Innovation and enterprise blog

07 July 2019

A week in the life of…Emma Richards, Business Outreach Manager at the IPO

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The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is a government department responsible for granting Intellectual Property rights including Trade Marks, Registered Designs and Patents.

Emma has worked for the IPO for 20 years after studying Business and Marketing in the University of Wales in Cardiff. She is experienced in delivering and advising on all aspects of Intellectual Property. She has worked in the Business Outreach Team for the past 12 years and travels the UK giving advice to SME’s and individuals who want help with their IP strategy.

Sunday Instead of packing the school bags ready for the madness of the school run, I’m packing my case and loading up the car to prepare for a busy week ahead. Leaving my husband with a long list of things to do, I give the kids a big cwtch and head to the other side of Newport to collect my colleague, Nick. We are heading off to Shrewsbury this evening and after a long car journey we finally arrive at the hotel at 20.30. After a quick bite to eat we retire to our rooms for an early night.

Monday I know the idea of having a hotel breakfast appeals to many people but the novelty soon wears off and the waist line tends to suffer! Nick has the right idea, he’s already been to the gym by the time we meet at 8.00 (I prefer the extra sleep myself). We’re fuelled up and ready to head over to the Shrewsbury Growth Hub. Today we are delivering an intellectual property workshop to a group of new businesses who are keen to learn the value. New to IP? Watch our short video below:

As many presenters will know, the curse of the Powerpoint is always ready to rear its head and it’s in full force this morning. With time ticking on we decide to continue minus the slides in true experienced improvisation mode.

Despite the problems with the IT, we delivered a successful workshop and after lunch I got ready for some one-to-one sessions and Nick headed off to the train station, no rest for the wicked as he was heading off to London.

After the last one-to-one session, I went back to the hotel and headed off for a run. Running in a strange location is always a bit risky, especially in the rural areas of the Shropshire countryside. After a few dices with death, I decided the safest place for me is in the swimming pool! Trying to time calling home is tricky with three young children and a husband at the end of his tether, but thanks to the wonders of the 21st century I am able to Facetime and admire the carnage! Then it’s a quick bite to eat and off to bed. Rock and roll!

Shrewsbury

Tuesday I head off to the Growth Hub again this morning to meet with another colleague. Today’s session is slightly different as the audience is now made up of business advisors. Whether a business is just starting out or already trading, IP should always be considered as part of their business plan. Our short video helps explain this in more detail:

Thankfully the IT is playing ball today and after lunch we get ready to meet local businesses. We invite two local businesses to explain their business to the advisors and during an interactive session they discuss the potential IP problems and opportunities and offer suggestions. It was a great afternoon, bringing together the role of the advisor and business and where IP fits into business planning.

I gather all my things and head off to my next location, Birmingham. Following another swim and challenging Facetime session with the kids I fall in to bed ready for the day ahead.

Wednesday This morning I am heading off to Aston Villa FC for the Midlands Expo.  I meet my colleague there who is based in the region and hoping to make contacts for further business support. The exhibition is targeted at SMEs in the area, so I am hoping to give lots of valuable IP advice today.

I start the day off with an IP talk to delegates, giving them an overview of IP and why it is important for them to consider. During the course of the day I speak to a variety of customers with many trade mark, copyright and designs queries. At 15.00 I am ready to head home and press my favourite button on the sat nav. I finally arrive home at around 18.00, but the fun doesn’t stop there! I’m faced with three excited children wanting to fill me in on the last three days in ten minutes and an exhausted husband who has clearly lost the will to live. I run the bath, start the conveyor belt of shampoo and pyjamas and get them off to bed feeling the happiness of this crazy normality.

After the craziness has calmed down my husband and I do the abridged version of the last few days and I am happy to head off to my own bed.

Thursday Today I’m heading in to the office, so after the madness of the school run I join the traffic. Being in a job that takes me out of the office most of the time, means I am in demand when I’m here. I find my day busy with meetings and planning and before I know it, it’s home time. The usual tea time/ bath time ensues and then I head off to meet my brother for some food and a theatre show.

Kids

Friday It’s my non-working day so I enjoy a nice long run, followed by a nail appointment. Having a non-working day is really important to me as it allows me to catch up on everything I’ve missed out on during the week while I’ve been away. I always make sure that we eat as a family on a Friday evening and we chat about the week we’ve had. After our meal we kick back and watch a film together before the chaos of bath time. With the kids safely in bed and allocated babysitter in place my husband and I head off to our local for the pub quiz and a bit of well-earned quality time together.

A week in my life is hectic, to say the least but a weekend with the kids…well that’s another story entirely! I end the week feeling I have made a difference and look forward to my next business event on the calendar.

02 July 2019

New partnership for female entrepreneurs with Make It Your Business

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The Business & IP Centre and non-profit organisation, Make It Your Business, have partnered to support female entrepreneurs across the UK. The new partnership will include a roadshow of talks and networking events for female entrepreneurs in UK libraries, including those part of our National Network. These curated talks will draw on the Network’s alumni of successful female entrepreneurs and ambassadors.

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Make It Your Business event

The Business & IP Centre has a strong history of supporting entrepreneurs from all walks of life and across our service nationwide, over 60% of our users are women, compared to 20% of UK business owners.

