can also log on to our free of charge online workshops to grow your knowledge about IP, and increase your chances of business success.

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Julie Deane in the Business & IP Centre

Julie Deane is Entrepreneur in Residence at the British Library and a huge champion for ambitious business owners. She recently gave advice and practical tips on Intellectual Property at the Library’s Scale-up Summit alongside Will Butler-Adams, CEO of Brompton Bicycles. Cambridge Satchel and Brompton recently launched a range of colour-matching bags and bikes where the satchel fitted perfectly to the handlebars. This ‘made-in-heaven’ brand match caught the attention of the press and delivered extremely high sales. Will and Julie's opening keynote presentation on ‘Getting your business in the media’ was a great success too.

 

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The Cambridge Satchel Company / Brompton Bikes collaboration

 

Reach your business peak at our Scale-up Summit

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As a business owner you’ll know what it means to have to do everything and anything to get your business off the ground and flying. You’ve experienced the highs, the lows and no small number of frustrations along the way.

But at some point you’ll reach a limit to growth. And any one of these things (or more) could be holding you back; time, finance, being ‘too involved’ in the day to day, staffing challenges, cash-flow, finding new customers and markets, limited marketing and having to navigate ever changing conditions and trends.

But there’s a way through and beyond all of this; and it’s scaling-up.

The British Library’s Business and IP Centre has been supporting businesses to successfully scale up with its wealth of information, advice and support as well as the successful Innovating for Growth Scale-up Programme.

We’re thrilled to now be presenting this unique opportunity to get some of the best business brains in one place, for just one day, so you can hear first-hand how they kept their business flying and climbing higher. It’s our first ever Scale-up Summit, and it’s happening next, Tuesday 11th July, 9.30-6.30pm.

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We’ll be introducing you to the founders of some great household names and brands such as Paul Lindley (founder of Ella's Kitchen), Julie Deane OBE (founder of The Cambridge Satchel Company) and Rob Law MBE (Founder and CEO of Trunki) just to name a few.

Hear how our top-notch speakers kept their businesses going and growing through their various challenges and what tips they have to share to successfully scaling-up. There’ll be plenty of time to ask your questions and pick the brains of no less than 20 business experts appearing throughout the day.

Here’s a taster of what to expect on the day with a few of our speakers’ top tips to whet your appetite

Raising your business profile and building a brand

As you will already know, getting your business in the press or media can be the key to raising your profile and achieve rapid growth, but lots of businesses struggle to identify their unique hook and generate a buzz around their brand. Our panel will give you the inside track on how to maximise your media coverage, pitch effectively to journalists and create strategic partnerships to increase the visibility of your business to access new audiences and scale up.

Our keynote speaker on this topic will be Julie Deane OBE, founder of the Cambridge Satchel Company and a Business & IP Centre ambassador. Having started from her kitchen table with a budget of just £600, The Cambridge Satchel Company now has a turnover of over £10million and has collaborated with the likes of Google and Vivienne Westwood.

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Julie Deane, Founder of The Cambridge Satchel Company and British Library Entrepreneur in Residence

 

Julie will share her own journey to business success and her tips for raising your business profile and building a brand. During this interactive Q&A session you’ll also have the opportunity to put your questions to our panel and get their tips and tricks for making people aware of your business and making sure they don’t forget it.

On brand and scaling-up, Jenny Costa (Rubies in the Rubble), another panellist for our branding roundtable says, ‘“Know your why.” The journey and the day to day can be overwhelming, so it’s important to keep looking up and focused on the end goal. Knowing and believing in what and why you do what you do will get you through any challenges you may hit along the way.’

Also speaking on this topic will be Will Butler-Adams (Managing Director, Brompton Bikes), Siddarth Vijayakumar (Co-founder, Grub Club), and Anne Cassidy (Editor, Guardian Small Business Network).

Going global for growth

Small businesses that seize on export opportunities are much more likely to survive and grow. However, with so many factors to consider, trading overseas can feel overwhelming and many business owners struggle to identify and exploit the market opportunities that would give them the best chance of achieving fast growth. If you’ve ever considered ‘going global for growth’ or are struggling to make your mark on the international stage, this discussion will give you a true insight into what it takes to trade successfully overseas.

Someone who has definitely capitalised on the potential of international trade is keynote speaker, Sean Ramsden, founder and Chief Executive of Ramsden International . Having identified opportunities for global growth, Sean was able to turn his food exporter business (Ramsden International) into a market leader, distributing over 23,000 British branded-food and drink products to 133 countries across five continents.  

