THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Innovation and enterprise blog

16 posts categorized "Trade marks"

05 July 2017

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

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Wednesday 5 July 2017 is British IP Day – a welcome opportunity to celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of Intellectual Property.

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.”

 

Podcast IPO

 

Whether it’s British IP Day’ or just a normal day, 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.

Julie 2
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 is set to give even more advice and practical tips on 11 July 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 will be giving the opening keynote presentation on ‘Getting your business in the media’ which is not to be missed.

Book your ticket here.

Brompton
The Cambridge Satchel Company / Brompton Bikes collaboration

 

 

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

05 June 2015

The importance of trade marks for your small business

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At the British Library’s Business & IP Centre we regularly work with start-up and growth businesses with a focus on all things design. I recently attended ‘I Knit Fandango' at the Royal Horticultural Halls, Westminster, London, which is a huge knitting festival and market bursting with lots of beautiful yarns, fabulous fibre and amazing patterns. The vast majority of the exhibitors were small businesses. Most produced the yarn and designed the patterns they sold themselves.

IKnit

 

I enjoyed talking to the exhibitors about knitting, a great passion of mine, and about their use of social media and intellectual property for their small businesses. However, I was surprised at the number of exhibitors who didn’t think intellectual property was relevant to them.

Intellectual Property, or IP, relates to creations of the mind such as inventions, music, poetry, paintings, books and designs etc., as well as the signs and symbols used by businesses to indicate the origin of their goods or services.

On a basic level, having a trade mark allows your customers to find you. Whether they are using the internet or social media or just walking the high street they can quickly identify who they are dealing with when looking for particular products or services.  Having your trade mark on your website and any social media channels will allow customers to recognise and identify your brand with your products. As the reputation of your business grows so will the value of your trade mark.

Choosing a trade mark

How do you choose a trade mark? Well, that is very much a personal choice, but it is worth remembering that trade marks don’t have to be complicated. Take the image below:

Nike

It is instantly recognisable as the Nike tick or swoosh and is also recognisable regardless of the country the product is sold in; no words are necessary.

As rumour has it, the word ‘Kodak’ was devised by George Eastman and his mother mainly because the letter ‘K’ was Eastman’s favourite letter. Coined words, as they are known, have the advantage of being easy to protect due to their distinctiveness, but they may also need greater efforts to imprint them on the minds of consumers.

Kodak-10-logo-primary

 

Creating a trade mark is no easy task and it is not helped by the fact that there are really no hard and fast rules as to what makes a successful trade mark. However there are some things you should bear in mind:

  • Firstly, your trade mark has to meet all the legal requirements for trade mark registration in whatever jurisdiction you are intending to register it in.
  • Secondly, your trade mark must be distinctive enough to be protectable and registrable with the relevant intellectual property office.

If you are using a text mark you might want to remember the following;

  • Your trade mark should be easy to read and pronounce in all languages relevant to your market.
  • Your trade mark should not have any adverse meaning in slang (in English or any other foreign language if you intend to trade abroad).
  • Your trade mark should not create any confusion as to the nature of your product.

You can work with freelance designers or design companies to create your trade mark, but you need to ensure that all the intellectual property rights to the trade mark are assigned to you as otherwise they will remain with the person/company who created the mark, regardless of whether or not you paid for the service.

Register your trade mark

Once your trade mark is designed you will need to register it.  I should say here that you don’t have to register your trade mark but having a registered mark gives you the right to sue anyone who infringes it and to prevent competitors from using/registering an identical or confusingly similar mark.  For an unregistered trade mark you would have to rely on the common law of ‘passing off’ for protection and that can prove extremely difficult.

Registering a UK trade mark costs a minimum of £170 if you register online or £200 if you register on paper. Fees are not refundable and do not guarantee registration of your trade mark, so before you register you might want to:

1. Search to see if the trade mark you want to use is already in use

Although it is not requirement to filing an application, in the Business & IP Centre we would encourage you to search the free trade mark databases to see if any marks have already been registered that are similar to your mark.  A list of the free search databases can be found and accessed via our website.

If someone else is using a similar trade mark to yours check whether it is being used in the same class of goods or services as yours. There are 45 classes of goods and services and it is possible for proprietors to have the same trade mark, provided they have registered their mark in different classes.  An example would be “Polo” mints and “Polo” the Volkswagen car.

