THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Innovation and enterprise blog

4 posts from April 2015

29 April 2015

A day in the life at the Business & IP Centre

My working day at the Business & IP Centre starts as I wake up from a daydream on the tube at King’s Cross, to the announcement “Exit here for the British Library”, which is just a few minutes’ walk away from my office.

I am on ‘desk-duty’ today, so head straight out to the reading room where all our information resources are located (and freely available with a Reader Pass). The day officially starts from 9:30am Monday to Saturday (except for Mondays at 10am), when the Centre literally opens for business. We take it in turns to cover the enquiry desk, where we answer questions from customers, assist with our impressive set of business databases and give information advice. Today kicks off with an elderly customer who wants a list of contact companies who make butchers’ cutting boards. It is his first visit to the Library, but he has impaired vision and also isn’t confident using computers, so I help him use the Kompass database. It takes us about 15 minutes, but together we are able to generate a list of businesses he can contact.

BIPC Reading Room2 2007 300dpi

Today, just like every day in the Centre, half of our customers are brand new. During my two hours’ of desk duty I help 15 people with their research enquiries and download the information they require. These include showing our business databases, our hard copy market research publications, our trade and business directories and our small collection of business start-up books. I often refer people to our set of Industry Guides created by the team to help navigate our content by topic. In my experience most of our customers come in with a business idea but are unsure of what resources are available to help them get started.

Some people require help with ordering from our collection of 17 million hard copy publications using Explore the British Library, and to find publications sitting on our shelves in the reading room. Questions vary from a quick request for a login or download from a database, to a more complex enquiry that will take much longer. This is where we directly get to interact with our customers and make use of what we call the Reference Interview.

It is at this point that I meet Tg Tea Founder Sophia Nadur. She is researching a green tea RTD (Ready to Drink) product which she was planning to launch. TG Tea is an organic green tea drink that is also low in calories, so Sophia is looking for scientific and market research. I find it exciting to see the results of this kind of research in the Centre – and I have been promised some samples from Sophia so I can see what the finished product looks and tastes like. 

Tea
Source: TG Green Teas

Although the majority of our customers are business start-ups, we still have visits from plenty of patent researchers looking for current and historical inventions. We also provide help and advice relating to the other intellectual property strands of trademarks, copyright and registered designs. And our customers range from sixth form pupils, undergraduates, MBA students, academics, inventors, start-ups and growing small businesses.

I always feel proud to be a part of the Centre when I see our busy networking area open for ad-hoc working, small business meetings and of course networking. There is definitely a buzz in there today as I walk through on my way back to the office.

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After my reading room duty I return to the ‘hidden’ part of the Business & IP Centre.  There we work on telephone, email and Questionpoint enquiries. Today I answer questions on a variety of topics, and sometimes have to refer for help to other subject specialists within the British Library, partners and even externally. One example of a query received by telephone was an older lady asking for evidence of the ‘Iron Cows’ she remembered in her childhood. They were milk dispensers available from high-street shops, out of opening hours. Generally though, the queries are business or intellectual property related.

I check my emails throughout the day for queries received by the Business & IP Centre’s Research Team, who offer a priced research service mainly for patent searches (prior art), business information and Public Availability Dates (PADs) for use in legal cases. The client base for this service is international, ranging from start-ups and IP specialists to legal firms. Today I respond to a request from a regular client from a pharmaceutical firm in Italy for some patent-related information.

Lunchtime has arrived, so I stop for something to eat and head to the British Library’s staff restaurant. It is a good time to catch up with colleagues from across the Library. Today I end my break with a visit to the British Library Shop to see what merchandise they have in store to buy a present for a friend.

I head back to the office. Throughout the day there are various tasks or projects going on behind the scenes. I spend quite a bit of time sharing information I hope will be useful to the rest of the team. I share information, knowledge and best practice with other colleagues, departments and partners who deliver our services and projects. Each member of the team also run workshops in the Centre and are sometimes invited to run them at external events.  We offer workshops such as ‘Beginner’s Guide to Business Information’ and ‘Beginner’s Guide to Intellectual Property’ to help customers understand and access information. We also host webinars which can be accessed by a national and global audience. 

Sage_IPcentreshoot-9825

I respond to a customer who would like to book a Business & IP Clinic, and so pass this request to a team member who coordinates the clinics. These clinics can be really helpful to early stage start-ups, as a place to talk through their ideas in private with an impartial listener. Together we can get a clearer picture of what they want to do and the next steps they need to take.

It’s about 3pm in the afternoon and as I work with information, part of my day is used to keep abreast of the news, current affairs, business subjects and online content on social media. Social media platforms are one of the drivers of Open Innovation and collaboration that our team has championed in our Open Innovation international project. I frequently collaborate and connect with others to share information on hot topics, events and useful contacts. Social media tools are great for inspiration and marketing, and they allow us to share knowledge, insights and stories from both inside and outside the Centre. Today I share a story on ‘How to Run a Chocolate Business’ relating it to one of our Innovating for Growth programme clients Amelia Rope, who coincidently has a chocolate-making business and is featured in one of our success stories videos.