Isabel Oswell, Head of Business Audiences at the British Library explains, “Since we opened the Business & IP Centre over a decade ago, we’ve seen consistently high numbers of women from all walks of life using our resources and expertise to launch successful businesses.

“As we work with public libraries to scale up and open more services throughout the UK, we’re struck time and time again by the trust entrepreneurs place in these buildings – they truly are safe spaces for people to voice their concerns, take informed risks and grow their ideas.

“We’re delighted to partner with Make It Your Business to carry on our work championing any woman with a business idea.”

The topic of breaking down barriers to female entrepreneurs and supporting their business journey has been more prominent recently, with the publishing of the Alison Rose Review (2019). This review was carried out to look at ways of reducing the disparity between male and female entrepreneurs and “unlock the potential that exists within the UK economy”. The benefits to businesses who have the greatest gender diversity on their executive teams are notable, with those companies being 21% more likely to outperform peers on profitability. An additional £250 billion of new value could be added to the UK economy if women started and scaled new businesses at the same rate as their male counterparts.

One of the main opportunities identified as part of this report was to make entrepreneurship more accessible for women, through local support and relatable and accessible mentors and networks. The Business & IP Centre’s record of supporting women in business, throughout our National Network, highlights the importance of libraries in democratising business, providing a supportive, welcoming and open environment. Working with Make It Your Business creates even more opportunities for female entrepreneurs, as Alison Cork, founder of Make It Your Business agrees, “this UK wide initiative to encourage women to start their own business works because we are building strong local networking groups that give women the vital moral and practical support they need. As someone who is an entrepreneur, I have a particular interest in helping to foster enterprise and support women who want to take that first step into owning a business. If you are thinking of starting a business, or already run one, being part of a local support network can be hugely beneficial”.

As part of the Alison Rose Review, the main barriers to female entrepreneurs were explored, including funding concerns, family responsibilities and lack of accessibility, with 55% stating the fear of going it alone as the main reason for not starting a business. Women are 8% less likely to know an entrepreneur, compared to males, which impacted on their prospects of scaling their business. Within the Business & IP Centre, we have also seen this trend with our Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme, as since 2012, only 45% of businesses who have taken part are women-led, which may be due to women’s perception that they do not belong in the entrepreneurial world. 

Alison Cork adds, “It is so encouraging to hear the enthusiastic and upbeat feedback from women who have attended our events and then decided to take the first step into entrepreneurship. We want women all over the UK to have that opportunity.”

As part of our new partnership, Business & IP Centre users receive complimentary lifetime membership to Make It Your Business. Membership entitles you to attend any of their networking events, use their business mentoring service and also advertise your product or service in their business directory, all free of charge. To redeem your membership, email FREE MEMBERSHIP to hello@makeityourbusiness.co.uk.

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Make It Your Business event

The Libraries Roadshow with Make It Your Business began in June at Business & IP Centre Birmingham. Additional dates in other locations will be announced soon.

01 July 2019

Getting musically inspired at the Business & IP Centre

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One of the best things about working in a library is that customers come in with such a wide range of requests there will likely be times we are helping people with subjects that I also share as a hobby or interest. If, like me, you are a keen music fan, it is great when you are able to assist customers with their music-related research enquiries. In the Business & IP Centre, these queries could relate to a huge span of time, and we could be helping customers who are just recently following their passion to start a business or looking to innovate it further. Music is the perfect example of an industry which highlights how important innovation is and how this has already been consistently happening over centuries. 

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Patent registrations by Emile Berliner, inventor of the gramophone and recording disc

I frequently receive queries on historical musical inventions, such as finding historic patent registrations by Emile Berliner, who is the inventor of the gramophone and recording disc.  Some of this information may be on open source on the Internet, on specialist databases held in the Business & IP Centre or available on Espacenet. Berliner’s patent registrations are particularly interesting because they give a sense of the trial and error approach he was going through when he was developing the gramophone, and the constant improvements that he was putting in place and patenting. Another example I have particularly enjoyed is when I helped with a research enquiry into the invention of the piano by Bartolomeo Cristofori. Thanks to other inventors who have followed in the path of people like Emile Berliner, recorded music is now worth £700 million, and in 2017 music publishing was worth £505 million, representing year-on-year increases of 9% and 7% respectively according a report by UK Music.

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The developments in smartphones and tech have encouraged many innovations, notably, the acceleration of streaming music. You may have kept up to date on the battle between streaming services and artists who argue that these streaming channels do not foster a “fair digital marketplace” or protect the financial rights of the musicians. Despite these conflicts, things seems to have fallen into place for the streaming suppliers with reports saying that a huge 86% of consumers listen to music through on-demand audio and video streaming, and that video streaming in fact makes up more than half of on-demand music streaming time, at 52% (M Magazine). In recent years, streaming music has also been noted by institutions such as YouGov for reducing the rates in illegal downloading as consumers prefer the listening options and fairer pricing offered by streaming services.

However, interestingly, there have also been innovations in musical consumption in the last decade that have seemed like more of a throwback. Vinyl has seen a revival with a record high in sales and some record stores still thriving on the high street. Research by Kantar Worldpanel has also revealed that vinyl record sales in the UK are growing, up by 6.6% in 2018. You may have noticed too that there is a push for customers to visit their local record stores, boosted by Record Store Day, which takes place in April and is supported by BBC Sounds. It is clear that old ways of consuming music aren’t dead in the water, and sometimes good business isn’t just about innovating in the traditional way, but also about repositioning older propositions. 