2. Think about it long term

Think about where you want your business to be in twelve months or in five years’ time. A trade mark lasts for ten years, and can be renewed every 10 years, so actually has the potential to last forever. When registering your mark you should take this into account, and include in your registration, all the classes that you intend to trade in within the following five years. Why five years if the trade mark lasts for ten? Well, if you do not start trading in all of the classes in which your mark is registered within five years of registration, opponents can apply to the Intellectual Property Office to have your trade mark revoked in the unused classes.

3. Don’t do it alone

Understanding how to protect your intellectual property can sometimes be a minefield.  However, there are ways you can access free or low cost assistance to guide you through the process. If you need some help searching databases to see if your logo or a similar one already exists then come to the Business & IP Centre where our Information Specialists will be more than happy to guide you through the free trade mark search databases. We also offer a number of intellectual property and business workshops. Including:

For advice regarding the fees or the process of registration your should contact the Intellectual Property Office or for legal advice book yourself a free 30-minute advice session with a trade mark attorney in your local area via the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys website. 

Is it worth it?

Many of the exhibitors I spoke with at ‘I Knit Fandango’ hadn’t thought of protecting their brands and one exhibitor even asked “Is it worth it?”. It is worth remembering that your trade mark or brand will be the most valuable piece of intellectual property you will have. This is because we, as consumers, buy into brands as these assure us of a certain level of quality or of service. When we find a brand we like we tend to stay loyal to it and it is the goodwill a company builds up under its brand that gives it its value.

At the Business & IP Centre we regularly help those who have unknowingly infringed another’s trade mark or who have had their trade marks stolen or used incorrectly. In order to protect your company’s identity – protect your trade mark from the start.

Sage_IPcentreshoot-9810

 

Maria Lampert, Information Expert at the British Library

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.

 

21 April 2015

Copying – right or wrong?

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Across the Business & IP Centre National Network and at Newcastle Libraries, home of the Business & IP Centre Newcastle, we believe it’s important for everyone to have a think about copying. We want individuals and businesses to know about their rights to use content and creations that are either in the public domain or under an open license - and to learn more about copyright generally. As we say in our intellectual property workshops make sure you “don’t infringe!”

That’s why we are having a bit of an alternative event in Newcastle on 27April. Copying – right or wrong? is a question and answer session with author and activist Cory Doctorow and law lecturer Rebecca Moosavian. Cory Doctorow makes several of his books available for free download on his website (under a Creative Commons license) and Rebecca Moosavian’s research focuses on the appropriateness of applying property rights to culture.

Copy-right or copy-wrong?

We know that to copy something is wrong; it’s been ingrained in us since we were children - and as we grew up copying took the name of ‘plagiarism’. Whether your interests are listening to music, appreciating artwork, watching films or TV series, we know copying a song, a film or a TV show without permission is wrong. Every time we watch a DVD we are told that copying the DVD is piracy. Websites are often closed down because of infringement of copyright – the right given to creators or owners of the intellectual property to control what is done with their works and YouTube videos are removed. Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams were more talked about for being found guilty by a US court of copying the late Marvin Gaye’s songs than for their musical talent (the court did not make any comments on the latter).

CC BY-NC-SA Chris Messina (cropped)
CC BY-NC-SA Chris Messina (Cropped ; Original picture on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/factoryjoe/6709784133)

And yet, I copy. Yes. You do too. We all copy. As you can imagine, I would never admit to doing anything illegal and I am certainly not accusing you, of committing any crimes either! That must mean there are cases where copying is right, legal and even encouraged. For example, you buy a CD, then copy it onto your computer, then copy all the tracks again on your MP3 player so you can listen to the album on the go. That is perfectly legal - and it has been very clearly so in the UK since the last changes to copyright law came into force in November 2014. So let’s see what the law does allow.

When it is legal to copy

-       Copyright does not last forever - even though new laws can change its duration, copyright has an end – in most cases, count 70 years after the end of the year in which the work’s creator died. What happens to the work after that? It enters the public domain – it belongs to everyone, and anyone can use it, without asking permission.

-       Copyright exceptions - the law recognises that there are cases when we do not need to ask for permission to re-use a work. For example, when we make a copy for private use (like with our CD), or we copy and publish an extract for review purposes, or when creating a parody of a famous picture by copying it and adding something humorous to it.

