Innovation and enterprise blog

19 May 2020

Happy Birthday Start-ups in London Libraries!

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Earlier this month, Start-ups in London Libraries - our programme designed to take business support out to high streets across London - turned one year old. We originally launched the project on 2 May 2019 at City Hall with an event chaired by our BIPC ambassador Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon and with a keynote speech from Deputy Mayor for Business, Rajesh Agrawal.  Our ambassador, Tim Campbell MBE, who joined our panel discussion on the launch day, summed up the aim of the project: "everyone should have access to this business information and support. Libraries are not only books. They are about connecting people, social mobility, making a real change and impact on people's lives."

Since that day last year, over 1200 aspiring and early-stage entrepreneurs have received support from our team in local libraries across 10 boroughs and have begun to change the face of entrepreneurship across the capital.

Of course, given the current circumstances, we will have to delay our official celebrations for our first birthday, but we couldn't pass up on this opportunity to celebrate some of the incredible early-stage entrepreneurs who have taken part in the programme and become part of the fabric of SiLL. Read on for just some of their stories...

Salma

Photo by Jessica Chia - Salma in her beekeeping outfit
Photo: Jessica Chia

Salma turned her hobby of 10 years - beekeeping - into a successful business. Her company, Bushwood Bees, sells honey, bee-based products and hosts beekeeping experiences at one of her hives on the roof of the East London Mosque. During this period of lockdown, they have been running digital tutorials and demonstrations of beekeeping on social media and continuing to sell their products online.

It was the strong ethos behind her own beekeeping hobby that spurred her to take the leap: "I have always been an advocate of beekeepers sourcing locally reared bees rather then importing so it just made sense that I should supply this growing demand for buying local. This was far more a motivation then anything else."

She used the Start-ups in London Libraries programme to ground her business idea and get it up and running, particularly in terms of technology. About her one-to-ones with our Waltham Forest Business Champion Salma says "Sarah also gave me really good ideas for improving my business plan. It was helpful to have someone with fresh eyes looking at my ideas. She was willing to help put a pitch together, gave really practical advice and was able to give me fresh perspective on parts of my plan that I would not have had otherwise."

"The workshops are immensely helpful when it comes to developing your business ides. The Start-up Champions are great, they have real knowledge and can steer you in the right direction. And if they don’t know, they will they to find out!"

Ahmad

Ahmad Baracat

Ahmad's educational app company, Baracat Bros is going from strength to strength and his product, Foodology has recently been featured on ProductHunt, the go-to platform for launching new products. Designed with the aim of fostering learning through their interactive and engaging nature, Ahmad now has two products - Foodology, which focuses on educating children about nutritional value in foods and Bubblo World, designed for preschool-aged children.

He said about his experience with Start-ups in London Libraries: "I came out of the workshops with actionable advice like how to access funding, how to create a business model canvas and where to find resources to continue learning... Loretta [our Start-ups in London Libraries Greenwich Business Champion] is building a business community for people who want to pursue their own businesses and need the practical knowledge and the support network to do so successfully. I really believe that such communities are invaluable for anyone building their own business."

Warda

Loretta and Warda in Woolwich Library

While studying speech therapy, Warda noticed how much of it didn't take into account culture and family background. Aiming to change the one-size-fits-all that she was witnessing, she started Language Waves, providing a fully-accessible and culturally diverse speech therapy service. Since registering her business (after taking part in the Start-ups in London Libraries workshops) she has been able to trademark her training manual, been awarded several funding grants to help further her business and received multiple top notch testimonials for her work. 

Her local SiLL Business Champion, Loretta, helped her through the start-up stage: "I see her when I’m at different stages of the business. Her feedback helps me plan, focus and set realistic expectations for myself. Also her belief in my business has motivated me as she has brought out the best in me. I meet lots of people who want to start their own business and I always refer them to the SILL programme and Loretta. This is because it’s so accessible, well set up, and you know that you are getting advice and support from people who know what they are doing."

You can read more about Warda and her SiLL experience here

Charlie

Charlie Boyd

Charlie Boyd’s business, Firm Feet, focuses on various sessions to achieve movement and connection with your own body: "I recognised that movement was something I required for healing and liberating myself. I love dance and the type where I could feel as free as possible and let go. So I designed a session drawing on my qualifications and experiences that I knew worked for me so would surely help others." Her focus is on improving mental and physical health through movement and she has recently pivoted to develop audio sessions for people to use during this time of heightened anxiety (also designed with the aim of lessening people's screen time!)

Discussing her one-to-one advice sessions with the Waltham Forest Champion, Sarah, she says "Sarah has been instrumental in helping me gain clarity on moving forward and valuing myself. She always goes above and beyond supplying me with important documentation and hints and tips. I would say to anyone to not hesitate going to speak to your latest representative, there are only things to gain by doing so."

Sol

LBN crop

Sol and her husband are big fans of amateur basketball and her husband even coaches a team. Trying to rectify the poor experience of amateur basketball tournaments they were experiencing, they started London Basketball Nation. After setting up their company "just in case it worked", Sol organised a short tournament in June that year to test the waters. Teams decided to give them a chance and a 7-month tournament followed. They celebrated their first full year as a company in March. Sol says "we are looking forward to expanding our reach and have not only more teams but also a Women’s division." 

"Start-ups in London Libraries' helped us see the organisation as a business rather than something to do on weekends. This is my first experience as an entrepreneur and I had to learn a lot about legal and financial aspects of a business in the UK; networking; social media… you name it! There is a lot of information out there, so much that can be not just overwhelming but also misleading so the SiLL project served as a guide. I would have loved knowing about the project from day one."

Usman

Usman, founder of Haven Coffee

Haven Coffee is a socially-conscious coffee company. Each cup of Haven Coffee bought supports refugee communities across the UK, providing barista training for refugees building new lives for themselves in the UK. The Haven team also organise events to promote refugee artists and creatives. Usman, the founder of Haven, has recently introduced a virtual coffee scheme allowing customers to purchase a coffee in advance. And many of their events, including their art exhibition have moved online. 

Usman took part in our first round of workshops and has received support from our Waltham Forest Champion, as well as from TERN (The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network).

Oz

Oz, founder of The Scissors of Oz

Oz is the proud owner of The Scissors of Oz, a creative hair and healing Hub in Peckham. Her ethos goes beyond hair, providing a space for other womxn to test business ideas in collaboration with her and her space, exchanging skills and running workshops. A fundamental part of the business's ethos is 'breaking stigmas of conventional pursuits of “beauty”.

Oz is preparing for re-opening when she is able to and explains "my next step for our relaunch is to introduce more sustainable ways of hairdressing , use of products and services. I'm aiming to look into new ways of reusing items for environmental benefits and sustainability, as well as running workshops to empower people through hair."