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Back at the Business & IP Centre, we also have customers who want to look more into trends and consumer behaviour. Our market research databases and library collection have great information to help them understand and develop their business ideas on this topic, while our Music Industry Guide is a very helpful list of all the resources (including some free internet sources) available in the Business & IP Centre. It’s a must-read for anyone looking to break into the business side of the music industry and helps provide a sense of the length and breadth of opportunities awaiting you.  

And when you’re done at the Business & IP Centre, you can look elsewhere in the Library for a continuation of your exploration of sounds. Some of our recent exhibitions have made use of our unique Sound Archive, housed in the library such as Listen – 140 of Recorded Sound’ and Windrush – Songs in a StrangeLand. Our Sound Archive is also accessible through our Listening Rooms and there are over 200,000 tracks to request in advance and explore. If you are looking to research something historical, literary or wildlife, in particular, this is bound to have something on record that sparks your interest.

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So whether you want to develop content, designs, a business plan, or just get some sound-based inspiration, at the British Library we are here to help. Come on in to chat and we’ll be sure to lend an ear.

Seema Rampersad, Senior Business Researcher & Service Manager at the Business & IP Centre London

Seema has worked in the field of business information for over 25 years. She is currently a member of the Research Team within the British Library’s Business & IP Centre where she delivers reference work, 1-2-1 business advice clinics, as well as workshops and webinars on regular basis.

27 June 2019

Positive ageing: include seniors in the wellness revolution

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Mintel is the world's leading market intelligence agency. For over 40 years, Mintel's expert analysis of the highest quality data and market research has directly impacted on client success. Here, Mintel takes a look at how the food, drink and wellness industries are encouraging people to age positively...

The "senior" demographic is a label often assigned to people of retirement age who may be slowing down or suffering from health problems. Due to the modern reality of longer lifespans, however, this group actually represents a very broad spectrum of the population. As lifespans reach 100 years and older, the perception of "seniors" as one cohesive group of consumers has become outdated.

Today, many people work and live longer while being wealthier, healthier, better-informed and more active than previous generations. This carries with it significant opportunities for food and drink companies to find new ways to target older consumers.

As the senior population continues to grow, it is crucial for brands to recognise the full potential of marketing to older adults and tailor campaigns accordingly. Challenging stereotypes of this age group is key, as is reflecting how products and services can be relevant to them specifically.

Food and drink products targeting seniors still limited in Europe

Despite a rise in the world's ageing population, "senior" claims in food and drink have so far seen limited use. From 2014 – 18, less than 1% of global food and drink launches targeted seniors (aged 55+) overtly with on-pack claims, according to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD). Japan and China dominate global food and drink launches that target seniors, reflecting a less stigmatised attitude toward ageing: Japan accounted for a third of launches with senior claims from 2014 – 18, followed by China with 30%. While Europe has seen a slight increase in products with senior claims from 2016 – 18, the few launches do not reflect the region's large share of older consumers. Formulations will need to increase as the United Nations predicts seniors will make up almost 35% of Europe's population by 2050.

Bakoma Senior Active Peach Flavored Drinking Yogurt (Poland): Leading Polish dairy company rolled out a senior-friendly yogurt range in March 2018. The yogurt and yogurt drinks are lactose-free and enriched with calcium and vitamin D.

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Seamild Blood Maintenance Nutritious Oatmeal for Middle-Aged and Seniors (China): Functional cereals can target busy, health-conscious seniors. This hot cereal contains Australian oats, pumpkin, bitter buckwheat, spirulina, fiber and vitamin C.

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Proactive approaches to health can come in many forms

Besides senior-specific claims, Mintel's 2019 Global Food & Drink Trend ‘Through the Ages’ predicts that general ‘healthy ageing’ will be the next extension for products that offer more holistic, proactive and ongoing wellness solutions.

For older demographics, this means products will not necessarily have to carry the sometimes-stigmatised "seniors only" positioning; meanwhile, brands will be able to rely on many of the same claims that appeal to younger consumers - thus resonating across all age groups. Areas to focus on include gut, bone and joint health, as well as ingredients that could improve cognitive health. Food and drink can serve as sources of essential nutrients for prevention and positive ageing, such as prebiotics for gut health, MCTs for brain function, lutein for eye health and collagen peptide for joints.

Brands could also take inspiration from scientifically proven healthy eating patterns for a new wave of positive ageing claims. For example, the Mediterranean diet has shown potential to link with brain health claims in food, drink and supplements.

Asda Mackerel Fillets (UK): This skinless and boneless product is high in omega-3, which helps maintain normal function of the heart. Despite the correlation between nutrients in fish and heart health, less than 2% of products launched globally make related claims. 

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Adrien Gagnon Royal Jelly & Ginseng Ampoules (Canada): This supplement contains 2,000mg of maca and 200mg of ginseng to support cognitive function and reduce mental fatigue. Keeping brains healthy reduces a person's risk of cognitive decline with age.

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Trimona Plain Bulgarian Yogurt (US): This product states that it is "a staple for health and longevity in Bulgaria for years" on the back of the pack, describing how it prevents ageing, rather than reacting to it.

