07 July 2019
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 at 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.
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.
I know the idea of having a hotel breakfast appeals to many people but the novelty soon wears off and the waistline 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!
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 into bed ready for the day ahead.
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 trademark, 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.
Today I’m heading into 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.
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.
05 June 2019
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?
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.
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.
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.
29 May 2019
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:
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. Check the 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.
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.
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 ‘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. Visit the website to find out why you should use an IP attorney.
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. To learn more read our guidance on non-disclosure agreements .
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 license grants a third-party permission to do something that would be an infringement of your IP rights without the license.
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.
28 September 2018
Activities in 17 libraries around the UK. 101 business events delivered. More than 1,000 attendees across all locations. Webcast around the world. Start-up Day, in collaboration with Santander, once again proved to be a huge success.
With a full day’s worth of events, there’s a lot of information and words of wisdom to take in from each speaker. Need a recap of what was said? Missed a crucial top tip? Want to relive it again? Or if you missed it, we’ve compiled all the videos of the speakers in this post, along with a key take away tip from each...
Top tip from Mintel senior consumer lifestyles analyst, Jack Duckett:
Consumer confidence is on a growth trajectory, meaning there are opportunities for brands to grow.
Top tip from Google Digital Garage's Chami Coomasaru:
Set yourself goals, think how you want your brand to be perceived and choose the platforms which are appropriate for your business.
Top tip from author and motivational speaker, Anis Qizilbash:
Steep in your purpose... your success does not mean another person's loss. The more you make, the bigger impact you create.
Top tip from public speaking coach, Elaine Powell:
[Your pitch] is never going to be perfect. Always ask for feedback and take your performance to the next level, and the next level, and the next level. Never give up, it's a journey, not an end destination.
Top tip from author, motivational speaker and business coach, Rasheed Ogunlaru:
[Networking] online is the window to your world, meeting people in person is the door.
Top tip from former CEO of Tangle Teezer, Matt Lumb:
Don’t try and do the 80 hours a week thing. You will burn out. Try and get that balance as you scale.
Top tips from:
Precious Jason, founder of Etieno Skincare: Being in business you have superhero days and you have days which are not so great… Be kind to yourself.
Rebecca Slater, founder of Shine Creative Solutions: Believe in the idea you’ve got and to try and plan out the three most important things you need to get right.
Start-up Day 2018 was in collaboration with Santander. To see our events throughout the year, click here.
26 April 2018
April 26th is World Intellectual Property Day. “What?” I can hear you asking, why should there be a special day to celebrate Intellectual Property? Well, stop for a minute and take a look around you and I can guarantee that, whether you realise it or not, you will be surrounded by Intellectual Property.
Like the book you are reading (e-book or otherwise!), the iPod or MP3 player you are using to listen to music, the music itself, even the clothes you are wearing, every product or service we use in our day to day lives is the result of innovation. These innovations may be big improvements in function, or small changes in design that alter the way a product looks, either way these improvements will generally be protected by Intellectual Property (IP).
Intellectual Property (IP) is like any other piece of property and the owner of the Intellectual Property rights controls what, if anything, happens to those rights, including who can benefit from the work or from the investment the rights holder has made into the creation of the product or service.
So how does this affect you and your business?
Whatever business you are engaged in it is very likely that you are using and probably even creating a large amount of IP and, if you want to get the best possible commercial results from its ownership, you need to think about the steps you need to take to protect, manage and indeed enforce your rights.
- Protect – register your IP rights where possible.
- Manage – keep a record of all the IP you have and any IP that you license from third parties. Ensure renewal fees are paid and licenses are up-to-date.
- Enforce – as the rights holder it is your responsibility to keep an eye out for any IP infringement and to take action to stop it. If you do not intend to enforce your IP rights then perhaps you need to reconsider whether or not you should register your rights.
So let’s look at each form of IP in turn;
The first piece of registrable IP most businesses will have is a trade mark. Trade marks are used to indicate the origin of goods or services. They may be symbols, words, colours or even a combination of these, the choice is yours, but whatever the makeup of your trade mark it needs to be distinct enough to allow consumers to identify your products or services from those of your competitors.
As well as standard trade marks there are several other types of mark such as Collective marks, used to distinguish the goods and/or services of members of a particular association, or Certification marks, given for compliance with defined standards to anyone who is able to certify that their products meet certain standards e.g. ISO/TC 181 Safety of toys.
Trade marking is not to be approached lightly as your trade mark is likely to be one of your most valuable business assets.