-       Open licenses - sometimes the copyright owner will publish their work and tell you it is fine for you to copy it without asking for their permission. The most common way to do this is to use Creative Commons licenses – like the ones on the pictures illustrating this post. CC BY-SA on the image below means “this work is licensed under a Creative Commons license; you can use it without asking for permission as long as you credit the author and share it under the same license”.

CC BY SA Nina Paley - Permission (2)
Mimiandeunice.com CC BY-SA Nina Paley

Copying, business and innovation

But let’s get back to business. How does all this apply to you as an entrepreneur? When you create something, you are proud of its originality and inventiveness (and rightly so); you would be horrified if someone copied you. In business, entrepreneurs legitimately want to stop others from copying them: if a competitor copies your unique selling point, then how are you going to differentiate yourself in the market? In the Business & IP Centre Network and the other PATLIB centres you can discuss with an adviser how best to protect your creations against copying. We will tell you all about copyright, but also designs, patents and trade marks.

Some large companies, like Dyson, have an impressive intellectual property strategy to protect their ideas. However, other companies like the one behind the Sriracha sauce has a more lenient strategy and encourages others to use their product name in order to generate free advertising and Elon Musk recently announced that other companies are now welcome to copy and use Tesla’s patented technology. Each company needs to think about what is the right approach for their business.

There are also industries that thrive on a type of copying – one that is called “inspiration”. Think about fashion, music, art, etc. It poses some pertinent questions for business owners; how would you react to another business copying you? Would your reaction be different if you were copied by individuals? Do you think people who copy and share your content on social networks without your permission are right, or wrong? This World Intellectual Property Day take the opportunity to get informed and discuss the role of intellectual property to encourage and control innovation and enterprise in your business.

If you are not able to join us in Newcastle for Copying – right or wrong? on 27 April you can still follow the event on Twitter using #CmnsR4ever and let us know in the comments: what do you think? When is it right to copy? When is it wrong? What should be made legal / illegal in terms of copying?

Aude Charillon on behalf of the Business & IP Centre Newcastle

Aude is Library and Information Officer at the Business & IP Centre Newcastle and leads the Commons are Forever project, which aims to empower participants about our rights to use creative works that are free of copyright, and to in turn share what we create with others.

30 January 2015

Intellectual Property Matters

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It is said that 'The meek shall inherit the Earth', but for now it's the inherently rich and shrewd.

Intellectual property rights (IPR) include patent, registered or unregistered trademarks, design rights, copyright, or more commonly a strategic combination of each. Protecting your intangible assets can be as rewarding as protecting your physical property, but it can be a complex and expensive job to secure, maintain and defend them.  Therefore it is important to remember that you may not have to keep your idea or product secret in order to protect it - there are other formal ways to do it.

IP
The key is to get impartial professional advice early on and formulate an IPR strategy. I clearly remember my confused state, of trying to understand all the processes involved (not just on IPR protection, but the inventing business in general). The learning curve was enough to drive me mad, although I do say 'The nearer to insanity I get, the better I invent' - the trick is getting back!

Getting into the nitty-gritty world of how to protect your invention with a patent, with some do's, don'ts and tips on IPR's that I have learnt, sometimes the hard way.

Patenting steps - do's and don'ts

  • To patent something it needs an inventive step, never to be thought of before anywhere in the world ever and something that someone schooled in the art would not have thought of.
  • Do have a professional patent search carried out at the British Library Business & IP Centre. The 'new' part I mentioned earlier is important, before spending significant amounts of time and money on the idea, only to find it has been done before and is protected or is in the public domain already greatly weakening your position.
  • Don't disclose your invention to anyone without protecting any protectable IPR's first or get them to sign a confidentiality agreement.  If not, it may prevent you from obtaining a patent later.
  • Don't write a patent yourself.  It may save money, but it is a false economy. If your idea is a success, you will regret the day you did that. Ifyou intend to licence, sell outright or defend the invention you will look amateurish when the patent is reviewed.  And, more critically, you may have left something important out, or worded something wrong, making it vulnerable (easier to get around).  Remember, a patent can be the most valuable asset a company owns. Poorly written and all could be lost.