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Longer careers require energy and brain health

 Longer lifespans are driving consumers to work full- or part-time beyond traditional retirement age. Turning 65 years old no longer means trading in the office keys for a set of golf clubs. Increasingly, seniors are opting to delay retirement and stay in the workforce because they want to, because they have to, or a bit of both. As adults work longer, products that provide energy, brain health and, in the era of computers and smartphones, eye health, will be needed.

Eye health is impacted by lifestyle, including eating habits. Good eye health can therefore be supported by consumption of food and drink with nutrients such as vitamins C and E, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin and omega-3 fatty acids.

Meiji's Gold Advance Malt Flavored Milk (Thailand): The dairy drink contains ingredients to help with bone health, nervous system health, brain health and memory as well as vitamin A to help with eyesight.

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Jenny Zegler, Associate Director - Mintel Food & Drink

With offices in London, Chicago, Belfast, Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai, Munich, New York, São Paulo, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo and Toronto, Mintel has forged a unique reputation as a world-renowned business brand. You can access Mintel reports at the Business & IP Centre free of charge with a Reader Pass. 

21 June 2019

Help! How do I change careers when I don't know what I want to do?

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If you're one of those people who have this question running around their heads right now, trust me, you're not alone! Having worked in the recruitment and career coaching space for over a decade, feeling stuck is a normal part of your career journey. So, here are four quick tips to help you get started.

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Hit the snooze button

Often, we do know what we want to do. We have just got used to telling ourselves that what we desire is not for us or we're not capable of achieving it or are not worth having it. Hit the snooze button on the imposter in your head and allow yourself a moment to dream.

Take yourself somewhere quiet, with a pen, piece of paper. Turn your phone off, no children, flatmates, partner or friends. In your quiet place, close your eyes, and ask yourself the question; "If I woke up tomorrow in a career, I enjoyed what would I be doing and how would I feel?" Allow yourself to live in the world you see. Take in everything from the people around you, the sounds, the colours, what you're wearing, doing and more importantly, how your world makes you feel.

After five minutes (or longer) open your eyes and without hesitation and ignoring any of the "what ifs" or "you don't haves..." that may invaded your mind, write what you saw.

Then ask other questions; am I working part-time or full-time, local or international, company/industry? Employed or self-employed, a large or small company, who am I working with? Who is my audience/customers? The more you dig, the more gold you'll find.

If you struggle with answering the question, ask yourself "what do I not want to be doing?" Make a list of the pros and cons of your past role(s) including whether you liked the office, the perks – the little things matter too. Knowing what you don't want is half the battle.

Visualisation is a powerful exercise to unlock your subconscious mind. It will allow you to see beyond where you are now and helps to build your internal motivation to take the necessary actions to achieve your desires.

Create a vision board

Now you have identified what you desire; it's time to select images that represent those desires and create a vision board (aka dream board). This fun and straightforward process is a powerful visual of what you're aiming to achieve.

You can use a cork board, Pinterest, or a sheet of A3 paper. It's up to you.

Essentially, what you want to do is fill it with images, scriptures, motivational quotes, that reflect what you saw in the visualisation exercise. For example, you might include the salary you want to earn, the city you wish to work in, the job title etc.

Some choose to formulate their vision into a statement written in first person narration speaking as if they are already living their dream career. That's fine too. Just place it somewhere you will see it daily to remind you of where you're headed and keep you focused. 

As Corrie Ten Boom says: 'always live according to your vision, not according to your eyes'.  In short, the things you see daily are temporary, keep focused on the end game.

Set SMART Goals

SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time based. Saying for example, "I want to become an influencer on social media" is too broad. 

A SMART goal is more precise:

By 2nd May 2020, I will be a well-known social media influencer in Health & Fitness for women. I will achieve this through the creation of a YouTube channel where I will produce four videos each month, as well as publish one article per week on my website. I will acquire the services of a freelance social media expert to curate content for my Instagram and Twitter platforms and research four brand partnerships to increase my profile. This will reinforce my 10+ years of experience in the field and allow me to help more individuals develop healthier bodies and minds, which in turn makes me feel fulfilled.

Face the fear and do it anyway

One of the common reason people stay stuck in careers they don't like is because of fear – whether that's fear of the unknown, of failure, lack of opportunity, being able to cope financially. To quote Nelson Mandela, "the brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who overcomes that fear." Diarise one action each day that challenges your fears. It could be as small as making that sales call or booking an appointment with your boss to discuss a promotion. The more you practice daily acts of courage, the less afraid of fear you will be.

Arit Eminue, a multi-award-winning entrepreneur, business and career coach

Arit is passionate about helping individuals to and take ownership of their careers through employment, entrepreneurship or a mixture of both. Arit designed Power Up! a free four week programme designed to help individuals to Power Up! and create a life and career that fulfills and excites them. The course mixes career coaching with accredited diploma units.

Connect with Arit on Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn using the handle @AritEminue.

Power Up! INSTAGRAM

07 June 2019

IP Corner: Intellectual Property behind the Writing: Making Your Mark exhibition

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I don’t know about you, but since the growth in our dependency on computers of all shapes and sizes my handwriting has certainly deteriorated. Everything I was taught at primary school has gone out the window in favour of Calibri 18 and the ease of using Word 2010.

I never really gave it a thought until I visited the British Library’s Writing: Making Your Mark exhibition and realised that we are (in my opinion) in danger of losing an art that dates back over 5,000 years.