Next, Copyright. Most of us when we think of copyright we think of books, music, films etc. but copyright will also exist in your website, the flyers or brochures you may produce for your business, the menus for your restaurant or café. All of these, provided they are your own original work or you have a license to use them if they were created by a third party, will be protectable.
Mark all of your original copyrighted material with the copyright symbol ©, the name of the rights holder and the year of creation, e.g. © British Library 2019.
If you are a designer then registered designs are probably something you should consider as registered designs protect what it is that makes an item attractive or appealing to its intended market. As the holder of the registered rights you will be assured an exclusive right to the design and thereby protection against unauthorised copying of the design by third parties.
A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention. It provides patent rights holders with protection for their invention for a limited period, usually 20 years, subject to the payment of annual renewal fees. Having a patent for your invention means that your invention cannot be made commercially, or distributed or sold without your written permission. You get to decide who may or may not use the invention for the duration the period of protection. However, once the patent expires, after 20 years or if you stop paying the renewal fees, the invention will no longer be protected and will enter the public domain. Basically, it becomes available for anyone to use as they wish.
Probably lesser known, but just as important IP rights are Know How and Trade Secrets. Know How is the practical knowledge of how to do something, to get something done. This sort of knowledge will not necessarily be included in a patent for example, but will be necessary to finish the product, project or job. For examples of Trade Secrets; think of the Coca Cola recipe or the recipe for Irn Bru. These rights are not registrable and need to be protected using contracts and/or confidentiality agreements.
This post just touches on the subject of IP really as a way of highlighting World IP Day and anyone thinking of using IP or making any financially crucial or business crucial decisions based on IP should speak to an IP attorney. The website of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys can help you locate an attorney in you local area via their website. Most IP attorneys offer a free 30 minute one-to-one advice session.
Alternatively, you can visit your local Business & IP Centre for free, impartial, non-legal advice. Click here to see the full list of Centres around the country.
A final comment; innovation through the years has shaped the world we live in, from the simple hand cast nail invented more than 2,000 years ago to the invention of the wheel and the wheel and axle concept, from Gutenberg’s printing press to the telephone, the electric lamp to penicillin, all of these innovations have made our lives easier, better and more interesting and, hopefully, the inventors and innovators of our generation will continue the trend.
Maria Lampert, Intellectual Property Expert
05 July 2017
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.”
Here are our 3 ‘top tips’ for what you need to know when it comes to your Intellectual Property:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 Deane is Entrepreneur in Residence at the British Library and a huge champion for ambitious business owners. She recently gave advice and practical tips on Intellectual Property at the Library’s Scale-up Summit alongside Will Butler-Adams, CEO of Brompton Bicycles. Cambridge Satchel and Brompton recently launched a range of colour-matching bags and bikes where the satchel fitted perfectly to the handlebars. This ‘made-in-heaven’ brand match caught the attention of the press and delivered extremely high sales. Will and Julie's opening keynote presentation on ‘Getting your business in the media’ was a great success too.
09 June 2016
After four centuries he continues to be recognised as the greatest writer in the English language. The Bard was also quite a savvy businessman, amassing enough money to acquire New Place, one of the largest houses in his home town of Stratford-Upon-Avon. But how much is his literary legacy worth today?
More popular abroad than in his home country
Before we get onto that, I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised to discover that nowadays Shakespeare is more popular abroad than in his country of birth according to a 2016 YouGov poll.
But the poll also shows that his legacy makes a significant contribution to the UK’s financial prosperity and cultural influence.
Shakespeare's 38 plays and 154 sonnets been translated into 118 languages (including Klingon), and performed throughout the world. In addition, he is also a major factor in attracting visitors to his birthplace.
Out of copyright for hundreds of years
The answer to the question ‘how much is Shakespeare worth’ is complicated by the issue of copyright. His entire creative output has of course been out of copyright for centuries. In the UK, copyright currently last for 70 years after the author's death.
So the billions of publications and performances do not need to pay royalties to his estate. So, instead I have looked for the total value of Shakespeare-related content in the market today, rather than the amount he would have earned.
Next, there is the question of whether we are valuing the annual ‘turnover’ of the Shakespeare ‘industry’, or the combined value of current Shakespeare assets?
How much is Shakespeare worth?
OK, enough waffle, it’s time to get down to brass tacks.
For the annual figure. Australian valuation firm Brand Finance came up with £325 million in 2012. They claim this is more than double the combined value of Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe brands.
Their study also found:
- Shakespeare is the best-selling author of all time; with book sales estimated between two and four billion. In contrast, J.K. Rowling's unit sales are estimated to be 'merely' 450 million.