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Sean Ramsden, Founder of Ramsden International

 

Another of our panellists Paul Lindley of Ella’s Kitchen says scale-up businesses should ‘Keep your feet on the ground and your head in the clouds.  Meaning stay humble, grounded and real, but don’t be afraid to imagine, explore and be free thinking.’

The panel will also feature, Matt Lamb (Tangle Teezer) and Bill Russell (Head of Bilateral Relations, Intellectual Property Office) who will share their experiences and expertise in both growing a business internationally and also ensuring that you stay in control and your Intellectual Property is protected as you ‘go global’.

Raising finance for growth

A cash injection can fast-track your growth ambitions exponentially, giving access to the resources, expertise and people-power that you need to realise your scale-up ambitions. But raising the necessary cash isn’t always easy and access to finance can often be one of the first hurdles that a scaling entrepreneur must overcome. In this section our experts will give their input on a variety of business financing options including VC, angel investors and crowd-funding to help you decide the best way to fund your business growth.

To discuss this topic and describe the best options available small business owners will be Darren Westlake, co-founder and CEO of Crowdcube the world’s first investment crowdfunding platform. In 2015, Darren was named by Debrett’s as one of Britain’s 500 most influential people and is a serial entrepreneur with more than 20 years’ experience in the internet and telecoms industries.

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Darren Westlake, Founder of Crowdcube

 

Leadership for scaling businesses

Most businesses start off with just one or two founders, but as a business grows, the team behind it needs to get bigger too. But how can you be sure you’re hiring the right people to help your business reach its potential, and when is the right time to delegate responsibility? Hear from our expert panel on how your can build a terrific team with your business values at its core.

Leadership for scaling businesses will feature a key note presentation on the theme of building a terrific team, delegating responsibility, embedding and upholding company values and ethos as your business grows and providing strong leadership.

Our speaker on this subject will be Rob Law MBE, founder and CEO of Trunki , the brand behind the much loved children’s ride-on suitcase.

His company has been trading for 11 years, now employing 80 people and was named SME of the Year at the National Business Awards in 2012.

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Rob Law, Founder of Trunki

 

Focusing on these four key topics for scaling businesses, this event will provide a platform for entrepreneurs to ask the questions that really matter to you as a growing business. You’ll get practical, immediately implementable ideas and solutions from those in the know and have the opportunity to network with like-minded business-owners who share similar goals and ambitions.

Matt Lamb, CEO and co-founder of Tangle Teezer, says “I am happy to support the British Library’s Scale-up Summit because we recognise that scaling up is every bit as hard, if not harder, than starting a business. We are delighted to share our experience in the hope that it may help others.”

Don’t miss out on this unique opportunity to take your business to the next level. Tickets are selling fast so take this chance to get inside knowledge and advice on successfully scaling up and reaching your business’s peak potential.

Book your ticket to avoid disappointment.

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20 October 2016

Tracking down old toy railway patents in the Business & IP Centre

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I seem to recall a famous BBC radio show called Any Questions. Perhaps the title for this blog post should have been Any Answers. Because, each and every time I have called on the services of The Patent Office Library - now called The British Library Business & IP Centre, they have promptly found the information I need.

I first came into contact with the Patent Office at their Station Square House offices in  Orpington way back in 1988. I had come across a piece of printed ‘0’ gauge model railway track , clearly printed – “G.W. and Co. Ltd., Prov. Patent 5902/23.

I was transferred to their Search and Advisory Service in High Holborn. They were able to locate the actual Patent number – 217,959 which unlocked, at last, the difficult history of this particular company.

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Fast forward 28 years and I came across a toy train with a patent number and date clearly printed on the cab side. I had known of this particular engine as it was featured in the May 1924 issue of Games and Toys, the monthly Trade magazine of the British Toy industry. However, an actual model had never previously been seen. I thought it would be fascinating to find a copy of the original patent.

What a journey, what a virtual tour of Britain! I started in London, but was transferred to the UKIPO in Newport. I gave them what I thought was the patent number – 233183, but this number did not match the toy engine. Sadly, some rust had obliterated one number, so could we try 233163 I asked? Again we had no luck. It was suggested I contact the British Library in Boston Spa. Again no luck, but they suggested I contact the Business & IP Centre in London.

Within two hours of my email request, I was astonished to receive an email from Information Specialist Gail Mitchell who had not only found the patent (it turned out to be 233103) but had emailed me a copy. Fantastic service! Quite superb!