She used Start-ups in London Libraries in Southwark saying "the SiLL project has given me the confidence and support every new business owner needs especially if you are going at it alone. My mentor Dean is very understanding and experienced and he is there to guide me with every step I take. It’s nice to have someone by your side who really cares about getting you to where you want to be."

Channing

Channing Cloirec

As a 21 year old with English as a second language, accessibility was a key consideration for Channing Cloirec when taking part in any sort of business support programme: "I'm not well-placed to start any business without experience in the UK. SiLL is the best way to find exactly what you need with reactivity. Without SiLL I wouldn't have been able to realize the formalities of the company."

Channing's car export business, Channing's Shining Cars, is continuing to grow and develop. Since registering in July 2019 he has built a healthy profit margin, and displayed impressive growth of his business, including recently selling his 15th car! His new venture is called Pops n Bangs, a car lottery. 

Aleksandra

Aleksandra Horwood

After being made redundant, Aleksandra was looking for ways of using her practical skills and passion for yoga into something that could provide a salary. Focusing on our ever-increasing older population, her idea was to create a specialised yoga and meditation programme to improve the quality of life for this demographic. She wanted to create a different environment for older yoga lovers, making it less intimidating, more welcoming and focusing on exercises that would help specifically with mobility. She has recently adapted her business, Happy Stance Yoga, to offer Zoom sessions for older isolated people to help with fall prevention and ensure they are getting their daily exercise.

And just a few weeks ago, Aleksandra ran a stretching and meditation session for our SiLL team to help us during this high-pressure time, so we can testify to her ability as a guide!

She says: "I attended all the SiLL workshops and it was breath-taking how in no time I learned about all the practicalities so I could move on and test my business idea. So many people have ideas, but they do not know there is a treasure box in the reach of their fingertips. It is free and highly professional, effective and tailored-made for each individual, each business idea." 

Moses

An example t-shirt from Moses' collection - Carib Brit

Moses launched his Greater BRiTs campaign at the Start-ups in London Libraries Greenwich Christmas start-up market, which took place at Woolwich Library last year, after taking part in the core SiLL workshops. "These two workshops gave me invaluable information on the support available to business start-ups, most of it free of charge. As a result of information I received from the workshops, I was able to successfully trademark and protect my BRiT logo."

Moses explains: "the Greater BRiTs campaign came about as a positive response to heal a divided Britain from the feeling of general anxiety about the future of the UK post the Brexit referendum.  The British people have the creativity, inventiveness, energy, perseverance and resilience to see Britain thrive." Moses developed Greater BRiTs with the mission of "celebrating Britain's Unity, Inclusivity and Diversity". Moses has designed a BRiT t-shirt with over 300 customised messages to reflect the diversity of the British lifestyles, personalities, professions and communities.

We may not be currently in your local library but the Start-ups in London Libraries workshops are now all online. Visit bl.uk/SiLL for all the information and to register for the next round of free webinars. 

This programme is run in collaboration with ten London boroughs: Bexley, Croydon, Greenwich, Haringey, Lambeth, Lewisham, Newham, Southwark, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest.

SiLL_logo_lockups_CMYK

 

04 May 2020

Book and podcast recommendations from the BIPC team

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Missing our collections and the lovely members of the team who can help you navigate your way through them? Following on from the book recommendations from our BIPC entrepreneurs for World Book Night last week, we also asked our BIPC team for any suggestions of books, podcasts or online content which you may want to explore during this period. Here are their suggestions of what to get stuck into:

Meron, Business and IP Reference Specialist

In terms of books, She Means Business by Carrie Green is great – it’s insightful, gets you into a 'success' mindset and has amazing 'actions' at the end of every chapter. 

For podcasts, I really like Start-up Stories by Andrew Warner. You get to hear the stories of many amazing entrepreneurs, through all the ups and downs. It’s very useful for visualising how you can overcome struggles yourself. 

The Influencer Podcast is also very good. It is shorter, which I like, and Julie Solomon covers some great topics that would help any entrepreneur at any stage. 

Lola, Subject Librarian in the Business & IP Centre

Testing business ideas: a field guide for rapid experimentation by David J. Bland/Alex Osterwalder. This book explains how systematically testing business ideas dramatically reduces the risk and increases the likelihood of success for any new venture or business project. The visuals/designs make the book fun to read and easy to understand.

Plus, you can find more information on business ideas at https://startups.co.uk/business-ideas/.

Crafts have surged during this period and as a result Crafts Magazine has selected a range of craft-related podcasts to inspire and inform you.

And then if you discover an undiscovered talent that could be the basis of a business, the winner of the Best Start-Up Inspiration Book Award at the 2019 Business Book Awards, The Creative’s Guide to Starting a Business: How to Turn Your Talent into a Career by Harriet Kelsall takes you through the very first steps of defining creative and financial success to ultimately establishing a rewarding start-up.

Neil, Manager of Business & IP Centre

A couple of oldies but goodies that I recommend are:

Loretta, Start-ups in London Libraries Champion, Greenwich

In terms of business podcasts that I recommend for people to listen to I would suggest:

  • Hustle – I have to admit to a vested interest here, as I host this myself with my co-host Farah, but we aim to focus on exploring the business journeys, trials and wins of underrepresented entrepreneurs.
  • Championing Women’s Voices hosted by June Sarpong
  • Nick Bradley’s Scale Up Your Business
  • Lead to win with Michael Hyatt & Megan Hyatt Miller

I also think Andyshvc (a startup investment coach) is great to follow on Instagram.

Members of staff
Loretta, Neil and Mark

Nigel, Research and Business Dev Manager

Two that are worth mentioning, particularly at this moment in time are:

  • Value proposition design by Alexander Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur, Gregory Bernarda, Alan Smith - a very useful approach to assessing changing needs and priorities at a time of massive disruption and developing products and services that meet these needs.  Also an effective process for assessing and revising existing business developments. Feels very topical!
  • Lean customer development: building products your customers will buy by Cindy Alvarez – this showcases really practical approaches to engaging with customers to find out how their needs and experiences are changing.

Gloria, National Network Co-ordinator Apprentice

There's a book I recently read She's Back by Lisa Unwin and Deb Khan.  It's aimed at women who had taken a break in their career (mostly because of motherhood, but also for those who took a break later in life for any other reason). It’s very uplifting and has plenty of resources and practical tips.

Mark, Start-ups in London Libraries Champion, Lewisham

In terms of books – everyone should read Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I would also recommend following the Financial Times and Bloomberg on Instagram.

Alex, BIPC Sheffield

There are some good podcasts coming from Courier at the moment, especially in reaction to the current situation.

Remi, Business Programmes Manager

I have so many recommendations:

  • Profit First by Mike Michalowicz – I think this is a must read for any business. It will have you thinking about finance and operating your business with an exit plan from day dot.
  • Any book by by Seth Godin – he makes all businesses think a little further outside of the box.
  • The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick – a book on how to talk to customers and figure if your business is a good idea when everyone else is lying to you. For me, this is an absolute must-read before investing into your business.