The Writing: Making Your Mark exhibition is a fascinating look at the origins of writing taking us on a journey through time from ancient wax tablets through to modern day computer screens. A look around the exhibition was enough to send me back to the Business & IP Centre to see which patents I could find relating to some of the topics.

If you ask most people about writing and the invention of writing implements they will probably say the most memorable was the invention of the Biro.

The first ball point pen (to give it its correct name) was invented in 1938 by Laszlo Josef Biro a Hungarian journalist. However, it wasn’t called a ball point pen initially, instead Biro’s British patent GB498997 had the title ‘Improved fountain pen’. It is said that Biro had noticed how newspaper ink dried rapidly leaving the newspapers smudge free and this gave him the idea to invent a writing implement that used the same kind of ink. However, as this ink was thicker than normal it wouldn’t flow freely down the nib of a traditional fountain pen and so Biro had to devise a new way to transfer the ink from the reservoir to the paper. He did this by adding a tiny ball bearing to the tip of his pen and found that, as the pen moved over the paper, the ball bearing rotated transferring the ink as it went. Success!

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Biro’s British patent GB498997

Biro’s version of a ball point pen wasn’t the first though. This honour goes to an American inventor named John J Loud. Loud invented a ball point pen which he stated in his US patent US392046 (issued October 30 1888) was “an improved reservoir or fountain pen especially useful among other purposes for marking on rough surfaces such as wood, coarse wrappings and other articles where an ordinary pen could not be used.” Unfortunately for Loud his invention does not seem to have been as commercially successful as Biro’s whose invention wasn’t developed until 20 years after Loud’s death in 1916.

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Ball point pen US patent US392046

BiC Crystal is a name we are probably all familiar with as it is reputed to be the best selling ball point in the world. However, it’s not their ball point pen which is of interest, rather their patent application GB2218381A for a ‘Safety cap for a ball point pen’. They withdrew the application before grant, but still used the safety caps on all their ball point pens with the aim of preventing people choking on the caps should they make the mistake of swallowing one.

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BiC's British patent GB2218381A

And what about pencils?

Pencils in some form have been around since the ancient Romans began using thin metal rods to make marks on papyrus. Some of these early styluses were made from lead which is where the name ‘lead pencil’ comes from, even though pencils today are made of graphite, graphite and clay or even plastic polymer. Some pencils were originally wrapped in string or twine, but later pencil cores were encased in hollowed out wood.

Sampson Mordan was the first inventor to patent a version of the mechanical pencil with his patent GB4742 of 1822. This was a patent for a refillable mechanical pencil and Mordan’s company S.Mordan and Co, continued to manufacture mechanical pencils until the factory was destroyed during the Second World War.

One of my favourite inventions relating to writing is Hall’s Diplometer. Patented by George F Hall in 1846, with patent number GB11060 of 1846, the Diplometer was a writing instrument which allowed pawnbrokers and the like to write out three identical tickets at the same time. I remember seeing one of these being used in a pawnbrokers when I was a child. One of the earliest forms of copying machines I have been able to find.

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Hall’s Diplometer patent GB11060

All of the patent documents mentioned above were found using the British Library’s Business & IP Centre collection of historic intellectual property. The collection is a great resource that can be used to trace your ancestor’s inventions or to check whether or not the idea you have for a new innovation has ever been done before. The staff in the Centre will be more than happy to guide you through your search.

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Hammonds Typewriter patent US224088

A final highlight from the exhibition, Hammonds Typewriter US224088 is only one of the patents obtained by James Hammond for his ‘Typewriting Machine’. The machine itself is a thing of beauty, although I am not sure how one would comfortably use it!

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By Daderot - Self-photographed, Public Domain.

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.

05 June 2019

European Patent Office’s PATLIB Summit

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Business & IP Centre Hull, part of our National Network, recently visit Porto, Portugal for the first PATLIB Summit. Sue Pleasance, Enterprise and IP Lead Officer attended, along with other representatives of national patent offices of the European Patent Office’s (EPO) member states, their PATLIB centres, and their host organisations, European and international organisations involved in IP, technology transfer and innovation. The Summit gave attendees a chance to learn from each other and plan the way forward for PATLIBs across Europe. But first, what are PATLIBs?

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The EPO supports a network of patent information centres (PATLIB centres) throughout Europe and has evolved from a grouping of national patent libraries, widely distributed in the member states.  PATLIB is an acronym for a PATent LIBrary, however not all PATLIB centres are actually libraries; a number of them are located in national patent offices, universities and chambers of commerce. The main aim of the network is to enable patent information centres to communicate with each other in a feasible and convenient way.

PATLIB Centres provide patent information and, depending on the national system for intellectual property rights, many also provide information on other intellectual property rights like trademarks, designs and models. PATLIB staff provide advice and guidance on searches for IP, some also perform searches for their clients.

Back to the Summit, my journey went well and I arrived stress free thanks to fabulous organisation skills of the team at the EPO and was ready to get involved with the Summit’s activities and meet many friendly people from all over Europe to discuss and debate how we deliver intellectual property support and guidance.

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How stunning the conference venue was Palacia da Bolsa! In particular the Arabian Room where our UK IPO representative Laura Phillips did a great job presenting on how we deliver PATLIB support. Over the two days we attended talks and took part discussions and workshops to discuss, debate and agree on actions needed to strengthen the network and improve and enhance services. Shout out to fellow PATLIB teams’ Mel (Plymouth), Tony (Glasgow) and Ben (Leeds), the latter are also part of the National Network, for great company, lots of laughs and their adventurous spirit!

