12 September 2023
This month we are celebrating the one year anniversary of the Business & IP Centre Local in Lewisham. Building on the legacy of Start-ups in London Libraries (SiLL), our previous programme in partnership with local boroughs that helped many start-ups throughout the capital, our BIPC London Locals makes this support a permanent offering. Over the past year Lewisham Libraries have played a major role in supporting over 100 aspiring entrepreneurs and businesses in the borough through expert led workshops, one-to-ones and networking events. We are proud that since opening, they have welcomed people from all walks of life, including 67% women, 73% from a Black, Asian and ethnic minority background and 13% who are disabled, demonstrating the BIPC's commitment to diversity and inclusion.
'I thoroughly enjoyed supporting businesses on a local level through SiLL, and I am proud that Lewisham Libraries continue to build on the positive working partnership with the British Library to deliver business support, developing exciting and dynamic ways to engage and provide the community with information as proud members of the BIPC network. Through BIPC Local Lewisham's business forums, one-to-one support sessions and digital market research tools it has increased access to resources for local businesses and residents. This success will continue to grow the local business support offer and expand reach for an inclusive economy. As we celebrate BIPC Local Lewisham's first anniversary I’m proud of everything that’s been achieved in the past year and I'm looking forward to what’s coming next.' - Mark Berbeck, Principal Business Officer at Lewisham Council
Meet our BIPC Local Lewisham ambassadors
These are business owners based in the borough. Some of them benefited from business support during SiLL, as well as BIPC services in Lewisham and the British Library, and we are now passing on their experience to local entrepreneurs.
'When I first came across the SiLL offer in Lewisham and attended one of their workshops for aspiring entrepreneurs I was lucky to meet with other aspiring business owners, engage with them and find out more about their businesses. It was a great opportunity to network, expand and build relationships with each other. Fast-forward and I am now a Business Ambassador for BIPC Local Lewisham and my business Authentic Worth Publishing continues to increase in legacy, awards, influence and inspiration for creatives, authors and business owners to authentically share their stories and turn them into published books.' - Esther Jacob, founder of Authentic Worth
'The workshops we attended through SiLL helped us take the right steps to position ourselves for success. Ongoing access to business support and networking opportunities through BIPC Local Lewisham has expanded our coaching business's reach, allowing us to connect with a diverse client base and share our expertise more effectively.' - Jennifer McLean and Fiona Wedderburn-Graham, founders of Amaze Associates
'BIPC Local Lewisham has provided such valuable support for my business over the last year. Through my work as one of their Business Ambassadors I've been able to connect with a wide range of other local small business owners, who I wouldn't otherwise have had the opportunity to meet and it's great to know that thanks to their network of libraries across the borough, access to meeting rooms and other business resources is always available to me in a convenient location, whenever I need them.' - Hannah Drakeford, founder of Hannah Drakeford Design
'BIPC Local Lewisham has helped me build awareness for my business, Buddies for All, throughout the Borough. I have been able to access the various services they offer such as the Cobra database and GrantFinder, which has definitely been beneficial for my business journey. Buddies for All has also benefitted from being promoted on the BIPC website as well as being featured on their bookmarks, posters and flyers.' - David Bourroughs, founder of Buddies for All
'BIPC Local Lewisham has me helped connect with other inspiring business owners and community project founders pan-London, and has also provided vast business resources such as financial planning tools as well as finance to do various activities with the book club. The funding we received from the BIPC also helped 4 of the boys complete an aviation short course, followed by flying lessons.' - Mel Nichols, founder of CHAYSES BOYS BOOK CLUB
Part of our National Network, now in over 100 regional city or local libraries around the UK, our BIPC London Locals are based in Bromley, Greenwich, Lewisham, Waltham Forest and Wandsworth, and we aim to have 10 boroughs offering BIPC services through their high-street libraries by 2025. Whether you’re just starting out or looking to develop your business, they offer tailored support, free resources, training and events, both online and in-person to help you on your journey. In addition to that, you can take advantage of two days of free workshops that will give you the insight and skills to kick-start your business, supported by JP Morgan.
24 August 2023
It’s been a whirlwind year for our Business & IP Centre (BIPC) Oxfordshire. Although it’s still relatively new, we’ve already supported over 1,500 people with their start-ups and ideas, and all of our hard work was recently recognised in the form of an award from Libraries Connected.
We’re delighted that our work helping young people in enterprising activities and supporting them into business has been recognised by Libraries Connected - a membership organisation representing the public library services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland - in the form of the Children's Promise Award.
Of course, the BIPC doesn’t only support young people, but we’ve been particularly focused on younger generations here in Oxfordshire, partnering with local and national organisations to nurture their ambitions, and give them the skills to build their enterprise.
For the past two years we’ve been partnering with Oxfordshire Young Enterprise to host the end of year showcase. Last year alone, we had 75 students from 14 schools all over the county attend a special learning event where they pitched, exhibited and were interviewed on their projects.
We’ve additionally hosted individual school visits, including those for children special educational needs. This includes introductions to resources including our free market research databases including COBRA, which provides how-to guides on starting hundreds of different types of businesses.
For people making the first steps into business, we appreciate there can be barriers to accessing the knowledge that is mostly gained from experience. Having the tools to navigate the market is critical in so many sectors, and being able to offer access to some of these is something that makes us unique here in Oxfordshire. This is also why we’re also looking at cross-organisational approaches to link up with colleagues in Target Youth Support services to help young people who may not ordinarily have this access to get involved and gain skills they need, while also signing them up to benefit from a library membership more widely.
Beyond this, we’ve also been looking at how we can support companies or help people to create companies that support young people in education, wellbeing and other related activities.
Among the organisations to benefit from our services is GetFED. GetFED provide barista and business training for young people at risk of exclusion and exploitation. Through bespoke training sessions, the organisation supports young entrepreneurs with the basics of running a small business, developing barista skills and even project managing their own events.
The Drone Rules is another organisation that has been working closely with the BIPC. This unique organisation provides education for individuals and educational providers on all things drone-related – a technology that will be no doubt of interest to a lot of people.
BIPC Oxfordshire is certainly opening the doors for many young people and we hope we can continue to tap into the undiscovered skills of many more.
If you want to find out more about the work of BIPC Oxfordshire visit their website or head to the Centre, you can find them on the second floor of the Oxfordshire County Library in Oxford, with Locals in Bicester and Blackbird Leys Libraries.