Top tips

  • You have twelve months, from filing a patent application, to file foreign applications. At that point, do your homework, to get the broadest country’s protection (on where the product will be sold and manufactured) at the lowest cost possible. You can do this in the Business & IP Centre London or in one of the National Centres. The trick is to know your market, so it may be possible to file in the smallest number of countries to cover most of it (note, you can delay this stage by eighteen months using the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)).
  • If you have kept your invention secret, within the twelve month period from filing the application, you can withdraw the application and re-file, but note, you lose the original priority date and risk that someone filed something similar in that lost period.
  • I tend to keep things secret and file the patent application late.  I do this because if you are still developing the idea, it could be very different after the twelve months, so might need significant changes or a total rewrite.

Using the British Library

As a regular user of the British Library facilities, for research and patents information, in the past and being their first ever 'Inventor in Residence', I offer free one-to-one hour long confidential meetings, called 'ask an expert'.  It is disturbing and frustrating to commonly see, the ownership of great ideas slip through the inventor's fingers, because they made it public before protecting it (frequently with university student projects), or got misdirected and over charged by a so called professional Patent Attorney.

 

Mark Sheahan Med plus res 2014Mark Sheahan, 'Inventor in Residence' for the British Library, President of the 'Institute of Patentees and Inventors', a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and Vice Chairman of the 'Round table of Inventors'. 

 

 

07 January 2015

Business & IP Centre webinars - learning wherever you are

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Here at the Business & IP Centre we strive to assist businesses looking to start up and grow in a number of ways: they can explore the research resources in our reading room, attend our events or book in for a 121 session to discuss their idea. One of the most popular services we offer are our workshops - run by centre staff and expert partners, they help start-ups, inventors and entrepreneurs get to grips with a number of crucial business areas, from intellectual property to social media. 

Most of our workshops are held onsite in our dedicated workshop rooms - however, we recognise that busy entrepreneurs aren't always able to make it into the Centre in person. So, like the businesses we see each day, we strive to be innovative, harness technology and adapt to our customers' needs, and therefore offer a programme of free online webinars accessible to anyone - in any location - from their computer. Alongside the National Network, the webinars are a way to reach beyond our presence in London; helping entrepreneurs across the country and even the world – we’ve had attendees from New York to Newcastle.

Attendees simply need to book online and log in on the day, and one of our team will talk you through an online presentation, with an opportunity to ask questions at the end.

Over the next few months, with funding from the Intellectual Property Office, we are running a series of intellectual property webinars, covering patents, designs and copyright. These webinars will introduce the different forms of intellectual property protection, guide attendees through searching for previous registrations, and show them how to protect their work. Wherever you are, if you've ever wanted to learn about IP while still in your PJs, these could be for you!

Webinars are displayed on our 'Workshops and Events' page - a taster of what's coming up online is below. 

  Webinar image

Introducing Patents

Friday 16 January 1pm – 2pm

A patent protects new inventions and covers how things work, what they do, how they do it, what they are made of and how they are made, and can be a key asset in business. This webinar will explain the basics behind patent protection and registration, and how to use internet databases and resources to search for patents. The session will include a live demonstration of a patent search to guide delegates through the process.

 

Introducing Registered Designs

Friday 13 February 1pm – 2pm

A registered design protects the appearance of a product. This webinar will explain the basics behind registered design protection and registration, and how to use internet databases and resources to search for designs. The session will include a live demonstration of a registered design search to guide delegates through the process.

 

Introducing Copyright

Friday 13 March 1pm – 2pm

Copyright protects original creations, from literary and artistic works to software. This webinar will explains the basics behind copyright protection, including eligible works, duration of protection, and an introduction to protecting and managing your copyright as well as using the work of others.

 

Sally Jennings on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

 
 
 

17 November 2014

Loom Bands - the toy sensation of 2014

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Rainbowloom-logoWhen we look back at the toys of 2014, it will be remembered for Loom Bands. Cheong Choon Ng created a plastic loom for his children to weave colourful rubber bands into bracelets and charms, and Rainbow Loom is the registered trade name of his invention.

From his beginnings in Malaysia to his current his life in the USA, his story is interesting and inspiring.  The idea came about when helping his daughters with their rubber band craft making, but he admits that his biggest challenge was to convince his wife to risk their life savings to invest in his invention. “I am the one in the family with all the crazy ideas, and she is my reality check”.  A couple of years later and Rainbow Loom is a multi-million pound international business.  You can read Cheong’s story in his own words in the Guardian newspaper, Experience - I invented the Loom Bands.