It wasn’t all work and no play, Grelhador da Boavista was a hidden gem of fresh tasty traditional Portuguese food with HUGE portions, a great atmosphere, humour and quirkiness, which I’ll remember for a long time.  Tasting the local beer, Superboc, was a bit hit and miss, had we known there was a whole lounge dedicated to it at the airport we may have waited!

We were also able to find out more about the history of the port, and what better way than by boat, with a trip up the river Douro from the Estiva Quay, followed by dinner at the Alfandega, with a traditional Fado performance.

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I was glad we stayed in the city centre in the evening following Day 2 of the conference, where we made a trip to the famous exquisite bookshop Livraria Lello and experienced the traditional celebration Queima das Fitas do Porto, (Porto Burning of the Ribbons).

A lovely end to the evening was when Danielle from the Czech Republic spotted a fabulous local restaurant overlooking the river, serving excellent food, which we enjoyed whilst finding out more about each other’s work and lives.

If it sounds like we had a lot of fun – we did! The fantastic hospitality of the EPO and the Porto community encouraged us to make the most of our stay. But we did work hard and I’m not sure how we managed to cram quite so much in!

The outcome of the event was a set of strategic recommendations to the EPO in a document called the Porto Paper. The Porto Paper can be found here.

Finally I arrived home shattered but with a firm sense of achievement and proud that the UK had contributed well towards the future developments of PATLIBs. It was a privilege to be involved in the summit and how it will benefit Business & IP Centre users from around the country, including Hull. At the Business & IP Centre Hull, we offer free access to databases, market research, journals, directories and reports; a programme of free and low-cost events including workshops on a range of topics such as business planning, social media, market research and intellectual property. Through ERDF funding we are also able to provide free workshops, events, seminars, expert clinics and one to one coaching and mentoring for anyone in Hull who wants to start or grow a business.

Sue Pleasance, Enterprise and IP Lead Officer at the Business & IP Centre Hull

Sue has been the Lead Officer for the PATLIB and Business & IP Centre based in Hull Central Library since 2016. She leads a team of trained staff to provide intellectual property support and guidance, workshops, events and seminars to support potential entrepreneurs and businesses in the area.

03 June 2019

A week in the life of... Keira O'Mara, founder of Mama Designs

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Keira O'Mara is the founder of Mama Designs, launched 10 years ago whilst Keira was on maternity leave after having an idea for a discreet breastfeeding cover and not being able to find one to buy. Keira used her redundancy money to create one and started her business with no experience whilst juggling a baby and a new full-time job. She now has a range of award winning baby products which are sold to major UK retailers, direct to parents and are exported worldwide. They operate as a small business, with a lean team and lots of outsourcing. She also offer small business mentoring and has just launched an online course for small business owners Grow Your Business on a Budget. In the early stages of the business Keira used Business & IP Centre Birmingham for an IP session and has also spoken at an Inspiring Entrepreneur event at Business & IP Centre Liverpool.

Keira O'Mara - 091

Monday I love that Mondays never fill me with the fear that working for someone else used to, in spite of it being our busiest day. I start the day with some exercise (although a gentler version since I am pregnant with number three). My children are at the age where they can mostly sort themselves out in the morning and with no school run this morning, I started work at 8.30, from my kitchen table. I have a home office but always seem to revert back to the kitchen table! I always start the day checking my business bank account and looking at the previous day’s sales. After responding to some emails and catching up with Vicki, who works for me part-time doing admin, I did a Facebook Live for ‘Mothers Meeting's’ on my Top 5 Instagram Tips, which goes really well in spite of being cut off midway due to Wi-Fi issues and the postman ringing the doorbell halfway through! I even get a new mentoring client as a result, which is an added bonus. I start writing up a blog post and work on editing an email marketing sequence that I am getting set up for subscribers and customers. My work day ends at 15.00 when I collect my youngest from school and after that, work is catching up on any urgent emails and tying up any loose ends.

Tuesday Work starts at 9.00 after the school run. I post on Instagram every morning and usually plan my posts ahead, although sometimes tweak the copy. I then reply to any comments for the next 20 minutes to ensure that my post gets maximum exposure. Check my bank and track orders as normal. Our new colours of Snoodie (our dribble bib) arrive this week from our factory in Turkey, so today I write the listings, collate the best images from a lifestyle shoot I did with my friend’s baby last week and send it all off to our web designer. I spend most of the day watching videos and finalising the additional content for my new business course. The videos were filmed a few weeks ago but this is the first time I have seen them. I also finalise the downloadable planners that will accompany the course, working out how to use the course platform and starting to upload the content and videos. I decided to create an online business course after celebrating our 10th year in business and regularly being asked for my advice and when I was going to write a book or a course. Today is a slightly longer working day as my daughter is at football after school and use this extra time to catch up on emails.

PicMonkey Collage

Wednesday Today starts a bit differently as I have a hospital appointment for my pregnancy, which involves a lot of waiting around but I will still be on email and use this time to listen to a business audio book. I am currently listening to Chillpreneur. I spend the whole morning at the hospital. I then catch up with Lisa who manages our finances and logistics and works Wednesday – Friday. This always ends up being a long conversation and we have lots of planning to do, discussing our factory order schedule and making some plans for the next few months. 