Ryan Johnson – BIPC Engagement and Marketing Manager at Oxfordshire County Council
22 August 2023
Sir Isaac Newton, once said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” A few generations after, the Newtonian revolution in physics along with other discoveries of the time heralded in a new age of innovation, engineering and industry. Patents are the primary records of that step process in innovation. They’re a fascinating and invaluable ‘time capsule’ of brilliance (and occasional eccentricity).
Today, the British Library’s historical patent collection has become a world leading collection of historical IP documentation; not only from the UK, but from over 150 countries worldwide. No other collection at the Library captures better the progress of technology and commerce from the early 17th century to the present day.
And now, the British Library’s Business & IP Centre also sits on the shoulders of this gigantic treasure trove of patent, design and trademark information. In fact, it’s almost 170 years since it was first made available to the general public as the Library of the newly formed Patent Office. It really is a library within a library. The history and development of the collection offers us an intriguing insight into how much this information was prioritised managed valued, for researchers then as it is now. One report, by the US Commissioner of Patents in the 1860s described it as a ‘technological library unequalled by anything in America’.
I believe it still is.
Why a patent library?
From a practical point of view, a patent library is an essential part of being able to find (and provide evidence) that a new patent application is indeed an innovative step on what’s preceded it. One can view the history of these patents almost like a family tree of technical steps and developments, each building on the other.
Hot off the heels of the Patent Law Amendment Act of 1852, establishing what we know as the Patent Office (the Intellectual Property Office today), came the Patent Office Library. It opened on the 5th March, 1855. Its formal title was ‘The Library of the Great Seal Patent Office’. To be clear, there were patents and records of them before 1852, managed by Court of Chancery, but the nucleus of the library were 388 books from Bennet Woodcroft, the Superintendent of Specifications and Indexes, and 707 books from Richard Prosser, an engineer closely associated with the Act.
The site was on 25 Southampton Buildings, off Chancery Lane. A site it would occupy in various forms and alterations until the 1990s. In 1891, due in part to an increase in the number of visitors to the Library, plans were drawn up to rebuild the entire site. This was undertaken in stages between 1893 and 1912, with the Library moving to temporary accommodation in 1898. A full library service was maintained during this time. The new Patent Office Library was designed in the cathedral style of library architecture by Sir John Taylor.
War and Post-war
The Library continued to offer reading room services during the First World War, albeit with reduced hours and staffing levels. Visitor numbers predictably fell. And with the later onset of the Second World War, the library experienced a few near misses from incendiary bombs and a V1 flying bomb in 1944.
All during the war years, the need for a comprehensive scientific and technological network in the UK was apparent. And post-war, while widespread support was seen for a national library of science and technology, there was considerable debate on whether the British Museum or the Patent Office collections would form the basis of the new library. The debate was settled in 1959, when a Working Party on the issue recommended the new library should be based on both collections, and put under the control of the British Museum Trustees. And this, in hindsight, was what took it a step closer to the custodianship we have today.
In April 1966, the Patent Office Library formally transferred from the control of the Board of trade to the British Museum and became the National Reference Library of Science and Invention, (NRLSI Holborn division). In the late 1960s it was decided that there was a need to create better links between the UK’s major lending and reference libraries. To that end, the National Libraries Committee was formed in 1967, which recommend the creation of a national library system in 1969.
The British Library is founded
And so, the British Library was created on the 1st July 1973 as a result of the British Library Act which was enacted in 1972. Under the Act the following institutions were administratively combined to form the British Library: the library departments of the British Museum (including the NRLSI), the National Central Library, and the National Lending Library for Science and Technology.
The NRLSI was renamed the Science Reference Library upon joining the British Library and then in 1985 it was restructured to become the reference arm of the Science Technology and Industry Division (being renamed the Science Reference and Information Service (SRIS) in the process).
The next most significant turning point was the opening of the St Pancras site of the British Library and the rehousing of the patent collection. The collection had its own floor (level 2 where the Newsroom currently is). But it wasn’t until 2006 that the Business & IP Centre as we know it today was formally opened. It was a unique opportunity to merge two distinct, but related collections; business & intellectual property under one umbrella. And so came a physical alteration to the space that included meeting rooms and the well-used networking area space.
All this was with an aim to offer a comprehensive range of resources, workshops events and services to support small businesses from the first spark of inspiration to forming and growing their business. Inspired by how the New York Public utilised its Science, Industry and Business collection it was a model that resembles how the Centre operates today at the British Library and now across a national network of over 20 Business & IP Centres.
But today, there is a very special merger that’s not only about business and intellectual property. It’s connecting the past with the present. Our current intellectual property advice and expertise would likely not exist were it not for the historic patent collection. So as we look ahead to what a tumultuous 21st century could bring, it’s somehow reassuring that the firm anchor of the past will continue to guide the innovators, problem solvers and entrepreneurs of the future.
Co-written by Jeremy O’Hare Research and Business Development Manager at the BIPC and Steven Campion, Subject Librarian at the British Library
17 August 2023
Did you know that the British Library is home to over 200 million collection items? Occupying over 746km of total shelving, growing an extra 8km every year, our St Pancras site houses inventions that date back thousands of years, as well as new technology from our digital age.
To continue our celebrations for the British Library's 50th anniversary, we asked our BIPC team what their favourite facts about the Library are, as well as their favourite inventions.