Choon Ng and his wife Fen

Loom band inventor Cheong Choon Ng with his wife Fen

The Rainbow Loom website is a splendid example of how it has become a global sensation, showcasing tutorial videos, press stories , a ‘Loominaries’ community  and Loom network.  In A craze for 'loom bands' Richard Gottlieb, from consultants Global Toy Experts, says “It wasn’t driven by advertising or big companies… there’s a difference between creating a product that sells, and a phenomenon.  There’s a bit of magic about it”. The products made by Loom bands range from bracelets, to dresses, shoes, handbags, brooches and pimped products such as watches Rainbow Loom Creations Pinterest board and on Rainbow Loom’s twitter feed @RainbowLoom.

Loom band example

When something is so successful, others will inevitably try to copy your idea. This is what has happened with Cheong Choon Ng’s invention, with copy-cat products and similar sounding names.

I am sure that Choon Ng’s children played a great part in getting his product to gain traction and impact, and he calls this the ‘Rainbow Loom ecosystem’.  I particularly like that this has encouraged young children and adults to become creative and entrepreneurial with loom bands. I was given a bracelet by a young relative on holiday in Italy as a sign of friendship, and I was asked by another to buy one in my national colours for the Notting Hill Carnival to raise funds for her school trip. 

Rainbow Loom’s executive, Philo Pappas, attributes its success to the product’s inherent customization and social aspects, “with kids and tweens now it is all about creating something unique and personalized, which is exactly what the Rainbow Loom does. Plus Kids love to come up with new designs and share them with each other, so there’s a social element too”. 

So the question is - have you got a toy idea or product that can capture everyone’s imagination? I know that we often advise visitors to the Business & IP Centre with their toy ideas. Through one of our Business and IP Clinics I met chess board designer Purling London who has create a handcrafted under-lit chess board for fine art collectors and professional chess players.  The idea came from trying to play chess on a beach in the dark. However in this case Simon Purkis is aiming for the premium end of the market. Our Toys Industry Guide gives a pointer to which toy trends are up and which are on the way out, as well as the key companies, and links to help get started such as the British Toy Makers Guild.

Chess board

Bang-logoOur partner Bang Creations runs regular workshops to help get your idea to market. They work through your unique selling point, who are your customers, how to get into production, how many you need to make, and how reach your customers.

Some of their toy success stories such Laser Strike Jet Combat are featured on their website.

Laserstrike1

Play is an important part of life, and if you are looking for inspiration have a look at the British Library’s Playtimes portal. It brings together 100 years of children’s songs, rhymes and games, from conkers to singing games, rude jokes to fantasy play.

In closing, I wanted to share a quote from Choon Ng, “I knew that not many inventors have their dream come true like this one.  But living it now, I treasure every moment of it. I would say this is the best time of my life”.

Seema Rampersad on behalf of Business & IP Centre London

08 August 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction - Intellectual Property in disguise

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Transformers_Age_of_Extinction_PosterSpoiler alert! Unfortunately it was difficult to examine the IP mentions below without revealing a little of the plot, so if you haven’t seen the film yet and plan to, look away now.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to see the film Transformers: Age of Extinction. I was interested in the film as Ohyo, one of the Business & IP Centre’s Success Stories, has produced a limited edition of their bottle to tie in with its release. As well as being a very entertaining - almost three hours of robots, aliens, and robot-alien-dinosaurs, the IP geek in me also found much to enjoy in the many mentions of intellectual property within the film.

One of the main characters, Cade Yeager (played by Mark Wahlberg) is pretty much your standard action hero – rugged, wisecracking, good with a gun. But he’s also a struggling inventor, and as such is rather more au fait with the concepts of intellectual property than you’d expect from your average blockbuster protagonist. He jokes about IP, and worries about ownership of his creations.

Discussing an invention with his friend near the beginning of the film, their main debate is over intellectual property rights. And his reaction on using a huge alien gun is ‘Oh, man. I'm so gonna patent this sh*t.’ (It’s doubtful, of course, that he actually could, but then this isn’t really a film built on gritty realism.) And it’s not just Yeager: in another scene, during a battle between Bumblebee (an Autobot robot) and Stinger (an apparently new and improved Decepticon copy of his opponent), the former comments ruefully: ‘I hate these cheap knock-offs’. (Then he feeds his rival’s head to a two-headed robotic pterosaur, not an approach we’d normally recommend in regard to IP infringement). 