Thursday The day starts as usual, with exercise, Instagram post and tracking sales. Today I catch up with a new factory we are working with. We have some new products they are going to be producing for us and some existing products that they are going to take over production of. There are lots of details we need to confirm with them but I am really excited about the new stuff and working with them! I have a mentoring client tomorrow so I prep for that. This involves going over the information she has sent me, writing down any questions that come up and making some recommendations and advising on potential opportunities. The Snoodies launch today so I write our email newsletter mentioning that and post additional stories for Instagram and Facebook to accompany the main post. I warned the warehouse we use that they may be busier than usual, so they are expecting it.

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Friday On Fridays I plan the Instagram schedule for the week ahead. Instagram is a key part of our business, we have almost 50,000 followers and get a lot of sales this way. Planning ahead makes my life a lot easier, as well as making sure that the feed looks as good as possible visually. I also arrange for Vicki to send out Snoodies to some of the influencers we collaborate with. I add listings to our Amazon account for a new line, our art prints (which I have been meaning to do for ages but never seem to get round to!). I do some more planning for my course launch, which is getting closer and I am equal parts very nervous and very excited! I have a great mentoring session (via FaceTime) and my client is really pleased with the ideas, suggestion and motivation. A lovely end to the week, followed by the fact that Friday school run means it is treat day and I finish early and have some time (and some chocolate!) with the children.

Weekend I have done my fair share of weekend working, but now I try and avoid it and keep the weekends as family time.

29 May 2019

An introduction to intellectual property (IP)

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The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is the official UK government body responsible for intellectual property (IP) rights including patents, designs, trade marks and copyright. The IPO operates and maintains a clear and accessible intellectual property system in the UK, which encourages innovation and helps the economy and society to benefit from knowledge and ideas, as well as helping people get the right type of protection for their creation or invention. Here the IPO outlines the basics of IP and explains how you can discover your IP rights.

Intellectual property (IP) rights grant you the ability to take legal action if others attempt to make, use, import, copy or sell your creation.

The four main types of IP rights are:

  • Copyright
  • Designs
  • Patents
  • Trade marks

Protecting creativity

Work in the creative sector? You’ve probably heard a lot about copyright but may not fully understand how it protects your work.

Copyright is a property right which is intended to reward the making of, and investment in, creative works. Copyright protects literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, sound recordings, films, broadcasts and published editions.

In the UK, copyright comes into being automatically when a qualifying work is created; there is no formal registration. The term of protection for most copyright material is the life of the creator, plus 70 years from the date of their death. Please check our website for more information on how long copyright lasts.

Copyright grants the creator the right to authorise or prohibit copying, distribution to the public, rental/lending, public performance, adaptation, and communication to the public.

You can find out more about the rights granted by copyright on our website.

A flair for design

Crafter or designer?

Design refers to the appearance or ‘look’ of products. The look of your design includes the appearance, physical shape, configuration and decoration. This can be 2D patterns or 3D designs.

Registering your design allows you to gain a marketing edge by preventing others from using it without your permission.

Automatic design rights do exist in the UK (UK Unregistered Design Right) and in Europe (Unregistered Community Designs).

Unregistered UK design right automatically protects your work for 10 years from when it was sold, or 15 years from when it was created, whichever is earliest. However, it only protects the shape and configuration of a design and does not include 2-dimensional designs like textiles and wallpaper.

Unregistered designs offer limited protection and can be difficult to enforce. Where disputes arise, you may have to prove the existence of your rights. Unlike registered designs, it will be your responsibility to prove intentional copying.

The IPO has an Instagram account with lots of useful information to help creatives know their rights, protect and champion their products. Follow us @ipforbusiness and use the hashtag #IP4biz.

The ‘lightbulb’ moment

Think you may have invented a market sell-out or something that could even change the world? Or perhaps something simple that just makes everyday life that little bit easier?

A patent protects new inventions and lets you take legal action against anyone who makes, uses, sells or imports your invention without your permission. You can only apply for a patent if you have created something that is inventive, new and useful.

A patent specification is a legal document and requires specialist skills to draft properly. Your chances of obtaining a patent are significantly greater if you use an attorney. You can find out more about why it’s worthwhile here.

The most common mistake made by inventors is revealing their invention before applying for a patent. It is your choice on whether you decide to take your product straight to market or apply for patent protection. However, if you have made your invention public, you could lose the possibility of obtaining a granted patent.

Sometimes, you may need help from a third party to create or distribute your products. Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) are created when a business owner is speaking to potential partners such as investors, manufacturers and stockists.

NDAs are important when applying for patent protection. If a third party is helping you to create your product, make sure they sign an NDA, or it could affect your chances of gaining a patent. Read our guidance on non-disclosure agreements here.

Building a brand

Creating a brand that encompasses what you and your business offers is an important aspect of your business plan.

You may want something distinctive and unique that sets you apart in a crowded market. A trade mark protects your company name, logo, or a phrase. It can even protect a shape, colour, sound, aspect of packaging or any combination of these.

The registration of your company name with Companies House doesn’t automatically protect it. You have the legal right to the name, but it doesn’t stop other businesses from trading under very similar names.