Here's what they came up with:
- ‘My favourite fact about the British Library is that it’s an unusual and uniquely built building that resembles a ship. Prior to becoming an architect, Colin St John Wilson was a naval lieutenant... This now makes sense!’ - Meron, Reference Specialist
- 'My favourite invention is the Starship delivery robots in Milton Keynes. I love the innovative solution for local deliveries. They are completely autonomous and the robots can sense when they need to move out of the way. Since they can deliver a small grocery shop, it’s a great solution particularly for people less able to leave their homes. Also, they’re surprisingly cute!' - Claire, Head of Reference Services
- 'I find it amazing that as you walk through the British Library there are four levels of football pitch sized floors of information beneath your feet; the lowest basement sitting beneath the Piccadilly line. I find the historical patent collection just an endless treasure trove of incredible inventions that have changed what is even possible. My favourites are the aviation patents. The Wright Brother’s and Frank Whittle’s aviation patents. Like so many of us, I took one of these ‘flying machines’ to go on holiday somewhere warm and didn’t even consider the marvel of it.' - Jeremy, Research & Business Development Manager
- 'I have thick and often unruly hair and couldn’t live without my trusty Tangle Teezer™. Shaun Pulfrey, inventor and founder of the eponymous company, came to the Business & IP Centre when it had recently opened to see if he could protect his innovative design and now, over 15 years later, he has patented the brush in over 30 countries. Each brush design is also protected by design rights and the name Tangle Teezer™ is also protected as a trade mark. Shaun also took part in our scale-up programme, now called Get Ready for Business Growth in 2014-15 and in 2021 he hit revenues of £43.5 million and sold a majority stake to Mayfair Equity Partners for around £70 million. This is an incredible achievement by Shaun and his team and we like to think that we made a positive contribution to their successful business journey.' - Isabel, Head of Business Audiences
- 'Apart from the amazing free business support the BIPC National Network provides, the most impressive aspect is its geographical spread. It would take just over six days and 458 grueling miles to walk from the most southern point of the BIPC National Network (BIPC Devon Local in Paignton) to its most northern point (BIPC Glasgow in the Mitchell Library).' - Billy, Project Administrator
- 'My favourite invention is the printing press. The democratisation of text ushered in the second information age in Europe by allowing for the mechanical mass production of books and broadsheets. With greater demand for written materials, the invention also fostered translations of popular texts that could be disseminated to the public rather than remaining within the church or royal courts. The British Library’s Treasures exhibit displays one of Gutenberg’s bibles, the first book printed with moveable type in Western Europe, as well as a copy of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales printed by William Caxton, the first book printer in England.' - Amy, Growth Programme Service Liaison Manager
- 'My favourite invention would have to be either the Printing Press, or the Electric Guitar!' - Simon, MI and Project Coordinator
- ‘If you see five items each day, it would take you over 80,000 years to see the whole of the Library's collection.’ - Jordan, BIPC Workshop and Events Administrator
- ‘Our science blog recently posted some interesting facts about the hidden 'wild' features of the British Library: "the British Library hosts a permanent show of animal fossils, hiding in plain sight. As you cross the Piazza on a visit to the Library you tread on limestone, formed in the early Cretaceous period (145 and 100 million years ago - Ma) in a warm, shallow sea, teeming with life. You can also find fossilised sea sponge outside the Conference Centre, as well as calcareous algal pellets and various fossil shells on the floors inside the British Library".' - Alyssa, Project Coordinator
- ‘The British Library collects words, written and spoken. Its sound archives collect oral history to bring back stories and accounts, like for the BBC programme Aids: The Unheard Tapes. I felt proud of the British Library’s contribution to the programme, which brought personal stories back to life, turning the programme into compelling viewing.’ - Elisabetta, Project Administrator
06 March 2023
For last year’s Women’s History Month, I wrote a blog post highlighting seven female patentees who I felt deserved more recognition. Whilst I was happy with how the blog post turned out, I was less happy with just how much the stories had to be condensed in order to best fit a list format.
So this year, I’ve decided to revisit that blog post and flesh out the story of one of the female patentees in particular. Namely, one Lizzie Magie – the board game pioneer, who forever changed the way we would spend time (read: argue) with our friends and family over Christmas.
This blog post will also discuss some key events in the history and development of Monopoly. Events crucial to understanding how Magie’s contributions, and so place in history, were deliberately minimised, if not erased, by a handful of men.
The ‘official’ line
First let us look at the ‘official’ Monopoly creation story. The following version was given on the instructions for the 1973 US edition of the board game:
‘PARKER BROTHERS Real Estate Trading Game MONOPOLY was invented during the Great Depression by Charles B. Darrow of Germantown, Pennsylvania. Mr. Darrow, like many other Americans, was unemployed at the time and he worked out the details of the game primarily to amuse himself during this period. Prior to the Depression, Darrow and his wife vacationed in the resort town of Atlantic City, New Jersey. When it came to naming the streets on the game board, Darrow naturally adopted those of his favourite vacation spot.
It was an often touted example of the American Dream, that for a long time was fairly well known throughout the world. Even today, you can still find examples of this story being given as the true history of the board game. The problem is, the story is a lie. We’ll move onto Charles Darrow, as well as how the actual true version of events was rediscovered, in time, but for now let us turn our attention to the true star of this blog post – Lizzie Magie.
A quick biography of Lizzie Magie
Lizzie Magie was born in 1866 in Macomb, Illinois. Her father, James Magie, was a keen supporter of Georgism, and a great proponent of equality. Traits that were certainly passed down to his daughter.
At this early juncture, it’s probably best to talk more on Georgism, as this will come up again (spoilers: very importantly so) later on. Georgism developed from the writings of Henry George, a popular nineteenth century politician and economist, who in his 1879 work ‘Progress and Poverty’ proposed a single tax on land values (replacing all other taxes). George believed that someone should own 100% of what they have made, but everything found in nature should belong to everyone. Proponents of Georgism believe the single tax would lead to economic equality. With that hopefully better understood, let us return back to Magie.
In 1890 (ish), Magie and her family moved to Washington DC, where she would find work as a stenographer and typist at the Dead Letter Office. Here every piece of undeliverable mail was sent to be investigated, sorted, and, ultimately, disposed of. Only the staff at this Office had the power to open mail, and many turned detective to reunite mail and owner.
In her free time, Magie would write poetry and short stories, and would act and perform comedic routines on stage. She also clearly had an aptitude for invention, for in 1893 she was granted US patent no. 498,129 for an improvement she designed for Hammond class typewriters. Her invention reduced the size of the margins on the page, thus allowing for more typed words per page. I can’t find any evidence of this patent being utilised, however it should be noted that this patent was obtained when less than 1% of all US patents were being granted to women.
Magie was also a proud feminist, and wrote and spoke on the subject throughout her life. She had no desire to lose her independence by being married young, which was the norm at the time. Instead, she worked hard, and saved well, so that she was able to buy her own house and land. To bring the struggles of women in the US to the public’s attention, particularly with regards to low wages, she placed an advertisement in which she offered herself as a ‘young woman American slave’ for sale to the highest bidder. The stunt brought the press to her door, which allowed her to articulately expand on her point further.