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Your service is like the Rosetta Stone – it is the key to unlocking the history of industry

Of course, it did not stop there. Inventors, manufacturers are rightly proud of their products and patents. This patent number is worn with pride and frequently used to feature in their advertisements, box artwork or even printed or stamped onto the actual model itself.

Such a product was a tinplate Dockside Crane which we were photographing. Turning it over, we saw this patent number stamped -142747 underneath. We believed it to be taken out by the manufacturer – British Metal and Toy Manufacturers Ltd. We were surprised to read it was actually taken out by a Mr George Hazelton of Portadown, Ireland.  This was in May, 1920 before partition, so he must have authorised BMTM to manufacture it for him. For us, your archives, your service is like the Rosetta Stone – it is the key to unlocking the history of industry.

Only last month, I came across a picture in an old book advertising a 3D jigsaw of a toy ship which had the patent number printed on the box label. Once again, your Information Specialist, Gail Mitchell was able to track down and give us not only the patent but the company name, date, address and the name of the patentee. It is magic to be able to anchor our research and history in this way.

For researchers such as I, to have such enthusiastic, helpful people assisting us to unlock the ingenuity of our forefathers is really quite wonderful.

Michael D. Foster

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  Brimtoy Mech Patent

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19 September 2016

How one woman turned her passion for swimming into a successful business

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A keen swimmer and all-round active person Lisa Irlam noticed a gap in the market and took the plunge into the wearable fitness technology world. Her business, Swimovate, launched in 2007 and since then the business has gone from strength to strength, selling the innovative PoolMate - a waterproof watch the counts your laps while you swim.  We asked Lisa some of our burning questions about how she got started and became the success story she is today.

Hi Lisa! Where did the idea come from to start your own business?

As amateur triathletes, my husband Jim and I realised that there were plenty of products to monitor performance for runners and athletes, but nothing for swimmers. We talked to retailers, magazines, triathletes and swimmers who all said they would buy a product if it existed. There was a gap in the market and the PoolMate idea was born.

How did the Business & IP Centre help you along the way?

Initially we did some technical research, reading scientific papers at the British Library and discovered the Business & IP Centre and what an amazing range of support and services it offered. We attended free workshops on intellectual property and researching your market and spent a lot of time searching the databases that the Centre provides access to. It really helped us to understand our field and what we needed to do to make our business a success. Through the Business & IP Centre we met some inspiring and very helpful people who gave us invaluable advice and support, completely free of charge.

What have been your greatest achievements since starting up?

The best feeling was selling out of our first batch before it had even been delivered and knowing we were at the start of something massive. After selling over 100,000 units, it still gives us a buzz to see our watches on people’s wrists on the street.

What one piece of crucial advice would you give to anyone thinking about starting a business?

Be very careful with your finances, it’s easy to get carried away with costs. Make sure you only risk what you are prepared to lose. Try to do as much as possible yourself, this will teach you so much and don’t forget to make use of all the great free resources out there, like the Business & IP Centre.

 

We’ve been helping people like Lisa turn great ideas into businesses for over 10 years now. To celebrate we’re holding a day of free workshops, talks and events on everything you need to know to start a business, from raising cash to getting your business online. You’ll meet like-minded people, chat to seasoned business experts and entrepreneurs and even get your first professional headshot. And our new ‘Entrepreneur in Residence’, Julie Deane (founder and CEO of The Cambridge Satchel Company), will be showing you how to start a business from your kitchen table. Join us at the British Library on the 27 September and get inspired to take your first step to entrepreneurship.

 

05 July 2016

Celebrating British IP Day – get IP savvy

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Today is British IP Day – but what does Intellectual Property (IP) mean for you and your business?

Well, it might mean beginning to take more control over your brand, exploring new opportunities to commercialise your ideas by selling creative pieces and designs. Or indeed revisiting the business plan and opening up global marketplaces with licensing options.

Being savvy with your intellectual property can make your business scale faster. If you know how.

Protecting your ideas

We know how, and those experts who are on hand in the Business & IP Centre can advise you straight away on what to do to on questions ranging from how to avoid copyright infringement through to what can be trade marked in the UK.

Knowledge is power and by knowing your rights and how to navigate the process to protect your ideas, your business will be stronger.

Award-winning entrepreneur Dana Elemara, founder of Arganic says, “if I hadn't have gone to the intellectual property course at the British Library, I wouldn't have even thought about trademarking my business name”.