In terms of podcasts, I like Founders Clinic by Andy Ayim and Nana Parry – a podcast where underrepresented entrepreneurs openly and honestly discuss their companies.

Vanesa, Innovating for Growth Project Manager

I recently watched a Netflix TV series called Self Made about Madam C. J. Walker, the first female self-made millionaire in America. She was an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and a political and social activist. She was also a black lady which back in the 1900s in the US adds even more merit to what she achieved. It's still so topical, it even covers the struggles for women to get funding! I found it very inspirational, so if you were looking for something to watch these days, I strongly recommend it. 

Clare, Strategic Partnerships Manager

Some of our BIPC Ambassadors have been involved in some great content. For example, Paul Lindley's book, Little Wins is very apt for current times. Plus, our Entrepreneur in Residence, Julie Deane was interviewed for the BBC podcast The Disruptors. Her discussion with Kamal Ahmed and Rohan Silva really was a great piece - she was on top brutally honest form!

26 April 2020

Will Intellectual Property provide ‘the cure’ for Covid-19?

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The world is waiting for a breakthrough. Global attention is on the discovery and manufacture of an effective vaccine against Covid-19. Today is also World Intellectual Property day, so right now, all intellectual property (IP) related to treatments and vaccines is of intense interest.

And this is where it gets interesting and complicated.

There are some big questions about what existing and emerging IP can be deployed to create a vaccine to help solve the Covid-19 crisis and how that is done within the existing laws protecting IP.

Though one thing about finding a solution is clear, there is no single government or company that has all the know-how or answers. Some form of working collaboration between government, research institutions and private industry will be required. And this may even need to be international.

So agreements around IP rights will be key to how a vaccine is developed.

Out of all the five forms of Intellectual Property (patents, trademarks, design right, copyright, trade secrets) recognised around the world, developments in patents and trade secrets are taking centre stage.

So why patents?

Patents

A patent is granted by a government authority (we’ll see why this is important) to an inventor giving them the right for a limited time (usually 20 years) to prevent others from making, using or selling the invention. Patents must meet two important criteria; it must be an innovative step on what has gone before and not disclosed.

Many vaccines are made up of multiple patents because a vaccine itself is a biological preparation containing differing ingredients. How those different ingredients are composed is the innovation and therefore where the patents sit.

Drew-hays-tGYrlchfObE-unsplash

 

As a form of intellectual property, patents can be sold or licensed to others to the benefit of the owner. Patent rights can also be waived if the inventor so chooses.

Could these rights then be waived in the interests of speedily creating a vaccine? And would companies do this voluntarily? The big issue for them is the cost incurred in developing those patents licenced for use in a vaccine and this may prove to be too great a disincentive.

Governments may also look at their options.

Governments and IP

One extreme scenario are compulsory licences. Because patents are a state granted right, governments under exceptional circumstances can, if they choose, assert rights over ownership and manufacture to third parties.

In fact a number of countries are actively pursuing this route. Among them Germany, Canada, Chile and Israel. Other provisions are covered under UK law for the use of patented inventions for services to the Crown. The question is whether this provision will need to be called upon.

And what company would even want to be named as having their IP requisitioned?

It would also be assumed that such exceptional intervention would involve some compensation to patent holders.

So might companies and research institutions voluntarily share information?

Trade Secrets

This is where another form of IP is crucial in the hunt for a vaccine against Covid-19; trade secrets. This IP is as simple as it sounds. Companies in the course of their activities may acquire know-how that gives them a competitive advantage. This know-how is so important that knowledge of it is protected and bound by confidentiality to those working with it.

Companies and research institutions working in drug and vaccine discovery work with multiple forms of trade secrets.

Patents alone won’t resolve the challenge of creating a vaccine, there need to be trade secrets such as gene sequencing, manufacturing methodology and a whole host of other forms of data required in vaccine development that may even include business modeling and pricing.

Ibrahim-boran-zsKFQs2kDpM-unsplash

Therefore companies and institutions will have knowledge that will need to be voluntarily revealed in any form of collaboration and I'd expect under specific conditions of agreement.

And some are moving in this direction.

Collaboration is Key

Recent discussion of creating a patent pool of shared patents to help in the fight against Covid-19 has gained some traction. The Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado Quesada has initiated the call for a medicines patent pool available for free or licensed on reasonable terms, as well as the sharing of other data. This has been endorsed by the WHO.

So much is happening in the fight against Covid-19 that a complete list of current collaborations across the world has been produced and can be found on the Milken Institute who are compiling all the current treatments and vaccines in the pipeline.

Another organisation, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI) is an ‘innovative global partnership between public, private, philanthropic and civil society organisations’. This overseeing body is co-ordinating funding and deploying it. CEPI has helped fund the recent Oxford University vaccine.

They are also collaborating with GlaxoSmithKline who own the patent to an important adjuvant to enhance the effectiveness of any vaccine.

CEPI is an example of how public, individual, research institutions and the private sector are coalescing and co-ordinating their responses to Covid-19. The fruits of this provide some cause for optimism for finding a workable vaccination that benefits all contributors.It’s an indication of where we may be heading in terms of how IP is shared in such unusual times.

‘Where there’s a will there’s a way’ couldn’t be truer in our urgent need to find a vaccine against Covid-19. And the way will require a significant collaboration of IP, public and private interest. Something the world will hope for more of this World IP Day. 

If you’re seeking to find out more about how intellectual property can work for you or your business you can access our series of free webinars at https://www.bl.uk/events?audience=business

Jeremy O’Hare is an Information Expert in Intellectual Property at the British Library.

21 April 2020

National Tea Day with HumaniTea

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With National Tea Day taking place on the 21 April, we caught up with Innovating for Growth: Mentoring alumna, Tina Chen, about her business HumaniTea, a tea beverage social enterprise that supports wellbeing and sustainability initiatives.

Tina Chen

As a Taiwanese-American living in London, Tina was inspired by Taiwanese bubble tea and British tea drinking culture and decided to create the UK’s first plant-based tea lattes. Prior to launching HumaniTea, Tina worked as a Technology Consultant, performing project management activities for large-scale software implementations. After consulting for three years, she began her MBA journey at Imperial College Business School, where she honed in on innovation, social impact, and sustainability modules. Tina shares, “With my love for a quality cuppa and my desire to make a positive impact on society, I made a career switch from IT to just tea and incorporated HumaniTea in December 2018.”

Tina used the British Library’s Business & IP Centre (BIPC) to search for consumer research reports on the tea market, including Mintel and Euromonitor, which are available for free to Business & IP Centre users. “The market research reports provided me with valuable information about market size that would have taken me months and large amounts of money to gather if I only conducted primary research. Through secondary research, I learned about market trends for ready-to-drink tea, plant-based milks, and low-sugar soft drinks.”