Perhaps the scriptwriters are simply demonstrating a healthy dose of self-awareness, as there is, of course, a huge amount of valuable intellectual property contained within a brand like Transformers, spanning as it does a multitude of media. From the film to the merchandise to the name itself, Transformers will be covered by a variety of IP protection, from trademarks and copyright to patents. Below is the 1985 patent (number 4,516,948) for the Optimus Prime toy, by designer Hiroyuki Obara.

US4516948-1

US4516948-6

US4516948-4

The film also offers some good advice for all would-be inventors out there, in a scene where Cade Yeager confronts a scientist whose creations have had dire repercussions for the world: ‘You're an inventor like me, so I know you have a conscience. Don't let your creation take control.’

Whilst, of course, most good inventions have positive outcomes, you can take control of – and learn to protect - your ideas by learning more about intellectual property here at the Business & IP Centre. 

Sally Jennings on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

25 July 2014

Book review - The Name of The Beast by Neil Taylor

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Name of the beastNaming your business, brand, product, company etc should be an easy and simple process but getting it right seldom is.

Neil Taylor was a senior naming consultant at global brand consultancy Interbrand - the company behind such household names as Prozac, Expedia, Hobnobs and Viagra - and states that the name is the one part of the brand that you hope will never change as it is the primary means of identification for a brand.

Brands change logos, straplines, headquarters, people – some of them even dramatically change what they do (Nokia started off making forestry products and rubber boots). But often the name is the one common thread that runs throughout the entire history of a company or product. So getting the name right is imperative and most hope never to change the name.

That means that when brands do change name, it’s a big and often costly deal. Remember when Opal Fruits became Starburst? When Marathon became Snickers? Oil of Ulay became Olay? Jif became Cif? All names that are still around today.

But what about Consignia – the new name that The Post Office-Royal Mail opted for? There was such a public fuss about the name – “Doesn’t sound like the national institution that Royal Mail does”, “Sounds like a brand of anti-perspirant (Insignia)”, “Consignia means (appropriately) lost luggage in Spanish”, “Unfortunately they forgot that a more common use of “consign” is to consign to the rubbish bin” - that the name Consignia has now been consigned to history as a massive failure.

The Name of the Beast (The perilous process of naming products, companies and brands) looks at the practical aspects of naming. How do you come up with names in the first place – what sort of name should you go for, what makes a good name etc? How do you make sure it doesn’t mean something awful in another language? How do you make sure that you don’t steal someone else’s name by accident (and then get taken to court)? How do you convince cynical colleagues, customers and journalists that your name isn’t worthy of the usual frenzy of devilish derision?

Within this humorous and easily readable book are tales of big brands, naming disasters, a smattering of insider knowledge and how 21st century super-brands like Google and Starbucks have built their empires on names with strong stories behind them.

Ziaad Khan on behalf of Business & IP Centre

30 May 2014

Book review - How to get your product to market by Louise Guinda

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How-to-get-your-product-to-market“The biggest problem most people with great ideas have is just not knowing where to start and what to do. I think that’s the greatest barrier to market” - Patrick Mathews, Breffo

This is a quote from page 109 of How to get your product to market by Louise Guinda, which nicely sums up the purpose of this book

This book goes a long way to solving this problem. It is a step by step guide which can assist an entrepreneur in taking the idea in their head and turning it into a reality in the market place.

Written in easily digestible chapters covering topics such as ensuring that the idea is new, checking that a market for the product actually exists, and manufacturing and prototypes, the book takes the reader on a journey through the process of becoming an entrepreneur.

Each chapter includes a tip, based on the subject of the chapter, and a handy ‘Chapter Wrap-up’ reiterating the main points of the chapter.

It helps that the writer herself is an inventor and entrepreneur and has been there, done that, and has now written the book.

I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who has come up with a product idea, and who wants to bring it to the market.

Maria Lampert on behalf of Business & IP Centre

You can read a free PDF sample of How to get your product to market here.

Amazon review by Karen Wilson - Being someone with an good idea but no clue of what to do next, this book was extremely helpful and packed with information and great advice. It was easy to read and make notes and really gave me the inspirational push I needed to continue with my product idea.