The most effective trade marks are those ‘distinctive’ to the goods and services they protect. This allows consumers to identify your goods or service from your competitors. So, if your company name describes the products you sell or the services you offer, there’s a good chance it won’t be distinctive enough to be a registered trade mark!

It is recommended you search our trade marks database before applying to see if a similar trade mark to your brand already exists.

Sharing out the IP

A licence grants a third-party permission to do something that would be an infringement of your IP rights without the licence.

IP can be “licensed-out” or “licensed-in”. You can “license-out” to another company in return for a fee. You can “license-in” if you want to use another company’s IP to develop your own business and products.

Free online learning

The Intellectual Property Office’s has a range of online learning tools to help you better understand your IP rights.

Our IP Health Check free online tool can help you identify what IP you own. Answer a series of questions and receive a tailored confidential report, based on what you have told us.

IP Equip tool is a free online CPD-accredited training tool. It takes your through four short modules and uses case studies to show why intellectual property is important.

More of a visual learner? Our IP Basics videos provide short, simple explanations of the various IP rights. They also cover licensing and franchising, how to avoid infringing IP and what to do if your business is a victim of IP crime.

Don’t forget to sign up to our e-alerts to receive IP advice, events and updates direct to your inbox.

10 May 2019

How to build a brand?

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Michael Murdoch, CEO of The House, one of the Business & IP Centre's workshop partners, gives some top tips to help you build your brand...

Build a brand and sell your story Michael Murdoch workshop image 2019

Why is Branding important?
In today’s modern world it’s more competitive than ever, so brands need to do more to stand out. It’s no longer good enough just to have a great product or service and a talented team, the brand needs to connect on an emotional level too evoking feelings which are often intangible.

Storytelling is key, as it has been since the dawn of man (and woman), as it’s the most effective way to communicate messages, build trust, connect, coerce and convince the listener to ultimately believe. This must be consistent across all touch-points with the audience and honest as authenticity is paramount. Just think about your favourite brand and why you love them? John Lewis, Apple, Airbnb and Innocent often come to mind, but it could be anything.

What are the most common challenges?

  1. Budget is tight. Many start-ups have so many things to pay for and little investment or revenue to play with. But good branding does not need to cost the earth. Focus on the Brand Story, the strategy and thinking behind to style, and the rest will fall into place. If your message is clear the look and feel will be easier, quicker and therefore cheaper to produce. And the best bit is that strategy is about time and thought, so if you truly believe in what you’re doing and you have an experienced guide, you’ll be able to get things in order pretty quickly and affordably.
  2. Form over function. Too many start-ups focus on the styling of the brand before they really understand what they want and need to communicate. This often means that the brand does not quite connect with the audience, despite it looking good. It does not set itself apart from the competition and doesn’t have a strong brand position, so again, think strategically and take time to get this right before the pretty stuff happens!
  3. Start-ups often look for perfection overnight. If funding or sales of a substantial amount are not in place, don’t be afraid to try minimum viable products for your brand. This could be as simple as using online logo generators or working with a freelancer in another country. The key is to make sure this is not the end of the road and that plans for success are made. Start-up life is a journey, it often take 1–2 years to establish a new start-up (and that’s quick) so use this time to experiment and iterate so when the world is really looking, you are ready.

Top tips when building a brand?

Start with your Value Proposition 
The first step of budget friendly brand building is understanding your Value Proposition before designing anything. This is simply the offer you have e.g. your product or service and the customer segment you want to attract. What is your gift and who will receive it? From this, a designed identity and other visuals will be more appropriate and easier to create.

Conduct Market Research 
You’ll want to get things right first time so follow the old rule, measure twice and cut once. Conducting research like online surveys, focus groups (with 10 people and some pizza), one-to-one interviews, start talking with your audience via social media or just simple desktop Google searches, help to line up your ducks in a row so you know the audience and your customer problem to solve inside out!

Get Inspired
You may need a professional designer to complete your project, but by finding examples and understanding what works and what doesn’t, you’ll help speed up the process and hence reduce costs. The better the brief, the more likely it is your brand will be effective and the less time you’ll spend getting there.

Be Brave 
You need to take risks to do great things. This might be as simple as networking to make the right connections, or speaking in public at events to stand out from the crowd. Try not to list too many tasks as incremental improvements win the day…there is no such thing as an overnight success.

Focus on your Wow!
The things you decide to emphasise as your differentiator can depend on many things, including your industry and your work so far. Some examples could include amazing statistics, case studies, the number of happy customers, testimonials; it could also be an impressive innovation or award, or even the expertise of your leadership or staff. Whatever it is, be different. Make it easier for your customer to make the choice over you or your nearest rival…if it doesn’t matter it’s just a 50/50 coin toss.

Michael Murdoch

Michael founded The House creative agency in 2009 and has been a Brand Strategist for nearly 20 years working with emerging and established organisations around the world like NHS, MTV, Diabetes UK, Sanyo, Fairtrade and Nokia to smaller startups like Franklin Scholars, Mixcloud and Olive Branch. Michael has won awards for his work and helps clients find their full potential, taking them step-by-step through their projects in partnership with them. Graduating from courses at Central Saint Martins, UWE and Oxford University, Michael loves working with entrepreneurs and hopes to pass on his skills and expertise on to help them be the top 10% of organisations that succeed.

To view all of our upcoming events, including The House's next workshop, visit our events page