In the UK, the soft drink sector is booming with sales valued at £15 billion. The flavoured milk drink and milk alternative sales are valued at £538 million, ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee sales are valued at £146 million, and RTD tea sales are valued at £23 million. Tina explains, “Consumers desire organic RTD tea with low sugar or health benefits. There is an expected increase in the range of RTD tea, like matcha and kombucha, as consumers search for heathier alternatives to RTD coffee and energy drinks. In fact, 1/3 of UK adults think cold tea is a good alternative to other soft drinks.”

As well as the health benefits (all her flavours Matcha, Earl Grey, and Rooibos, contain low sugar and calories, exclude preservatives, artificial flavours, or any additives), ethical sourcing and sustainability are at the heart of HumaniTea. Their teas come in paper bags from Fairtrade, organic farms, oat milk is used instead of dairy as oat milk is one of the most eco-friendly milks available and making one cup of tea requires less water usage and releases less CO2 emissions than making one cup of coffee.

Besides performing market research, Tina also attended several events at the BIPC, including the monthly Inventors’ Club special food edition. “During these events, I exchanged networks with fellow entrepreneurs and gained knowledge on intellectual property, especially trade mark protection.”

Humanitea logo

However, registering her intellectual property hasn’t been a straightforward process. Four months after filing for four trade marks in December 2018, Tina received a cease and desist letter from the soft drink producer Schweppes. Now in a cooling off period until late 2020, Tina has gone on to file for a fifth trade mark and has successfully crowdfunded over £10,000 through the NatWest x Crowdfunder Back Her Business Programme. This will allow Tina to scale-up manufacturing and pursue a rebrand with the newly filed trade mark, HumaniTea. “Showing humanity is displaying compassion and kindness towards others, so as a social enterprise, we felt the name HumaniTea really embodied our business selling tea lattes to make a positive impact on society and the environment.”

HumaniTea Tea Lattes

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, HumaniTea lattes were available at Imperial College London and farmers’ markets, like Borough Market. “As we possessed an offline presence, new social distancing rules meant that we could no longer trade at our main points of sale. We are using this time wisely to develop our brand image with a professional designer and prepare for production with a contract manufacturing partner as we scale-up from commercial kitchen production.”

Tina continues to engage with consumers via the brand’s social media platforms (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn). “In unprecedented times with unknown outcomes, I’m doing my best as Chief Tea Officer to form contingency plans and remain both realistic and optimistic at the same time. In 2020, we plan on manufacturing our vegan tea lattes in a factory and delivering all the pre-orders of our tea lattes and HumaniTea merchandise that we received through our crowdfunding campaign. We will continue our discussions with retailers and distributors and hope to bring our tea lattes to supermarkets, universities, office canteens, and online environments in the near future!”

Borough Market stand

Tina has also participated in the BIPC’s Innovating for Growth Mentoring Programme. “I was matched with a fantastic mentor Sam Duong, the CEO of Ming Foods, who helps guide and motivate me through his 16 years of experience in the food manufacturing industry. Through our mentoring relationship, I have gained so much knowledge on manufacturing, contracts, supply chain, sales, margins, cash flow models, and team management. Discussing with my mentor my company goals and desires for scaling-up my start-up, I feel confident about my business decisions with strong foundations in place. Sam challenges me to think beyond the present and prepare for the future, allowing me to grow and develop my entrepreneurial skills and focus on my goals. At one of our mentoring meetings, I visited Ming Foods state-of-the-art factory, where they produce duck pancakes and bao buns that are sold both domestically and internationally. I am inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit of Sam and the success of Ming Foods and have truly benefited from the Innovating for Growth Mentoring Programme. I aim to also grow HumaniTea and achieve UK-wide and international sales and bring the drink that’s good for humanity to our global community!”

 

To find out more about the Innovating for Growth: Mentoring Programme, visit our website. You can also book on to our free IP and business virtual one-to-ones with the BIPC reference team. Book your slot here.

27 March 2020

A message from the BIPC

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British Library from Pullman Hotel (Credit Tony Antoniou) resized
Photo credit: Tony Antoniou

Since 2006 our doors have been open to everyone.  Throughout this time our mission has remained constant: to help businesses to innovate and grow, and to diversify and democratise entrepreneurship across the country through our free and low-cost support from our base at the British Library, and, more recently, across ten London boroughs and our national network of BIPCs.

Like you, only a couple of weeks ago we were also looking ahead to scaling-up and developing our services, with a central government investment in the regional expansion of business support via libraries, enabling us to reach both the high street and rural areas. Now, like you, we are adapting to the new and changing patterns of our lives. In these unprecedented times, we, at the British Library and our partner libraries, find ourselves spread out in our own homes and unable to offer our normal face-to-face support.

But opportunities remain. Technology keeps our network of libraries working together with our expertise and resources pooled. It also keeps us connected with you and, during this time, we are providing many of our normal workshops as webinars, and free online one-to-ones will soon replace walk-ins and meetings. We are also working on developing content that is relevant to these unique and uncertain times. Please do make sure that you are following us for the latest updates, including additions to our schedules and our offering. As you will have seen in the news over the past weeks, the business landscape is changing at a rapid pace and we, along with our service delivery partners, are working to be as reactive as possible to the impact these developments will have on small businesses.

An extremely important  group in our community are the fellow advisors and presenters who work with us, running the workshops and events. I’d like to use this moment to personally thank all of them, especially as we  look at transforming our services together, to ensure we can continue to offer our support during this period.

More so than ever, we know how important it is for us to stay connected with our users and to provide support through the training and mentoring that we can still offer you. Our doors remain open – in the virtual sense for now -  and we’ll listen to you across social media and through our helplines to inform what it is you need us to be in the coming weeks and months.

We remain committed to the success of new start-up businesses using our services, as well as the well-being of the courageous entrepreneurs who lead them.  Despite the multiple hurdles ahead, we will  be here to help you keep your ambitions alive.

Isabel Oswell

Head of Business Support Services

02 March 2020

Getting to grips with IP: Back to basics

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We asked Briffa, a boutique IP law firm based at the Business Design Centre in Islington, who are specialist IP lawyers and Business & IP Centre delivery partners, to unravel the confusion and complexities around IP…

Éamon Chawke
Éamon Chawke, Partner at Briffa

IP is like spaghetti. A big tangled mess. We frequently hear people say things like “I want to trade mark my idea!” (you can’t) or “how do I patent my business model?” (you can’t) or “I paid you to design something, so surely I own the copyright!?” (not necessarily). It’s only when we untangle the spaghetti and get to grips with the individual rights that sit underneath that umbrella term that we can hope to discover how intellectual property can be used to protect the fruits of our creative labour. So here are a few basics to get started:

What is intellectual property?