Magie would eventually start teaching Georgism in the evenings, but quickly became frustrated by her limited reach. By now, single tax proponents were dwindling in America, in large because the charismatic and well-liked George had passed away. Magie eagerly sought a way to spread her views more widely, and soon settled on a board game as the ideal solution. At this point in time, board games had started to become more commonplace in middle class homes, as mass production made them cheaper to manufacture, and thus more readily available.
So Magie got to work, and by the end of 1903 had created a board game titled ‘The Landlord’s Game’, to which US patent no. 748,626 was granted on the 5th January 1904.
The Landlord’s Game
By looking at the illustration (below) of the game board Magie supplied alongside her patent specification, the similarities with Monopoly can clearly be seen.
Some of its notable features are: a continuous path for players to circle over-and over again (most board games at the time had a set path with a clear start and end point), collecting wages for passing the starting point, four railroads, a ‘go to jail’ corner space (complete with a corresponding ‘jail’ corner space), a public park space (a precursor for free parking), property spaces which the players would buy and sell with play money and deed cards, etc.
Originally the object of the game was to obtain wealth. Magie would later refine the game to have two sets of rules in order to better make her point. A monopolist set (known as Monopoly), in which the goal was to create monopolies and force others out of business, and an anti-monopoly set (known as Prosperity) in which all players were rewarded during wealth creation. Magie believed this approach would demonstrate to the players that the anti-monopoly version was the morally correct choice. Both in game, and, of course, in the real world. As the rules of the 1932 edition of the game stated:
‘The Landlord’s Game shows why our national housekeeping has gone wrong and Prosperity Game shows how to start it right and keep it going right’.
In 1906, Magie moved to Chicago where, along with some friends, she founded the Economic Game Company in order to sell her game. While never really a sales success, copies were sold to college lecturers (who used it as a teaching aid), just as Magie hoped. In 1910, Magie submitted the game to Parker Brothers, but they decided against publishing it.
As an interesting side note, The Landlord’s Game found its way over to the UK in 1913, where it was sold as ‘Bre'r Fox and Bre'r Rabbit’. Despite a change in title and appearance, the game played largely the same. Unfortunately it did not sell well, making it a rare and valuable game today. So one to look out for at a car boot sale.
In 1924 Magie patented a revision for the game (as the term of the original patent had expired), and this version was sold by the Adgame Company. Again, it wasn’t a huge success.
At this point we’ll Leave Magie for a while, but we won’t be leaving The Landlord’s Game.
Students and Quakers
Unbeknown to Magie, The Landlord’s Game was becoming popular among the college students who had played the game in their economics classes. Copies soon began to spread from friend group to friend group, from locale to locale, in the Northeast of the US. Unfortunately, none of these copies were the version Magie produced. At the time, it was fairly common to create homemade versions of published board games, and this is how The Landlord’s Game was spreading.
The fact that the board games were homemade, meant changes could creep in. Sometimes new house rules would be added to the ruleset. Other times, the locations on the game board would be fully changed to reflect the local area (something Monopoly would later do itself, to great success).
Unfortunately the meaning of the game became somewhat lost as people soon realised that it was actually more fun to dominate as a landlord, and bankrupt ones friends and family. So much so, that the Prosperity ruleset was eventually left to one-side entirely, and so the game became increasingly known as ‘The Monopoly Game’ or just ‘Monopoly’.
For a detailed account of how the game spread, I would recommend reading ‘The Monopolists’ by Mary Pilon, but it’s worth briefly mentioning the Quakers, who readily embraced the game, and whose ranks it quickly spread through. This group would go on to add fixed prices to the properties and change the street names to ones found in Atlantic City. The same street names that are familiar to anyone who has played the original US version of Monopoly.
It is at this point, in 1932 (28 years after Magie’s original patent) that Charles Darrow finally enters the story.
In 1932, Charles Todd bumps into his childhood friend, Esther Jones, whilst out on a walk. They had lost touch after leaving their Quaker school, and so made plans to catch up over dinner, along with their spouses. Their friendship was soon renewed, and so Todd would go on to invite Jones and her husband over for a board game night. They played a homemade version of Monopoly, and Jones and her husband, one Charles Darrow, were immediately hooked. Todd would go on to make Darrow his own version of the board game, for which Darrow insisted he provide a clear written set of the rules.
The US was in the middle of the Great Depression, and Darrow had indeed lost his job. Given the circumstances, it’s not my place to judge or question Darrow, but he soon decided to try and sell the game as his own. He asked his friend, the political cartoonist, Franklin ‘F. O.’ Alexander to work on the design. Some accounts list his contributions as including the now iconic ‘human’ characters seen on the game board. These are (and the following may help at your next pub quiz) Rich Uncle Pennybags, Jake the Jailbird, and Officer Edgar Mallory. It is likely he also designed much of the illustrations that have remained mostly unchanged, such as the tap and light bulb seen on the utility spaces, and the question mark seen on the chance spaces and cards.
Originally Darrow made his version of Monopoly with a round game board made out of oilcloth. By 1934 he had moved onto a cardboard square board which was sold at a local department store. He used his initial profits to refine his version further and after some sales success, the game would go on to be bought by Parker Brothers in 1935. The same year Darrow and Parker Brothers obtained US Patent no. 2,026,082 for the board game. Monopoly sold 278,000 units in 1935, and in 1936 it sold 1,751,000. The game was an unprecedented success.
Soon after the deal with Parker Brothers was made, Darrow was asked by the President of the company for a written account of how he came up with the idea. This is where Darrow told his lie that would go on to be repeated for years to come.
Let us now return to Magie as we continue the story.
Magie re-enters the scene
Parker Brothers soon discovered Darrow wasn’t telling the truth, and became worried about Magie and her 1924 patent. So in November of 1935, George Parker himself visited the now 70 year old Magie. He told her the company had come across her board game and wanted to sell it (along with two other board games she subsequently created). Magie was obviously delighted by the prospect of her board game finally being mass produced and sold widely, and so accepted $500 for her patent. No royalties were offered. Parker Brothers would publish copies of all three games, but soon let them fade away after little advertising.
In 1936, Magie was of course shocked to see Monopoly on sale, especially as someone called Darrow was listed as the inventor. She wanted some form of payback, and decided to fight back via the press (one such article can be seen here). The story was hardly front page news and was soon forgotten.
Monopoly went on to be a huge worldwide success, Darrow became the first board game millionaire, and Magie was all but forgotten. Until the 1970s that is.