 

 

“Branding is a byword for success”

British Library Business & IP Centre Ambassador and businessman, Stephen Fear, has started-up and succeeded across many sectors in his business career and offers this advice; Brands and branding are important because they represent consistency and that is a byword for success. 

Any entrepreneur wishing to build his or her business must first achieve consistency before they can obtain riches. By building a brand you are telling the world that you intend to be around for a very long time. You tell them that you and your business can be relied on to deliver a consistent high quality service or product.

You tell them that they don't need to worry about making their purchase because you will stand by it. If it isn't up to scratch you will replace it immediately and investigate what went wrong. 

Building a business is like building a relationship. The person you are doing this with needs to know that you are committed to the relationship. Convince your potential buyer of that by being genuine and doing what you say 'every time' will cause a line to form at your door. A line of fans rather than just customers. Fans who will buy from you time and time again. Create a brand & the rest will follow.

  

 

So, on this inaugural British IP Day, spare some time to think about any untapped assets and creative skills in your business which could be optimised. The Business & IP Centre is here to help you. Stay up to date with new dates for workshops and webinars helping address these and other issues by signing up for our e-newsletter.

British IP Day has been established by the Alliance for Intellectual Property to celebrate the huge contribution that IP makes to the UK.

Written by Clare Harris

19 May 2016

Kikka Digga - Business & IP Centre Success Story

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Kikka-Digga logoOn Saturday I visited Plumpton College near Lewes, for their annual open day. On display amongst the new-born lambs, Sussex wines, tractors and chainsaws was a stand for Kikka Digga. With my curiosity for all things new, I sauntered over and chatted to the demonstrator Nick Skaliotis. It turned out this was the very first public outing for the his new invention, which he claimed would make digging gardens significantly easier.

Mid-way through our conversation I asked if Nick had patented his invention, he looked more closely at me and said, "I know you". It turned out he has been a regular in the Business & IP Centre at the British Library. In addition to getting help with his patent from our wonderful Inventor in Residence Mark Shehean. He also attended several of our workshops including lean start-up webinar, social media for business and trade marks.

Kikka-Digga image
After hearing Nick’s story I just had to buy his product to see if it really did live up to his claims. Also, I hoped it would help me to avoid the lower back-pain I now get every time I dig over my vegetable patch.

As soon as I got home I took the two pieces of metal out of package and installed them onto my fork. This was as simple as the instructions indicated with just two items to clamp onto my fork.

As you can see from my photos below, I was able to dig over a small section of my very weedy heavy clay soil quickly and easily using Kikka Digga. And, even better, I had no twinges in my lower back afterwards. So I am definitely sold on the product.

I also like the name Kikka Digga, for being simple and memorable. And it has even more k’s than the legendary Kodak brand. George Eastman said about the letter k, “it seems a strong, incisive sort of letter.” I am also glad to see that Nick has registered the name at the UK Intellectual Property Office.

Kikka Digga trademark

You can see a demonstration of the invention in action on YouTube. And keep up to date with Nick’s progress on Facebook or Twitter.

I can’t wait to see how the gardeners of Great Britain take to this wonderful invention.

Kikka Digga 1

Kikka Digga newly assembled on my fork in seconds

Kikka Digga 2

My first few digs into my heavy clay soil are surprisingly easy

Kikka Digga 3

Misty is as impressed as I am by the speed and ease in digging up the plot.

 

By Neil Infield in the Business & IP Centre London team

20 July 2015

Top 5 Intellectual Property Mistakes Made by Small Businesses

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Intellectual Property (IP) law can be a minefield, particularly for start-ups and SMEs that either don’t have the necessary experience or resources. As a partner to the Business & IP Centre and at our firm of patent and trademark attorneys, London IP, we work with small businesses to sort out IP problems that could have been avoided if the right steps had been taken at the right time. So, to help you avoid any problems with IP we have put together a list of our top five IP mistakes (and how to avoid them).

1. Being scared of IP and ignoring it

 There is a myth that IP is an expensive business, and no doubt it can be. However, really you can spend as much as you want to. The UK official fees for registered designs are £60, for trademarks fees start at £170 and for patents £230. Indeed, the official fees to obtain a registered design that covers the whole of the EU are only EUR350!

If you use a patent or trademark attorney to help you then you will need to pay their fees as well, but compared to the cost of many other business expenses such as rents and business rates IP isn’t all that expensive. For example, the cost to get a UK patent granted could be anywhere in the region of £1500 to £4000 spread over five years or so. For a potential twenty year monopoly, and a halving of corporation tax (through the patent box tax scheme), that may be a very worthwhile investment.