Intellectual Property, or IP, is an umbrella term we use to describe a collection of rights which, broadly speaking, allow people to control the use of their creations. The common thread that runs through all IP rights is that their value derives, in part at least, from the ability of the IP owner to exercise monopoly control over what they have created. Or, to put it another way, to stop someone else from using their stuff.

What are the main IP rights?

The four main statutory IP rights are:

  • Copyright - which allows the creators of literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and other creative works to prevent third parties from copying or otherwise using their works without authorisation
  • Trade marks - which allow the owners of brand assets such as names, logos, slogans and jingles to prevent competitors from using those brand assets without authorisation
  • Design rights - which allow product designers to prevent others from using their designs without authorisation
  • Patents - which allow inventors to prevent others from using their inventions without authorisation.

How do I get these IP rights?

There are two main categories of IP rights, registrable and unregistrable. As the name suggests, registrable IP rights are rights that require registration in order to secure protection. Conversely, registration is neither necessary nor possible in the case of unregistrable rights. Instead, those rights simply arise automatically.

What are the registrable rights?

The main registrable rights are:

  • Patents
  • Trade marks
  • Registered designs.

In the case of these three rights, protection normally starts from the date the application is filed (not the date the registration process is completed, which in the case of trade marks might be a number of months after the application is filed and in the case of patents might be a number of years after the application is filed). Patent protection normally lasts for 20 years and renewal payments must normally be made annually to maintain the patent.

Trade mark protection lasts forever provided that renewal payments are made every 10 years.

Registered design rights last for a maximum of 25 years and renewal payments must be made every five years.

What are the unregistrable rights?

The main two unregistrable rights are copyright and design rights. In the case of UK unregistered rights (copyright and UK unregistered design rights) protection arises automatically from the moment of creation, usually in favour of the creator. Copyright usually lasts until 70 years after the death of the creator of the work (though the term of protection is shorter for some categories of work). UK unregistered design rights last for 15 years from the date the design is created or 10 years from the date the design is first made public, whichever occurs first. EU unregistered designs rights last for 3 years from the date the design is first made public in the EU.

Copyright protection ‘usually’ arises in favour of the creator? Huh?

Yes, the default position under English copyright law is that the creator of a work is the first and automatic owner of the copyright in that work. However, there is a major statutory exception to that rule. If the creator of that work is acting in the course of their employment, then copyright rests automatically with the employer and not the employee. In many cases, an employment contract will contain an IP clause confirming that the employer and not the employee will own any IP created or developed by the employee in the course of their employment.

But surely if I pay someone to design my logo I own the copyright, no?

Not necessarily. As above, the default position is that the creator of a work owns the copyright in that work unless they are an employee acting in the course of their employment. So if you pay a freelance artist to design a logo, no, you will not necessarily own the copyright in the logo (even if you have paid them). Depending on the circumstances, you may have an implied right (licence) to use the copyright but an implied licence is not the same as full ownership and if you want to secure full ownership of the copyright in your logo you must have a written copyright assignment signed by the artist.

What about ideas generally? How are those protected?

IP rights generally do not protect ideas. They protect the expression of ideas. For example:

  • Copyright protects artistic works (i.e. the physical expression or manifestation of an idea such as a photograph of a bridge taken at sunset), but it does not protect the idea or concept behind the artistic work (i.e. the idea of taking a photograph of a bridge at sunset)
  • Design rights protect the appearance of products (i.e. the shape and surface decoration on a piece of furniture), but they do not protect the idea or concept behind the appearance of the product (e.g. a rustic style or a modern style of furniture)
  • Patents protect inventive products and processes (i.e. a new technical invention for automatically locking a car using a sensor), but they do not protect the idea or concept behind the invention (e.g. the idea of having cars lock automatically upon a sensor going out of range of a vehicle)
  • Trade marks protect specific brand identifiers (i.e. a particular word, logo, strapline, colour or shape that customers use to identify the brand), but they do not protect the idea or concept behind the brand identifier (a particular style adopted by a range of brand identifiers).

So there is no way to protect an idea or concept?

The best way to protect an idea or a concept is to keep it confidential and control its disclosure by ensuring that anyone you share the idea or concept with signs a non-disclosure agreement (or NDA) which contractually precludes them from sharing the information publicly or taking the information and using it for their own purpose. A famous example of information which has retained its value by virtue of its confidentiality is the recipe for Coca-Cola. Its value does not derive from the fact that that the recipe is patented, or from any other registration. Its value derives from the fact that it is a very closely guarded trade secret.

What about ‘taking inspiration’ from someone else’s work? Does that infringe their IP?

Big question, short answer. It depends. All IP rights have different legal test for what constitutes infringement and these different legal tests therefore determine the scope of protection afforded to the IP owner. So let’s take a look at two examples: infringement of copyright and infringement of registered design rights.

Infringement of copyright

The test for infringement under English law is whether or not the alleged infringer has copied the ‘whole or a substantial part’ of the original copyright work. If the whole or a substantial part of the actual original work has been copied (e.g. the specific artistic pattern) then there is a likely a case to be made for copyright infringement. If the whole or a substantial part of the original work has not been taken (e.g. the specific pattern has not been copied but only the concept/idea/style of the pattern has been taken) then it is less likely that there is a case to be made for copyright infringement.

Infringement of registered design rights

The test for infringement under English law is whether or not the alleged infringer has created a product which creates ‘the same overall impression’ as the earlier registered design. If it does (e.g. the two pieces of furniture create the same overall impression from the perspective of an informed user e.g. a furniture enthusiast) then there is likely a case to be made for design infringement. If it does not (e.g. the two pieces of furniture are somewhat similar but they do not create the same overall impression such that an informed user e.g. a furniture enthusiast would very easily tell them apart) then it is less likely that there is a case to be made for design infringement.

So I might get into trouble by simply taking inspiration from the world around me? Madness!

Well, the first point to bear in mind is that in these situations the specific facts of the case are crucially important. 

With copyright, a court would look at the most creative/important bits of the earlier design. If those bits have been copied, the court might find that the infringement claim is made out (even if those most creative/important bits only make up a minority of the overall earlier design i.e. the test for copyright infringement is more qualitative than quantitative).

Similarly, with design infringement, the court would look at the things like any existing designs, which might be very similar to the earlier design. If there are lots of similar designs out there, the scope of protection of the earlier design will be narrower (i.e. limited to the differences between all the other similar designs); whereas if there are not, and therefore the earlier design is quite unusual/novel, the scope of protection will be broader.

In the final analysis, it is better to be inspired by concepts, themes and/or ideas if possible, and to develop a new creative work based on those concepts, themes and/or ideas. If you start by copying an existing creative work and modifying it here and there in an attempt to put distance between the old work and the new work, you run the risk of incorporating into the new design elements from the old design which will quite obviously be the result of copying rather than coincidence.

My head hurts, what now?