The truth emerges
In 1973, Ralph Anspach, an economics professor at San Francisco State University, released a board game designed to teach players about the ills of real world monopolies. The game was fittingly titled ‘Anti-Monopoly’, and it quickly became a modest counter-culture hit.
Predictably, it wasn’t long before the owners of Monopoly sent Anspach a cease and desist letter due to, what they considered, an infringement on their trade mark. Anspach ignored the letter.
During the near decade long legal battle which would follow, Anspach, as part of his defence, would thoroughly examine the history of Monopoly, in which everything you’ve read here (and lots more) was uncovered. He was able to prove that the board game had existed for many years before Darrow, and found surviving homemade versions of the game from the 1910s and 1920s (several of which even had the words ‘Monopoly’ blazoned across the middle).
Despite what I said in my introduction, this is still a very condensed version of a much larger story. I can wholeheartedly recommend ‘The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World's Favorite Board Game’ by Mary Pilon, if you would like to dive deeper still.
I’m very happy to say that Lizzie Magie is not as forgotten as she once was. There is now plenty of media out there that details her place in history, and I’m happy to be a part of that.
She is now rightfully recognised as being the originator of Monopoly, and as such is considered a leading figure in the development of board games. However I’m not sure how happy she would be that the board game she designed to highlight the faults of monopolies, ended up becoming a celebration of them.
One last thing, as we are the British Library, it would be amiss of me not to at least quickly mention the British version of Monopoly which came out in 1936. It was localised by Waddingtons to have the London street names probably familiar to most of you reading this. Above is an advert from a 1936 London toy catalogue from our Trade Literature Collection, announcing Monopoly as the ‘game that has taken America by storm’. It would of course go on to take Britain, and much of the world, by storm too.
Written by Steven Campion, curator of our historical patents collection. For more information on intellectual property, visit us at the Business & IP Centre or online: bl.uk/bipc.
25 January 2023
The anonymous street artist, Banksy is no stranger to intellectual property (IP) controversy.
A recent spat with high street clothing retailer Guess over the use of a Banksy work, Flower Thrower, in their shop window has erupted into another round of IP battles between Banksy and others who use his/her work. The allegation is that the image was used without permission.
And that’s just the point. Banksy, being an anti-establishment artist, will always experience some tension between working within the ‘IP system’, to enforce creative and commercial rights as an artist. Not to mention associated moral rights too.
But on that front, I believe Banksy has had some success. And I would wish any artist or creative can enjoy that too for their own work. But in Banksy’s case, there are some unique lessons.
The story of Banksy’s relationship to IP is not unlike a Matryoshka Doll. There are hidden complexities within hidden complexities nested within the hidden artist whose power and intrigue rests on mystery, surprise and subversion.
No wonder it can be hard to put Banksy into a neat category of a recognised artist commercialising their work.
So just how is Banksy different? And what’s Banksy doing to shake things up in the ordinarily suited and booted world of IP regulation?
Subverting while using the IP system
I liken Intellectual Property to an umbrella term to describe a family of different rights that protect the work of creators and inventors. The different members of the family protect different expressions and for street artists that will mostly be copyright. For a business’ product and service brands, there are trademarks.
An artist may branch out into creating products that are manufactured, such as printed T-shirts or other merchandise that carry a distinctive appearance. And for that that there’s registered design.
Banksy, is correctly using as many different forms of IP as he can to maximise protection of his work (we’ll come on to his use of trademarks as a strategy).
In our workshop and webinar, Introduction to Intellectual Property, we emphasise how each of these ‘members of the family’ can be deployed to maximise the defence and use of your creations. While there are distinctions and differences between them, all could potentially be of use.
So how is Banksy doing it and what’s different?
“Are you a company looking to licence Banksy art for commercial use? Then you’ve come to the right place – you can’t. Only Pest Control Office have permission to use or license my artwork. If someone else has granted you permission, you don’t have permission. I wrote ‘copyright is for losers’ in my (copyrighted) book and still encourage anybody to take and amend my art for their own personal amusement, but not for profit or making it look like I've endorsed something when I haven’t. Thanks.”
The case of Guess
In the dispute with retailer Guess, Banksy was asserting his rights as the copyright holder around usage. Anyone who creates an original work (be it artistic, musical, recording or even software) can assert the same rights. The hard job is often to enforce those rights.
Banksy, did that in his own inimitable way. He claimed usage of Flower Thrower was essentially theft and encouraged a similar response in an outraged Instagram post; “They’ve helped themselves to my artwork without asking, how can it be wrong for you to do the same to them?”
Just to be clear, there is a difference between civil law and criminal law (IP the former, shop lifting the latter) but perhaps from the point of view of the creator who’s had their work used, it can feel the same.
Guess, for obvious reasons, removed the image from their store front.
But then there’s another mystery, nested within the same matryoska doll.
Guess are selling a range of clothing in collaboration with Brandalised who license images by graffiti artists, among them it appears, Banksy. Was there some deal done in private with a third party like Brandalised to allow limited usage?
We may never know and we don’t have to know. Again, the rights holders can use the work as they see fit in public or private. Which again, serves to illustrate how they should be able to retain the upper hand. It is their property, after all.
But what happens when the copyright owner wishes to remain anonymous, like Banksy does? Because to enforce your rights, you have to identify yourself as ‘the author’ or creator.
How can someone who remains anonymous do just that?
Subverting trademarks for a purpose
That is why, some have speculated, Banksy took an interest in filing some of his images as trademarks. Introducing now another Banksy work, Laugh Now, after the image of a monkey holding a placard stating ‘laugh now, but one day we’ll be in charge’.
Which is why a trademark in Banksy’s case might have appeal.
But not only that, a trademark in theory can last forever, so long as it’s being used and renewed every ten years by an individual or company who owns it.
This particular application was met with opposition, however. A company objected to the application on the grounds it was filed ‘in bad faith’ in order to avoid the standard copyright requirements of establishing ‘an author’ and that there was no intention to commercially use the mark.
After an initial rejection at the EUIPO trademark Cancellation Division, it was overturned by the Board of Appeal (Case R 1246/2021-5) on the grounds that, ‘the relief from not being required to reveal his identity does not exclude the intention to use the trade mark.’ And, ‘it may not be extrapolated or concluded that Banksy will use the system of trade mark protection as mere substitute of copyright in an unlawful manner. It may neither be concluded that the proprietor has in general a negative view on Intellectual Property Rights which would lead to a filing of a trade mark without any intention to use it’
One – nil to Banksy.