 

Occasionally my day ends late when we have evening networking events and talks.  The Business & IP Centre Inspiring Entrepreneurs events have been running for a number of years and they take months of organisation. Usually it is all hands on deck to pull off these events and tasks are delegated to us to organise, host, attend, usher, register, network, market, tweet, blog and answer any queries that delegates may have.  We have had a back catalogue of archived past Inspiring Entrepreneurs videos available to view on You Tube, along with screenings in our Business & IP Centre’s around the country and anyone can join in via our live webcast.

So now I have told you about my typical day in the Centre which makes me reflect on the perks of the job.  Working at the British Library, I also get to see our exhibitions and our current one is celebrating the 800 year anniversary of the ‘Magna Carta’ and occasionally I have a wander around the Sir John Ritblat Gallery of Treasures (did I mention that this gallery is free for everyone?). I also enjoy attending an interesting evening (or weekend) talk on any topic under the sun, but mostly I love the sense of satisfaction I get when meeting fabulous interesting people, including the seasoned and budding entrepreneurs that come into the building.

This is just an overview of my day in the life at the Business & IP Centre and only scratches the surface of what we do. I hope to see you around the Business & IP Centre London in the near future and please do say ‘Hello’!

Seema Rampersad on behalf of the Business & IP Centre 

21 April 2015

Copying – right or wrong?

Across the Business & IP Centre National Network, 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!”

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.

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.

14 April 2015

Redesigning Alice: Etsy and British Library competition

Although she doesn’t look it, Alice (famed for her adventures in Wonderland) turned 150 years old this year and we’re celebrating with a design competition for Etsy sellers in the UK.

Alice image 1 (3)

2015 marks the 150th anniversary of eternally youthful Alice! One of the British Library’s prized possessions is the original manuscript – we have digitised it and people around the world can enjoy ‘Alice’s Adventures Under Ground’ online. The hand drawn illustrations penned by Charles Dodgson (AKA Lewis Carroll) are a wealth of creative inspiration.

In the Business & IP Centre we regularly meet creative entrepreneurs looking to make money out of their creative skills, and help them find new routes to market, protect their ideas and manage the production process and scale. Currently, the British Library and Etsy UK are working in partnership to see how contemporary designers are inspired by the 150 year old Alice story. Selected makers will win the chance to stock their products in our British Library Shop, coinciding with our Alice exhibition in autumn 2015 (our flagship London building receives 1.6 million visitors per year). Already stocking a popular Alice range, our Shop is seeking new, innovative designs to help bring Alice to life.

BL website Redesigning alice banner 2 (3)

You can find out all the details of the competition on our website and also find out more about the Business & IP Centre’s workshops and free downloadable resources.

Deadline to apply

Applications must be received by 9am on Wednesday 29 April 2015.

 

 

10 April 2015

Fight Intellectual Property Fraud

At the British Library Business & IP Centre we help small business owners, inventors and entrepreneurs understand their intellectual property and how to protect it. An idea, whether it’s an invention, a brand name or a song can be protected with a patent, trade mark, copyright or registered design.

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However, there are now many intellectual property frauds or scams operating which could jeopardise your business.  We have heard our share of horror stories here in the Business & IP Centre. Just recently the Intellectual Property Office issued a warning about misleading invoices which ask people to pay for services from unofficial sources. If you don’t want to be caught out and fall into this trap you need to know about the four common types of fraud that could potentially harm your business.

The most familiar types of intellectual property fraud you may come across include:

1. Database invoices

These claim you need to pay for your patent, trade mark, or design in order to be included on a database or register. However, once you’ve registered your patent or registered design with the Intellectual Property Office, there is no need for further payment as it’s included in the registration fee.

2. Fake renewal invoices

You may receive what appears to be an alert that your intellectual property is about to expire, demanding money for it to be renewed. Some unscrupulous companies send invoices earlier than the official intellectual property offices do, and while they will usually pass on the actual renewal fee, they will also charge you a grossly inflated handling fee. If your patent or trade mark attorney is administering renewals for you, just ignore the invoices. If you are handling renewals yourself and you receive an apparent renewal demand, go to the intellectual property office website and check when the official renewal date is and how to pay it.

3. Extending your intellectual property to cover other countries

This can be expensive and you should really consider whether you want to do this from the start. Beware of anyone contacting you exaggerating the ease and necessity of protecting your intellectual property in another country you are not trading in as you only have to extend your intellectual property to cover other countries if you intend to do business there.

4. “Invention promotion” scams

These are organisations that advertise for invention ideas and offer to develop them into a commercialised product for you, in exchange for a fee. There are reputable companies that can help you with prototyping, patenting and marketing (such as our partners Thames Productions, Bang Creations, and Ideas21). However, there are other companies that will do very little and charge inflated fees for it. We have met customers in the Centre who have spent five-figure sums for “market research” and “patent search” services that produced limited results compared to what they could have achieved using a business advice centre. Generally, you should be suspicious of any company that suggests you can earn huge amounts of money from an invention concept without putting a lot of effort into the technical development or business planning.

The good news is that the official intellectual property offices around the world are trying to stop fraudulent companies by complaining to marketing regulators like the Advertising Standards Authority here in the UK, and prosecuting them. As a business owner it is important to be aware of existing scams; make sure you read the small-print which can often include a “we are not official” disclaimer, and if you are still unsure contact the Intellectual Property Office or the Business & IP Centre for further assistance.

Philip Eagle on behalf of the Business & IP Centre