IP is not just like spaghetti, it’s a veritable spaghetti monster with issues too complex for Oprah. My advice: take advice. The British Library’s Business & IP Centre offers a wealth of advice and resources to businesses and individuals who are trying to wrap their head around their IP. Take a look at the website to find out more.

Similarly, Briffa is always happy to take your call/meeting and give you a steer on any IP issue. Contact 020 7288 6003 or email to book a free consultation.

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28 January 2020

What's your New Year's Resolution for 2020?

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We have been speaking to some of our  BIPC businesses as part of our brand new #HighStreetHeroes feature on Instagram. Every Monday you will find insight into their business journey, their best pieces of business advice and you will also have the opportunity to ask them any burning questions you may have. Make sure to follow us to find out more about our buzzing community of entrepreneurs. In the meantine, as January is all about self-reflection, evaluation and setting aims, read on to hear more about some of our High Street Heroes' New Year's Resolutions, and how they are hoping that these targets can help their business: 

Amanda, I Can Make Shoes

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'My 2020 resolution’s to plan my workdays in 1-hour increments the night before. This increases my productivity massively. I’m also going to meditate in the mornings. This helps me keep a light-hearted happy attitude throughout the day.'

Lauren, Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium

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'This year, I've set myself the New Year's Resolution of improving our sustainability practices, particularly when it comes to waste management, the chemicals we use in the cafe and reducing packaging use where we can for merchandise. Maintaining a stable and responsible business is always the goal for us: the hospitality sector and High Street in general are quite volatile and our goal is to continue to do what we are doing to maintain our current strength.'

Chloe and Abigail, Buttercrumble

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'We tend not to set New Year's Resolutions. However, we do follow a mantra: refocus, refresh and restart. The quietness of January always offers an opportunity for personal and business development.'

Joe, Krio Kanteen

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'My New Year's Resolution for 2020 is to not be so possessive over my business. I've realised that sharing responsibilities can be really beneficial for business growth. The trading of ideas and expertise also keeps things fresh and allows your business to remain innovative.'

Mickela, HR Sports Academy

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'This year, I'm setting myself 2 New Year's Resolutions:

1. Stop being a control freak and trying to do everything myself

This year I will become better at delegating tasks to other members of staff and up-skilling people within the organisation to help ensure that I do not get overwhelmed with workload and I stay focused on developing the business 

2. Take more time out for self care

Doing simple things like getting my nails done, having facial and massages, mediating and working out to enable me to relax, recharge and refocus. Physical and mental well-being is so important for everyone, and with the demands of running a business it’s easy to forget to do the little things which will prevent you from burning out.'

Natalie, Acacia Facilities

Natalie

'This year, I'm going to step out of my comfort zone to develop new beginnings within my personal and business life, exploring new abilities to create a better life balance.'

You can find our #HighStreetHeroes feature on our Instagram page every Monday. 

24 January 2020

New business services around the Business & IP Centre National Network

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If you aren’t based in London you can still access many of the Business & IP Centre’s resources around the UK as part of our National Network. Over 3,700 activities were delivered in 2019 and over 13,500 entrepreneurs helped outside of the Capital.

Our Centres have expanded their services in 2019 and have some exciting plans for 2020…

BIPC Birmingham

You will be able to attend new workshops and networking events at BIPC Birmingham in partnership with University of Birmingham Business School, Make it Your Business and X-Forces.

From 2020 there will be a regular series of workshops and one-to-one business advice clinics. The activities are scheduled for the 2nd Wednesday, 3rd Thursday and 4th Friday of every month.

BIPC Brighton & Hove

A new pilot Centre for 2019 and will be launching fully in 2020.

BIPC Cambridge & Peterborough

If you are a local business owner or an aspiring entrepreneur in Cambridge, you will be able to go along to regular Coffee Mornings in 2020, which offer a relaxed and friendly space to meet each other and explore what the BIPC can offer.

BIPC Glasgow

Our first Centre outside of England, BIPC Glasgow has expanded their existing offer to develop new partnerships to create an Experts in Residence programme, which includes Business Gateway, Business Advisors in Residence, Jobs & Business Glasgow, Business Advisors in Residence, SnapDragon IP: Entrepreneur in Residence, Creation IP: IP Attorneys in Residence and Gilson Gray: Legal Advisers in Residence.

A new project will launch in 2020, Making Digital Work for Micro-business, funded by the JP Morgan Power-Up fund.

The Mitchell Library

BIPC Hull

If you are looking for a one-stop business hub, look no further. Hull Central Library has rapidly expanded their business offer in 2019, bringing the Business & IP Centre, new Makerspace, new Business Lounge and an on-site café all under the same roof.

They have a busy 2020 ahead as well after securing ESIF funding for a community-led local development project to provide targeted business support to communities in the most deprived areas of the city. The team has also secured ERDF funding for the Innovate Humber project, which aims to encourage more businesses in the Humber area to participate in research and development.

BIPC Leeds

Are you a regular attendee of our Inspiring Entrepreneur events in Leeds? The team have developed a new format for their live screenings, which allows more time for networking, and features talks and a panel discussion with local speakers. That’s not all, the team have also developed several new workshops on topics including Etsy and Innovation.

In 2020, building on their partnership with the Santander Work Café, BIPC Leeds will be working with Liz Jowett to deliver one-to-one advice sessions on business planning and banking.

Leeds Central Library

BIPC Liverpool

After hosting their first Start-up conference in partnership with the Women’s Organisation in 2019, they will be holding another on Wednesday 26 February 2020.

Liverpool’s Entrepreneur in Residence, Gary Millar, is celebrating his fifth anniversary at BIPC Liverpool. In this time, he and his team of volunteer specialist mentors have advised over 1,600 individuals starting or growing a business. Gary Millar is Deputy Mayor of Liverpool & Mayoral Lead For Business & International Relations.

Gary Millar

After growing his own IT and marketing businesses, he is now co-owner of Parr Street Studios (hotel, recording studios, bars and offices).

When he launched his weekly business clinic Gary explained, “I have a passion for business and a unique understanding of what entrepreneurs and businesses can go through. My role is to listen, inspire, motivate and steer people to hopefully the right kind of support.

“It’s been a great year for business in Liverpool and we have been excited to see so many bright, enthusiastic entrepreneurs coming to see us at the library’s Business & IP Centre, in search of the boost they may need to get their business grow and under way. Interestingly they don’t just come from Liverpool but as far afield as Yorkshire and Wales! Thank you to them all for taking that bold step in reaching out for help.”

BIPC Manchester

Are you a social enterprise in Manchester? BIPC Manchester will house a second branch of the Human Lending Library®, a programme where social entrepreneurs looking for business advice can ‘borrow’ one of Expert Impact’s experts, for free, to help them solve their challenges and scale fast.

Manchester will also be launching a new lunchtime networking session on the last Thursday of every month, hosted by start-up coach Patrick Lauroul.