What does this serve to prove?
Making the system work for you
Owning one or more form of intellectual property is on the one hand just good sense, while understanding your rights to usage is another. You don’t necessarily have to have a commercial purpose to still benefit from IP protection, especially if you want to retain rights over how your creations are used. Like Banksy, look at the different options and make it clear what you own and the value you place on it.
Especially those in any creative industry. You don’t need to even be subversive or anonymous, like Banksy. Any creative business or individual should be prepared if they ever have to have their own IP battles.
And with Banksy, at least, he’s doing it in his own style.
Written by Jeremy O'Hare, intellectual property information expert at the BIPC.
12 January 2023
As we enter a new and exciting year at the Business & IP Centre, we cannot wait to help even more entrepreneurs from all walks of life to start, protect and scale their businesses across the country. Before we jump in, we want to take a moment to reflect on all of the amazing things we got up to in 2022. This was a year that saw the 10th anniversary of the BIPC National Network and the return of in-person events. let’s recap all our achievements from last year.
The London Network keeps on growing
2022 was a busy year for our London network, with three more London boroughs joining our rapidly expanding National network. We welcomed Lewisham and Greenwich in September, and Bromley a month later. Through our existing partnership with Waltham Forest, that now brings our business support services to the heart of five London boroughs.
Reset. Restart returns
In May we welcomed the return of Reset. Restart, a series of free webinars and in-person events around our National Network aimed at supporting businesses in recovering from Covid and in navigating a post-pandemic world. This year we've had over 1,140 people attend these events and benefit from the free expert advice and support on offer.
Creative entrepreneurs got ready for growth
After our previous scale-up programme came to an end in January of last year, a new, national programme for creative businesses launched in August to fill the hole. Funded by Arts Council England, our Get Ready for Business Growth programme is only in it's second delivery round & we are already supporting 50 entrepreneurs across the UK in various creative fields. From artisan homeware to theatre and dance companies, we're here to help those in the creative sector who may have pivoted during the pandemic, or are looking for new ways to to grow sustainably.
Libraries mean business
Did you know, there's more going on in libraries than you think? After filming our trailer in July, we premiered in December across social media, our newsletter and Sky video on demand. We loved having Cultureville, Paradise Cycles and Okan London, as well as our own British Library reference team member, Seema, be involved. What might you find in between the shelves of your local library?
We welcomed you back in person
October saw the return of in-person events in the form of Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Building the Black Economy. We heard from a panel of Black entrepreneurs who are building empires online and discussed the power of the Black economy with Swiss, founder of Black Pound Day.
Celebrating 10 years of national business support
This year we also celebrated our National Network's 10th anniversary and welcomed two new Centres, BIPC Cumbria and BIPC Southampton. Since launching, we’ve attracted 185,000+ attendees through events, workshops and webinars, helped create 19,000+ businesses and 12,000+ jobs, supported 10,000+ existing businesses and helped safeguard 4,000+ existing businesses.
In 2023 we've got even more in store for entrepreneurs from all walks of life to start, protect and scale successful businesses both in London and around the UK.
26 September 2022
In the spirit of London Fashion Week, I thought I’d dedicate this blog post to looking at the early history of the sewing machine – the tool that made the mass production of clothing possible. It is also a good example of a machine which no one can quite agree on who the inventor was.
If I describe something first, have I invented it? How detailed does my description need to be? Do I need a working model to prove my invention works? Are my ideas similar to a future proven solution? Do I need a patent?
How you answer questions such as these will likely determine who you think the true inventor of the sewing machine is. So rather than tell you who I think it is, I have instead highlighted some influential early patents from within our historical IP collection so you can decide for yourself.
Focusing on patents (should) allow us to check something is new, or at least involves an inventive step. Like any invention, it is very possible that others created sewing machines similar to those described below first, but for whatever reason did not apply for a patent. Something we will briefly explore later.
GB 701 of 1755
In 1755, Charles Fredrick Wiesenthal, a German born physician based in London, received a patent for a ‘needle for ornamenting fabrics’. The needle had a point at either end, meaning it could pass through fabric without needing to be turned. Some commentators have said the movement of the needle was via mechanical means, but the description goes into little detail.
GB 1,764 of 1790
In 1790, an English cabinet maker by the name of Thomas Saint was granted a patent for five types of varnishes and their uses, a machine for ‘spinning, twisting, and doubling the thread’, a machine for ‘stitching, quilting, or sewing’, and a machine for ‘platting or weaving’.
It is of course the machine for ‘stitching, quilting, or sewing’ that is of interest to this blog post, however it was somewhat lost in the busyness of the patent. So much so that when the Patent Office republished older patents and arranged them into new classes, it was placed into ‘wearing apparel’ rather than ‘sewing and embroidering’. It is safe to say Saint’s sewing machine was all but forgotten.
That is until 1874, when a sewing machine manufacturer called William Newton Wilson found the patent while undertaking research at the Patent Office. He had the sewing machine built and, after some adjustments to the looper, was able to prove it worked.
The machine incorporated many features still to be found on modern machines (as well as in later patents), such as an overhanging arm, a vertical needle-bar, and a feed system for the fabric.
The machine Newton Wilson built can now be seen at the Science Museum.
Fr 616 of 1804
In 1804, Thomas Stone and James Henderson received a French patent for their sewing machine, which passed a hand sewing needle back and forth through the fabric using a pair of pincers at either side (imitating the action of human fingers). It unfortunately required frequent stops in order to replace the short length of thread it used.
Austrian Exclusive Privilege in 1814
In 1814, Josef Madersperger, an Austrian tailor, received the early Austrian equivalent of a patent for his sewing machine. It used a double pointed needle (like Wiesenthal’s) and replicated as best it could hand sewing. In 1839, Madersperger received another patent equivalent for a machine that used an eye-pointed needle.
Neither machine was ever made publically available and Madersperger would unfortunately die destitute in an Viennese almshouse in 1850. In 1933 a memorial was erected in Resselpark in Vienna, declaring Madersperger the inventor of the sewing machine.
FR 7434 of 1830
In 1830, a French tailor called Barthélemy Thimonnier received a French patent for his sewing machine which used a hooked needle to replicate hand sewing. The same year Thimonnier found himself overseeing 80 of his machines in a Paris workshop making uniforms for the French Army.