- 64 million children globally study Shakespeare in countries as diverse as Australia, Azerbaijan, China, Denmark, Italy, Kuwait, Oman, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Ukraine and Vietnam.
- There have been more than 400 feature length films and TV productions of Shakespeare works.
- There are currently 67 registered trademarks bearing Shakespeare's name in Australia, the UK and the USA alone ranging from Shakespeare's Pies to the Royal Shakespeare Company.
This is the first time a monetary value has been placed on the Shakespeare brand taking into account book sales and downloads, paid attendance at theatre productions, box office and TV receipts from film productions, sale of Shakespeare branded goods and tourism revenue.
234 First Folios worth £1.1 billion
If we look at the value of Shakespeare's ‘estate’, then the figure is much larger. Just the value of the First Folio editions of his plays is over one billion sterling. It is believed that around 750 copies of the First Folio were printed, of which there are 234 known surviving copies.
We hold an impressive five copies here in The British Library, although this is somewhat trumped by the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. who have an astonishing 82 copies. Their value varies according to condition, but by some estimates the average value would be around £5 million. This would give a total value of £1.1 billion.
It’s impossible to be precise about the number of Shakespeare related books published in the last 400 years. A quick search on Amazon shows 146,801 results with prices ranging from £9,999.98 to zero plus £1.99 post and packing:
Then we need to add in the value of all the theatres around the world who specialise in Shakespeare productions. The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) employs 700 staff and produces around 20 productions a year from its home in Stratford-upon-Avon. Together with the re-created Globe Theatre on the Thames in London, the value must be at least £100 million.
Shakespeare on stage and screen
Next comes film and television adaptions and their related recordings for home sale. And of course, we mustn’t forget the merchandise, such as the William Shakespeare Candle and My Book of Stories: Write your own Shakespearean Tales, available from the British Library shop.
Or from elsewhere, how about Shakespeare Christmas tree ornaments, board games, playing cards, shower curtains, action figures, and even onesies.
My personal favourite is the Shakespeare bust used to conceal the entrance to the bat-cave, seen in the classic 1960’s Batman television series. Available in life-size or Lego version.
Finally, and biggest of all, is tourism. It’s impossible to calculate how many visitors to the UK are coming because of Shakespeare. Either to see his plays or explore his hometown, Stratford-Upon-Avon. Or for those seeking a warmer climate, the fictitious balcony where Romeo serenaded Juliet in Verona, Italy.
It all adds up to an impressive several billion pounds. But perhaps this focus on hard cash misses the point. The world is a richer place culturally, thanks to Shakespeare’s genius with the quill all those years ago.
Written by Neil Infield - Manager in the Business & IP Centre
20 July 2015
Intellectual Property (IP) law can be a minefield, particularly for start-ups and SMEs that either don’t have the necessary experience or resources. As a partner to the Business & IP Centre and at our firm of patent and trademark attorneys, London IP, we work with small businesses to sort out IP problems that could have been avoided if the right steps had been taken at the right time. So, to help you avoid any problems with IP we have put together a list of our top five IP mistakes (and how to avoid them).
1. Being scared of IP and ignoring it
There is a myth that IP is an expensive business, and no doubt it can be. However, really you can spend as much as you want to. The UK official fees for registered designs are £60, for trademarks fees start at £170 and for patents £230. Indeed, the official fees to obtain a registered design that covers the whole of the EU are only EUR350!
If you use a patent or trademark attorney to help you then you will need to pay their fees as well, but compared to the cost of many other business expenses such as rents and business rates IP isn’t all that expensive. For example, the cost to get a UK patent granted could be anywhere in the region of £1500 to £4000 spread over five years or so. For a potential twenty year monopoly, and a halving of corporation tax (through the patent box tax scheme), that may be a very worthwhile investment.
Also, it’s worth knowing that IP law is actually quite generous in that it gives you free IP rights that you don’t have to do anything to obtain other than create something that is worthy of being deemed to be protected. The most well-known of these rights is copyright, but there are others.
For example, any designs you create may be automatically protected for three years by EU unregistered design right, and for up to 15 years by UK unregistered design right.
That said, unregistered design rights are not as strong as registered rights as unregistered rights (other than the ‘passing off’ right for unregistered trademarks) are only infringed by copying, whereas registered rights provide an exclusive right meaning that they can be infringed even if the original work has not been copied.
Thus, it must be recommended that you register your IP rights if possible.
2. Being fooled by scam invoices
The publishing of applicant and inventor names and addresses is essential to the transparency of the IP system as the public needs to know who owns a particular IP right.