BIPC Newcastle

Could self-employment be for you? BIPC Newcastle has developed closer relationships with Skills Hub, a City Council project providing employability and skills support and also based in Newcastle City Library. The BIPC team, Skills Hub and other local Start-up support agencies are developing advice sessions for individuals looking at self-employment as a way back into work.

BIPC Norfolk

BIPC Norfolk has expanded their services to King’s Lynn and Thetford libraries, with Great Yarmouth launching this month. As well as expanding their locations, they have also extended their partnership programme to include the DWP Self Employment Team, the Princes’ Trust Enterprise Programme, Teachers Learning Network, People From Abroad Team (Norfolk County Council), Norfolk Enterprise Festival and Pinnacle People as well as existing partners - Menta Business advisors, New Anglia Growth Hub, Leathes Prior (legal advisors), Larking Gowen (accountancy), UEA Alumni, Economic development Team (NCC), Hethel Innovation and the Norfolk Chambers of Commerce.

BIPC Northamptonshire

The BIPC has expanded its offer of regular workshops and experts in residence one-to-ones to Kettering Library as well as Northamptonshire Central Library. Graphic designer appointments and business finance advice will be coming soon.

BIPC Nottingham

There are some big changes for Nottingham and new internal images of the proposed new Central Library, including the best children’s library in the country, have been revealed by Nottingham City Council, with the public being offered the chance to offer their views on the plans.

BIPC Nottingham is hoping to include a Business & IP Centre in the proposed new library. More details including a video flythrough are available here.

BIPC Sheffield

Do you need techniques on mindfulness to help manage wellbeing issues which come from being an entrepreneur? A new workshop has been added to their programme, Mindfulness for Entrepreneurs.

BIPC Worcestershire

A new pilot Centre for 2019 and will be launching fully in 2020.

13 January 2020

Meet our delivery partner: Bang Creations and London IP

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Are you an inventor or innovator? Our delivery partners Bang Creations, an international product design and innovations agency, started running their workshop, Design and protect your product to maximise sales, over six years ago, alongside London IP, a boutique firm of patent and trademark attorneys that specializes in helping clients acquire, maintain and enforce IP rights. The workshop is split in two halves to help you with the intellectual property (IP) of a product and how to ensure that you design a commercially viable, marketable product.

The first half of the programme is led by Bang Creations, who have worked with multi-nationals through to start-ups and inventors for over 20 years. Bang also share their own experience of inventing, manufacturing and selling their own products internationally via Kickstarter and online via sites such as Amazon.

Stefan Knox, from Bang Creations, on stage at the British Library
Stefan Knox, from Bang Creations, on stage at the British Library

It can be very difficult to work out which question you answer first and how to organise all the activity into an efficient plan.

The first part helps you to formulate a plan, covering:

  • How to design your product to maximise its unique selling points
  • How to evaluate the method of manufacture and production
  • What volumes you should work to
  • How to cost the product and calculate your retail pricing strategy
  • How to ensure the design works through to the branding and how to get your product into the marketplace

The workshop concludes with how to execute that plan, how to brief a design agency, what to expect for your investment and how and when to prototype.

Once your head is buzzing with the images of your product, how it can be designed to be market ready, and the plans of getting it to market are formulating in your head, you will be wondering “How do I protect this idea?” The second half of the workshop is delivered by London IP, who will run through how to obtain registered forms of Intellectual Property (IP) protection for your product, namely patents and design registrations, as well as guidance on avoiding infringement of existing IP rights and avoiding pitfalls with IP ownership.

London IP’s David Warrilow, a chartered patent and trademark attorney, runs the other half of the workshop. Here David explains why IP is critical to consider before launching a new product…

David Warrilow
David Warrilow

Avoiding infringement of existing IP rights, protecting a new product, and IP ownership are all crucial matters. The British Library wanted a workshop that can help entrepreneurs and small and start-up businesses who wish to take their idea to market but are confused on what to do next.

  • Do you protect your idea, or do you go straight to prototype?
  • How do you work out if your idea is any good and worth investing in? Should you even do it?
  • How do you engage a product design agency- and if you do, what should you expect?
  • How do you plan out a development journey and very importantly what are the costs?

Infringement

Even if a product is completely new it can still infringe existing IP rights.

Our seminar explains why and how you can avoid infringement issues. It is important to consider infringement issues early on when developing new products to avoid wasting money on the detailed design and tooling for a product that can’t be sold.

At the seminar we give the real-life example of ‘Mr T’, who spent over £200,000 before finding out his product infringed a patent and he had to close his start-up business. Had Mr T come to our seminar that might not have happened.

Protection

Many entrepreneurs are not aware that soon as a new product has been non-confidentially disclosed it is impossible to obtain valid patent and design protection in most countries unless applications have already been filed.

At our seminar we provide guidance as to when and where to file both patent and design applications, and run through some useful filing strategies.

We also explain the reality of seeking IP protection in terms of costs and timescales, and reasons why you might wish to consider protection.

For example, did you know that if you have a UK patent granted your business can have its corporation tax (on profits related to the invention) halved?

IP Ownership

If you pay someone to build you a house you own the house once the work is done.

Q: If you pay someone to design you a product (or do any other work that generates IP rights) will you own the IP rights to the product?

A: Not necessarily, and the law is counterintuitive this leads to many disputes.

At our seminar we tell you how to keep ownership of the IP rights that are created as a product and its marketing materials are developed.

From having protected the interior design of the new Routemaster bus, registered the names of Zayn Malik, Sister Sledge and footballer Jamie Vardy as trademarks, patented a new fingerprinting technique for the Metropolitan Police, and helped hundreds of small businesses and individuals with their first forays into the world of intellectual property, London IP has extensive experience working with all sizes of clients from all sectors to provide high quality, affordable IP advice.

Case Study – Improvements In Helmets

J Brett realised her product idea after attending one of our workshops and one-to-one sessions at the British Library. Bang Creations invented her idea and London IP patented it, before J Brett took her licensed product to manufacturers to licence it.

Design by Bang Creations Ltd:

Case Study – Improvements In Helmets
Case Study – Improvements In Helmets

UK Patent Pending No. GB1801734.3 by London IP Ltd:

Case Study – Improvements In Helmets
Case Study – Improvements In Helmets

A helmet 1 comprises a recess 2 adapted to house a head of a user and a chinstrap 6, 8 to secure the helmet to the head of a user. The chinstrap 6, 8 is formed of substantially inelastic material and is securable under a user's chin by releasably attaching a first connector 10 to a second connector 11. Each connector 10, 11 is attached to a portion of chinstrap 6, 8 and the portion of each chinstrap is attached to a portion of elastic material 12, 13 such that the portion of chinstrap 6, 8 is extensible under force applied by a user and retractable by contraction of the portion of elastic material. The helmet further comprises a first clamping mechanism 19 and a second clamping mechanism 21 operable by a user to releasably clamp the chinstraps 6, 8 such that a chosen length of the chinstrap extends from the helmet.