Unfortunately the success was not to last, as in 1831 all 80 machines were destroyed by a mob of angry tailors, fearful his invention was a danger to their livelihoods. Although later patents followed, Thimonnier never found further success and died in poverty at the age of 63.
One of Thimonnier’s 1830 sewing machines can also be seen at the Science Museum.
GB 10,424 of 1844
In 1844, John Fisher and James Gibbons received a patent for, among other things, a machine for ornamenting lace. While not originally intended to be a sewing machine, it nevertheless was able to function as one, and used both an eye-pointed needle and a shuttle – both still in use on machines today.
US 4,750 of 1846
In 1846, Elias Howe Jr. was granted a patent for his sewing machine which used a lockstitch design (the most common mechanical stitch made by a sewing machine today, which uses two threads that ‘lock’ together). Unfortunately Howe struggled to find financial backing for his machine, and so was forced to take a job in London modifying one of his sewing machines for a buyer there.
When Howe eventually returned to America he discovered sewing machines were being sold that appeared to infringe his patent. One such sewing machine was the work of an Isaac Merritt Singer – a man whose surname would soon become synonymous with the sewing machine.
Howe sued Singer for patent infringement and won. Many more legal battles would ensue between the main sewing machine inventors and manufacturers before they would decide to come together to form the first ‘patent pool’ (and the Sewing Machine Combination) in 1856.
With my earlier disclaimer in mind, it’s worth briefly looking at an inventor who never took out a patent – a man by the name of Walter Hunt. Howe’s sewing machine is often credited as being the first to sew a lockstitch, however Hunt invented a sewing machine that did so 13 years earlier in 1833. Not wanting to put seamstresses out of work, Hunt never applied for a patent, but his machine came to light during the patent trials.
Hunt can therefore be called the inventor of the lockstitch, however Howe had the patent for it. Earning him $5 for every sewing machine sold in America. Howe soon became a very rich man.
So that was a very condensed account of the early history of the sewing machine. Several less important patents were skipped in the name of brevity, and many of the inventions that were included could have filled a blog post many times longer than this one alone. If you would like to know more then please do come in to the library to read further.
Hopefully you now have a better idea of who you think invented the sewing machine, or maybe you feel it was actually the accumulative work of many.
Steven Campion, Business & IP Centre intellectual property expert.
21 September 2022
Our obsession with one metal has inspired some of the greatest art and creativity in history. Why are we so enamoured with it?
Gold is rare, malleable, remoulded and reinvented into countless forms, throughout many different cultures and civilisations. It is also incredibly beautiful.
We extract it from the earth to form objects that are coveted and often become more valuable over time until they become treasures. This process inspires great innovation and creativity. All in the pursuit of one, precious metal.
The British Library’s Gold exhibition showcases its own collection of golden treasures. On display are manuscripts, treaties and book covers of varying ages and from different places, cultures and civilisations from all over the world.
Here we see how this valuable commodity, when combined with innovation, creates new objects that can be protected, valued and resold. As we’ll discover, it’s a kind of intellectual property alchemy.
Innovation to extract beauty
Over the centuries there have been various places where people have literally, ‘struck gold’. These have become renowned; from the ancient mines of Egypt, India and Anatolia to parts of Europe, where explorers obsessed over a mythical place in the new world called El Dorado, the city of gold. More recently, it is the 19th century that springs to mind, with its gold rushes in Australia, New Zealand and North America as well as Canada’s famous Klondike gold rush in the Yukon province, immortalised in novels and film.
Each gold rush generated new migrations, economic development and new technology. It’s here that the patent system gives an interesting snapshot into what was going on technologically as speculators were investing in sophisticated ways to extract more and more from the same mine.
A patent is an intellectual property right that will protect new and original inventions and processes. The British patent GB1853 no.997, Apparatus for Washing Earths containing Gold, is one such example. Here, two mining engineers from France sought protection for a new technique to ‘dredge’ and ‘wash’ earth and materials derived from rivers to extract more gold. We can see an illustration of how their patent worked in practice here:
Innovation in transformation
Once sufficient quantities of gold are gathered, they can then be transformed into objects of various kinds. How the gold is used has inspired many different techniques over time that have lasted through to today. The use of gold leaf is over 5,000 years old. Ancient Egyptians developed techniques to hammer gold into a thin layer, which created just the same appearance as the solid material but with a more economical use.
Gold leaf can also be finely ground into gold paint combined with a pigment to create ‘shell gold’. Again, another economical use of gold which means that the gold, in its leaf and shell forms, can be used in as varied works as wooden sculptures to gilded porcelain to illustrated manuscripts; such as the British Library’s Harley Gospels.
But the value is not just in the commodity, it’s in the artistic creation. Many jewellers have registered designs for unique pieces made of gold and other precious metals. A well-known brand like Bulgari have a number of watches registered as a design, presumably as they are unique signature pieces of great value to the brand and its design heritage. Here is one such UK registered design:
Main illustration for design number 80800720005000
Registered design is an intellectual property right that gives companies or individuals the right to protect the appearance of a product, such as its shape or pattern. These are ordinarily for more than one piece that is in production.
But what about one of a kind creations using gold? Can they also acquire extra protection and value?
The golden rule of copyright
Each of the works on display in the Gold exhibition is a unique work of craftsmanship and art. Among the most modern is an Art Deco binding by Pierre-Émile Legrain (1889– 1929) of Colette’s La Vagabonde Paris, 1927. Like nearly all of Legrain’s work, they are one-off, original creations and so are automatically protected by copyright at the time of creation. You can call it the golden rule of copyright: if you create an original work it’s automatically yours to own (or sell). However, as Legrain died over 70 years ago, his work is now in the public domain so can be copied and reused. However, this doesn’t lessen the value of his originals, which sell at impressive prices at auction due to their recognised skill and scarcity.
All that glitters isn’t exactly gold
Gold is so valuable and treasured that anything associated with gold, almost unconsciously takes on this value, conveying a meaning that taps into our shared cultural experience and memory. This is where the modern world of branding has lifted this golden association and taken it into new places, in every kind of trade conceivable!
What do you think of, when you hear ‘golden arches’?
A search on existing registered trade marks is a fascinating look at how everybody wants to be associated with all that’s golden. There are over 1,000 trade marks that begin with the word, ‘gold’. From estate agents to media companies, the tourism sector to restaurants, to name but a few.