Unfortunately, all this information can also be used by criminals, so if you do choose to register any IP rights then it is almost certain that you will receive one or more very official-looking letters from rogue companies that try to scam applicants for patents, trademarks and registered designs.
These scams can simply be an invoice that appears to be from a ‘patent office’ or a ‘register’. The amounts of money requested vary, but are sometimes quite significant.
The UK Government seems to be generally powerless to stop most these scams as they are often run from overseas
3. Not registering IP at the right time
There is nothing more disheartening than a client describing what sounds to be a marvellous invention with a view to protecting it with a patent and the client commenting ‘it’s selling really well’.
To obtain valid patent protection in most of the world a patent application must be filed before any non-confidential disclosure of an invention.
So before you file a patent application for your invention you can’t sell it, put on a crowd-funding website, use it in public, etc., etc.
You can of course talk to third parties in confidence without jeopardizing your chances of obtaining valid patent protection. You may wish to use confidentiality agreements with third parties just so it is clear that everyone understood that the discussions were confidential.
As an aside it is worth noting that all correspondence with patent attorneys is inherently confidential both under common law and their code of professional conduct, so using confidentiality agreements with patent attorneys is quite unnecessary.
It’s not just patents though; many countries of the world require registered design applications to be filed before any non-confidential disclosure of a design in order to grant valid protection.
Furthermore the trademark system in many ways operates on a first-to-file basis so trademark applications should be filed as early as possible to safeguard future use of the mark and to minimize the chances of expensive and protracted disputes with owners of later-filed conflicting trademarks.
Many trademark disputes would never have occurred if a relevant trademark had been registered when use of the mark started.
In summary, IP should be considered at the very outset of any new venture to try to make sure that patent, trademark and design applications are filed at the appropriate time.
4. Ignoring infringement issues
It should be appreciated that IP is double-edged sword and along with protecting your own IP rights you need to careful not to infringe existing IP.
As mentioned above, registered IP rights provide the owner with the exclusive right to use the IP in the territories covered. This means that you may believe that what you are doing is original but you could be infringing an existing right.
This is the case even if what you are doing is in fact original as registered IP rights can be broader in scope than the thing that they were created to protect.
For example trademark registrations give the owner the right to stop use of identical and similar marks, and registered designs protect against designs with the same ‘overall impression’.
Often we see clients obsess about protecting ‘their’ idea with a patent, and ignoring the fact that someone else might have thought of it before (perish the thought!).
So before spending money on branding, prototyping and tooling, try to make sure that whatever it is that you are developing isn’t going to infringe.
If it does infringe and you can’t obtain a license, then unless the IP can somehow be worked around you may need to completely reconsider your project.
5. Not understanding IP ownership issues with commissioned works
If you pay someone to build you a house then you own the house once the work is complete.
IP doesn’t work like that unless the ‘builder’ is legally an employee, so problems regularly arise with commissioned works, where the person doing the work is paid money for a project, but is not an employee.
For example, if you commission someone to design a logo or a product, or to write something for your website then (unless there is an agreement in place to the contrary) the person that does the work will own all of the IP rights when the work is done.
Because this is so counterintuitive a lot of disputes about the ownership of intellectual property arise. Indeed, if the law on this were to be changed a lot of IP lawyers would be out of a job!
It is therefore very important to have a clear agreement at the outset of any commissioning process about who will own all the IP once the work is completed and to ensure that, if desired, any IP rights created are legally transferred to the commissioning party.
David Warrilow, Patent & Trademark Attorney London IP, on behalf of the Business & IP Centre
21 April 2015
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 – is 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).
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”.
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 trademarks.
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 from a Forbes article, 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.
10 April 2015
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.
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
Innovation and enterprise blog recent posts
- Innovating for Growth Diary Part 2 - Sian Zeng
- Meet Patricia Gurman, founder of Sweet Paper Creations and Start-ups in London Libraries participant
- Meet Sol Ramos, co-founder of London Basketball Nation and Start-ups in London Libraries participant
- Meet Ahmad Baracat, founder of Baracat Bros and Start-ups in London Libraries participant
- A week in the life of… Rachel Jones, founder of SnapDragon Monitoring
- Meet Salma Attan, founder of Bushwood Bees and Start-ups in London Libraries participant
- Happy Birthday Start-ups in London Libraries!
- Getting to grips with IP: Back to basics
- Follow JRPass' Director through the Innovating for Growth programme: Maximising your intellectual property
- Celebrating International Cat Day with Rose Hill Designs