Other businesses who have taken their ideas through to market after attending one of our workshops include a thermoelectric camping stove, a hair tapestry device, and a £35k carbon fibre trimaran sailing boat.

One-to-ones

You can also receive expert confidential advice on your product idea with one-to-one sessions with David and Stefan, which are made up of 30 minutes with David and 30 minutes with Stefan. This is only open to those who have attended the workshop as they come prepared with the relevant questions and information to make the session as efficient as possible.

For more information about Bang Creations, visit their website.

For more information about London IP, visit their website.

You can see all of the British Library’s Business & IP Centre’s upcoming workshops and events here.

06 January 2020

IP Corner: How to choose a trade mark

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We currently have a great exhibition on at the British Library on Buddhism, covering its origins, its art and its relevance today and I was lucky enough, to take a look at it.

Buddhism exhibition - Buddha being born

Buddhism began in sixth century in north India with the first encounters between Buddhist culture and the West occurring as far back as at least the fourth century. It is the world's fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers, or over 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists.

Now, being a bit of an intellectual property (IP) nerd, IP is usually in the back of my mind as I wander through the various exhibitions. The recent British Library Writing and Leonardo da Vinci exhibitions were an absolute gift to someone like me who enjoys digging for relevant intellectual property material. However, Buddhism is a slightly more difficult topic methinks!

It didn’t stop me though, I now know that there are 3,881 registered designs to be found though searching the DesignView database (the database holds designs from 65 countries in total). Sadly though, none of the designs were actually still in force, they had all either ’lapsed’ or ‘ended’. Some of them covered very intricate designs such as the design for a pendant shown below.

Buddha pendant
This Buddha pendant was made to a French design registered by Societe d'initiative commerciale, which lapsed in 1921. Lapsed usually means that the rights holder did not keep up payment of the renewal fees.

And what about patents? Well a quick, top level patent search through the Espacenet database looking for patents for moving Buddha items and using the keywords; statue? and mov* and buddh* resulted in 13 hits including:

  1. Adjustable Buddha statue fixing seat - CN107224179 (A)
  2. Decorative bronze statue with lighting function - CN209063788 (U)
  3. Hollow bronze statue with built-in incense burner - CN209063787 (U)
  4. Hanging niche for statue of Buddha - CN204427578 (U)
  5. Buddhist melody player - CN204015893 (U)

Unfortunately, these are all either Chinese patents or Chinese utility models (short-term national patents) and the drawings are extremely hard to decipher, so I didn’t feel there was much point in including them here.

Trade marks on the other hand, there were 179 trade marks designating the United Kingdom which included the word ‘Buddha’. These trade marks were registered in classes which cover all sorts of goods and services. EU002695005 ‘Buddha-Bar’ for example is owned by GEORGE V EATERTAINMENT of Paris, France and is protected in various classes including perfumes, soaps etc., jewellery and horological instruments, household/kitchen utensils etc. plus a number of other categories of goods and services.

Looking at the various trade marks and the goods and services covered did make me think about how people choose their trade mark or their company name. As a consumer I have to say that personally I would expect any trade mark containing the word ‘Buddha’ to be connected in some way to Buddhism and the Buddhist religion. Perhaps that is the intention?

Trade marks, generally speaking, are used to indicate the origin of goods or services using “graphic” means. This usually means words, logos, pictures or possibly a combination of all these elements. Since a trade mark is likely to be one of the most valuable assets a company will own, it is worth taking time to choose a good one.

A new trade mark must not only not be the same as an existing mark, but it must also not be confusingly similar. So it’s important to do a thorough search (or to have a professional one done for you) through not only the UK trade mark system, but through all countries or regions in which you want to trade.

You can search trade marks through the Government’s website, which contains details of all UK national trade marks as well as all Community and International trade marks that designate the United Kingdom. For more countries/wider coverage try TM View

So some search key pointers;

  • A trade mark is a badge of origin, used so that customers can recognise the product of a particular trader. Choose one that is distinctive for the goods or services you are intending to supply for example McDonalds, Wimpey, and Burger King immediately identify the desired burger or other fast food product.
  • Making your trade mark up is a good idea - think Adidas, Kodak, and Nike.
  • Don’t use words which describe what you do, descriptive marks will be refused registration.
  • Don’t try and register a mark which shows quality, quantity, purpose or value, again registration will be refused.
  • When searching similar marks it is necessary to take into account how the marks sound when spoken as well as how they appear in print. Just changing, omitting or adding letters to an existing trade mark does not necessarily (in fact it will very rarely) result in a new trade mark.

Whilst trade marks help consumers to differentiate the goods and services of one provider from those of a competitor, they also assure the consumer of a certain level of quality of goods or service.

In the same way company names can also be powerful things and the right name can give you a lead in your chosen area of business. So are my thoughts on choosing a company name;

  • Keep it simple, think Apple, Orange, Blackberry. All large electronic companies with small but easily remembered company names.
  • Avoid quirky spellings. They might seem trendy or dynamic but constantly having to correct misspellings will simply become old and tiresome after a very short while.
  • Think about where you would like your business to be in the next five or ten years and avoid any name that might give the impression your business is a one trick pony. You are bound to want to grow and potentially branch out into other areas of business.
  • Think about whether or not you want your company name to also be your trade mark. A company name is not the same as a trade mark so if it’s important in trading, register the wording as a trade mark if possible.
  • Think about the image you are trying to portray to your intended market e.g. homely or luxurious or reliable or safe and try and chose a name the fits that image in their minds.

This actually leads me (briefly, I promise!) on to another topic, domain names! It is worth pointing out that trade marks, company names and domain names are three entirely separate things and that ownership of one does not automatically entitle you to ownership of the other two.

A domain name however can sometimes be more effective than a trade mark – think Compare-the-Market.com and the trials and tribulations of Aleksandr, Sergei, Oleg and Ayana!

Compare the Market would not have been accepted for registration as a trade mark as it is descriptive, but clever marketing turned a virtually unknown business into a much loved (by me at least!) TV ad soap opera.

If you are not sure, or if you would like more information please visit your local Business & IP Centre. Most of the BIPCs will offer access to a database called COBRA and from there you can find two business information factsheets that will provide help on the topic of choosing a name for your business or domain. The fact sheets in question are:

  • BIF096 “Choosing and registering an internet domain name”
  • BIF368 “Choosing business and Company names”

Maria Lampert, Intellectual Property Expert at the Business & IP Centre London

Maria has worked in the field of intellectual property since she joined the British Library in January 1993. She is currently the British Library Business & IP Centre’s Intellectual Property Expert, where she delivers 1-2-1 business and IP advice clinics, as well as intellectual property workshops and webinars on regular basis.