This goes to illustrate just how we love all things golden, that the value of a trade mark and its reputation is enough for businesses to invest in their brands with the hope of one day selling or licensing their name. This is IP alchemy taken to another level!
Why gold will always hold its value
But it’s not just the value of gold as a commodity, it’s the versatility of gold that exponentially increases its value. Its value may be in a beautiful jewellery design, a one-off work of art that features gold, an invention to find more gold or the power of association that makes us love a brand or business.
Gold carries a symbolism seen in every culture and time. It’s been considered sacred and it’s been considered profane. It’s inspired the best of our creativity (and sadly the worst of our greed). It is truly timeless and its varying forms are endless.
So next time you see anything golden, remember there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to its value. There’s creative alchemy, and sometimes a little IP.
Jeremy O'Hare, Business & IP Centre IP expert
18 July 2022
News and technology have always needed each other. A history of breaking the news is also a history of the groundbreaking innovations used to deliver it.
Behind the incredible stories and newspapers that published them, in the British Library’s Breaking the News exhibition, is also the story of the complex inter-relationship between publishers, audiences and the society that delivered the innovations behind it.
For the last couple of centuries publishers having been finding new audiences and utilising new technologies to accomplish just one thing; to get news and information in front of people’s eyes in a way that’s commercially sustainable.
Here is a small selection of the technological innovations protected at the time by patents to enable them to do it.
Pre-industrial to industrial printing
China and later Europe lead the way in pre-industrial printing and publishing. But methods of creating and printing text were still comparatively labour intensive. The Gutenberg Press helped to mechanise the process but still relied on hand presses. Nonetheless it helped to satisfy the demands of a growing literate class hungry for new ideas and knowledge.
But it wasn’t until a few centuries later that we had the beginnings of the industrial age and the first machine powered printers. The limitations of hand presses precluded any possible daily newspaper from circulating widely. But between 1810 and 1814 came a breakthrough with German inventor Frederick Koenig’s ‘Printing Machine’ (patent GB 1810 3321) along with a number of other related patents.
The use of the word ‘machine’ itself is noteworthy, as it was a steam powered cylinder press. Some British investors interested in new printing technology who backed Koenig were rewarded with a machine that doubled print volume to 800 impressions per hour on previous technology. The door was now open for subsequent print machinery to develop.
A ready reading audience
By the middle of the 19th Century the first industrial society was emerging in Great Britain with similar changes in the US and Europe. Massive social changes were underway, among them the urbanisation of populations servicing the technologies of the industrial revolution.
Large populations within a comparatively small space meant distribution of information was able to be quicker and more efficient. Furthermore, other technologies and services such as the railway, canal network and the postal service meant a greater interconnecting of people, cities, towns and regions. News could be spread faster and the mass production of newspapers to a mass audience became a reality.
The technology enabled it and publishers, sensing a business opportunity, financed the capital to achieve it. Among the many emerging printing technologies of the time was British inventor, Augustus Applegath, and US inventor, Richard M Hoe.
Applegath can claim credit for inventing the machine that The Times of London was printed on. His invention replaced the previous flatbed printer and the new model was able to print on both sides simultaneously using a rotary technique. This enabled The Times to produce 4,200 prints per hour. A marked improvement in copies and also cost efficiency enabling the paper to expand its reach and influence.
Following close behind Applegath was Roe’s, Improvement in Rotary Printing Presses, (US patent 5199, 1847). Publisher’s put it to good use and bought the technology. Roe’s invention was affectionately known as the ‘lightning press’, generating 8,000 papers per hour. Subsequent improvements meant newspapers could be printed on both sides as well as cut and folded. By the 1870s, technology meant the modern newspaper industry as we knew it for the 20th Century, was born.
The golden age of newspaper printing
The early 20th Century was the golden age of newspaper publishing. The market had matured as huge audiences could be reached. Information could be passed around the world quicker with established communication technologies such as the telegraph and the hunger for daily news was now insatiable. Publishers, now an emerging breed of media barons, could consolidate their ownership over various titles as circulation figures kept rising.
The business model was focused on advertising revenue, keeping the cost of a single paper as low as possible for the consumer. This meant papers could be sold cheaply, or in the eventual case of local papers, delivered freely. All audiences in society had a paper to read, whether it be a broadsheet, red top or somewhere in between.
In the meantime, marginal improvements in technology ensured continuous profitability for the industry. A 1967 US patent (3,314,626) part submitted by the Hearst Publishing Company, essentially improves on the efficiency of paper use in large rolls. The print industry was certainly as efficient as it could be, however, other emerging media technologies began to have their impact.
Mass media and the internet
With radio and TV increasingly dominating the dissemination and delivery of news, advertisers could see their spend more effectively used through these mass media channels.
Scoops, splashes and investigative pieces still kept print media in the public attention and the value of local print news held steady over much of the second half of the 20th Century. However by the year 2000, advertising revenue for newspapers hit their peak and within ten years had sunk to below 1950 levels.
By the turn of the 21st Century, a now established technology called the internet, meant words on a page could now become words on a screen. News could be instantly delivered by newer and smarter ‘reading devices’, or what we now call smartphones and tablets.
The challenge of physical distribution of written content was now history; digital meant instant, anytime, anywhere. The 20th Century newspaper industry now had to become 21st. Some publications have managed the transition to newer forms and different business models. Many haven’t.
News Corp UK & Ireland [GB] patent application EP2747031A1, a method of publishing digital content, 2012, is a fascinating example of an established print media company innovating in the face of rapid technological changes, in this case with tablet formats. The patent attempts to recreate the newspaper column, as a reading experience, to the tablet.
From one challenge to another
At the outset, all of this innovation was focused on solving one challenge; to get as many eyes as possible reading news and information at a price affordable to them and the publisher. The appetite was there and without doubt, technology over the 19th and 20th Century delivered to the audience’s needs.
The challenge of the 21st century is now not distributing content but holding attention. With printed news, posts, tweets and images bombarding us daily through our devices, could there be new innovations enabling us to see what we really want to see? This is the new and emerging business model of the tech companies who now have the lion’s share of advertising revenue.
How will print respond? And are there new innovations around the corner, and new audiences to engage with? Surely, there must be. The news isn’t broken yet.
Jeremy O'Hare, Business & IP Centre IP expert
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