Also, it’s worth knowing that IP law is actually quite generous in that it gives you free IP rights that you don’t have to do anything to obtain other than create something that is worthy of being deemed to be protected. The most well-known of these rights is copyright, but there are others.

For example, any designs you create may be automatically protected for three years by EU unregistered design right, and for up to 15 years by UK unregistered design right.

That said, unregistered design rights are not as strong as registered rights as unregistered rights (other than the ‘passing off’ right for unregistered trademarks) are only infringed by copying, whereas registered rights provide an exclusive right meaning that they can be infringed even if the original work has not been copied.

Thus, it must be recommended that you register your IP rights if possible.

2. Being fooled by scam invoices

The publishing of applicant and inventor names and addresses is essential to the transparency of the IP system as the public needs to know who owns a particular IP right.

Unfortunately, all this information can also be used by criminals, so if you do choose to register any IP rights then it is almost certain that you will receive one or more very official-looking letters from rogue companies that try to scam applicants for patents, trademarks and registered designs.

These scams can simply be an invoice that appears to be from a ‘patent office’ or a ‘register’. The amounts of money requested vary, but are sometimes quite significant.

The UK Government seems to be generally powerless to stop most these scams as they are often run from overseas

Beware.

3. Not registering IP at the right time

There is nothing more disheartening than a client describing what sounds to be a marvellous invention with a view to protecting it with a patent and the client commenting ‘it’s selling really well’.

To obtain valid patent protection in most of the world a patent application must be filed before any non-confidential disclosure of an invention.

So before you file a patent application for your invention you can’t sell it, put on a crowd-funding website, use it in public, etc., etc.

You can of course talk to third parties in confidence without jeopardizing your chances of obtaining valid patent protection. You may wish to use confidentiality agreements with third parties just so it is clear that everyone understood that the discussions were confidential.

As an aside it is worth noting that all correspondence with patent attorneys is inherently confidential both under common law and their code of professional conduct, so using confidentiality agreements with patent attorneys is quite unnecessary.

It’s not just patents though; many countries of the world require registered design applications to be filed before any non-confidential disclosure of a design in order to grant valid protection.

Furthermore the trademark system in many ways operates on a first-to-file basis so trademark applications should be filed as early as possible to safeguard future use of the mark and to minimize the chances of expensive and protracted disputes with owners of later-filed conflicting trademarks.

Many trademark disputes would never have occurred if a relevant trademark had been registered when use of the mark started.

In summary, IP should be considered at the very outset of any new venture to try to make sure that patent, trademark and design applications are filed at the appropriate time.

4. Ignoring infringement issues

It should be appreciated that IP is double-edged sword and along with protecting your own IP rights you need to careful not to infringe existing IP.

As mentioned above, registered IP rights provide the owner with the exclusive right to use the IP in the territories covered. This means that you may believe that what you are doing is original but you could be infringing an existing right.

This is the case even if what you are doing is in fact original as registered IP rights can be broader in scope than the thing that they were created to protect.

For example trademark registrations give the owner the right to stop use of identical and similar marks, and registered designs protect against designs with the same ‘overall impression’.

Often we see clients obsess about protecting ‘their’ idea with a patent, and ignoring the fact that someone else might have thought of it before (perish the thought!).

So before spending money on branding, prototyping and tooling, try to make sure that whatever it is that you are developing isn’t going to infringe.

If it does infringe and you can’t obtain a license, then unless the IP can somehow be worked around you may need to completely reconsider your project.

5. Not understanding IP ownership issues with commissioned works

If you pay someone to build you a house then you own the house once the work is complete.

IP doesn’t work like that unless the ‘builder’ is legally an employee, so problems regularly arise with commissioned works, where the person doing the work is paid money for a project, but is not an employee.

For example, if you commission someone to design a logo or a product, or to write something for your website then (unless there is an agreement in place to the contrary) the person that does the work will own all of the IP rights when the work is done.

Because this is so counterintuitive a lot of disputes about the ownership of intellectual property arise. Indeed, if the law on this were to be changed a lot of IP lawyers would be out of a job!

It is therefore very important to have a clear agreement at the outset of any commissioning process about who will own all the IP once the work is completed and to ensure that, if desired, any IP rights created are legally transferred to the commissioning party.

 

David Warrilow, Patent & Trademark Attorney London IP, on behalf of the Business & IP Centre