Innovation and enterprise blog

15 September 2020

A week in the life of… Peter Hill, founder of Petvictus

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This month's blog follows Peter Hill, who in 2018 appeared on BBC's Dragons' Den and won an offer of investment for his inventions, Pedaldish: The Lunchbox for Pets and Katfone: The Ultrasonic Whistle for Cats. Peter used BIPC Birmingham to get advice on registering his trade mark. Since then, Peter has gradually reduced his day job hours and this week he's got a big decision to make...

Peter Hill in a factory with Pedaldish

As well as the product side of my business, I’ve developed a series of lectures, team games and skills workshops to guide people through the core skills needed to start a new business. This summer, I have a decision to make: do I sell my inventions and focus on public speaking? This is the week I made my decision.

Monday 10.00. Wake up. As a night owl, I’m rarely asleep before 01.00. A product order came through, last week, for 210 Pedaldishes and 500 Katfones. I said I’d ship the order this week, without having double checked that I’ve got the stock ready, and the clock’s ticking. I might have to spend today assembling Pedaldishes from parts, to make up the order.

13.00. The warehouse guys are being amazing. We’re just six products short, so with a quick bit of assembly and a quality check, the shipment is ready to go.

16.00. I email the warehouse the shipping documents and confirm with the customer the order will be with them on Thursday.

17.00. I log off the computer feeling I’ve forgotten something. I haven’t, but being a one-man band, I’m always asking myself whether I’ve missed anything.

19.00. The weather is getting hotter. I go for a country walk and make plans for next weekend. Coronavirus restrictions have lifted in Wales and I’ve made plans to go camping.

Daily score: Usefulness: 75%, Enjoyment: 30%

Tuesday 11.00. I still have a part-time job at the local council. My trade is as a community worker. This is less glamourous than being an inventor and entrepreneur but it has a guaranteed income, and is much more interesting than handling stock shipments. I’m now working from home; Skype is my only means of interaction with my colleagues. It’s a rubbish substitute for real contact.

Daily score : Usefulness: 50% Enjoyment: 60%

Wednesday 16.00. The Library of Birmingham's BIPC has asked if I’d be interested in doing some more business presentations. The most enjoyable parts of my business have been conducting lectures, team games and skills workshops.  Since winning investment on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den, I’ve been in demand as the most minor level celebrity you can imagine. I spend today designing a new business team game around eggs. The teams have to buy materials to protect an egg, which is then thrown out of the window. The team who protect their egg, and spend the least amount of money win; this is great for teaching planning and budget management, but I need to think about health and safety.

Daily score: Usefulness: 65% Enjoyment 70%

Thursday 15.30. I get confirmation the shipment, I sent on Monday, has arrived. I quickly cut and paste an invoice and email it. My thoughts turn to the weekend ahead and my greatest passion: the outdoors.

18.00. One of the great things about being in business, is that you network and hear about new ideas and products. This February, I found out about a product called Tent Box. It’s a solid frame pop-up tent which fits onto a roof-rack. With one fitted on top of my car I now have an instant place to sleep in isolation, even if the campsites are not open.

22.00. The car is packed and my kayak strapped down on the roof.

A view over a north Wales tidal estuary

Daily score: Usefulness: 40% Enjoyment 40%

Friday 6.00. I discover there is a 6am, as well as a 6pm! I’ll tell someone when I’m more awake; for now the beaches, rivers and hills of North Wales are calling.

14.00. I park on a pathway on the edge of a deserted tidal estuary, Snowden in the distance. Checking the tide times, I can see how far the water will come tonight. As long as I park up at high tide, I’ll have 12 hours without the risk of being carried away. Having been in self-isolation since March, I’m finally in true isolation. My phone is turned off. And my thoughts switch on.

16.00. I’m walking along a deserted sandy beach. I invented my last business team building game here, maybe I’ll find inspiration again. After walking in the surf for two miles, passing one person, I’ve come up with an idea for my egg dropping team building game; what if I tell the participants, the week before, what the game is? The really astute ones can go online and look up the best ways to protect an egg and maybe even practice. This will show how valuable prior knowledge and experience is when approaching a business task. I begin to wonder if I sent an invoice for the last order of Pedaldishes and Katfones? My inspiration, like the sun, is falling.

20.00. I’m sat by a river with a coffee made in the local pub. Dyslexia means that I rarely read books, but since the invention of Audible.com, I can listen to the world’s finest literature. Today, I’m listening to the autobiography of comedian Eddie Izzard. I gave up hosting my own stand-up comedy show to invent products. Maybe I should combine the two and focus just on business presentation.

23.30. With the high tide come and gone, I pop open my roof top tent, modified since purchase with every gadget and comfort, and drift asleep on the four-inch memory foam mattress to the sound of the waves.

Daily score: Usefulness: 35% Enjoyment 85%

Saturday 8.30. Worried that I might be breaking some obscure by-law, I wake up quickly, compress down my tent and watch the rising sun. Today I can walk, kayak and swim, with my phone switched off and no one to speak to.

18.00. With a day spent on the beach and trekking into the hills, I wonder if I should focus my efforts on being a business speaker 100%; it feels like the right direction.

21.00. I may have miscalculated the tide. With the water rising I’m in danger of being flooded. Always have a plan B: I can retreat to higher ground. The tide licks the car wheels, and finding them not to its taste, retreats. Time to relax again and watch the sky turn every shade of blue to black.

Peter Hill with his kayak on a river

Daily score: Usefulness: 5% Enjoyment: 90%

Sunday 16.00 With the risk of rain forecast, I make my way home, via a night-stay in Shropshire at my parents’ house. I walk through the pine woods and cross the place where I first thought up the name Katfone. A wholesaler has emailed me an offer to buy the brand, and the remaining stock. My designer wants to run with Pedaldish. Maybe it’s time to move on.

Daily score: Usefulness: 20% Enjoyment 70%

Monday 11.00. I drive to the River Severn outside Shrewsbury and kayak 12 miles, downstream. I always imagined, when I didn’t have to work full-time, that I would spend my Monday mornings on the river. In the last four years, I’ve managed it three times.

21.00. I’m back home. I have a name for my new venture as a business presenter: Peter the Speaker. I’ve bought the .com and drafted a logo. Now all I have to do is agree to sell Katfone and walk away. I’ll leave it until tomorrow or maybe the day after…

Daily score: Usefulness: 20% Enjoyment 80%

06 August 2020

The beer lover’s guide to the perfect IP brew

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Since Babylonian times, humans have been in search of the perfect beer brew. The brewing business today is a testament to the originality and passionate dedication of its forebears.

Each generation has created beers that have inspired the next while building a major industry.

Beer and commerce are an easy blend but what’s the one key secret to brewing success? Earning from your brewing creations by protecting the Intellectual Property that made them.

If you have developed a novel invention to brewing, a unique brand or a secret brew that gets people at the bar talking, then Intellectual Property is something you should invest in to reap the rewards you deserve.

Here are four different forms of intellectual property every new brewer should consider.

Brewing breakthroughs with technology

The sheer size and volume (literally) of the brewing industry means that it’s constantly innovating. So it’s not surprising that there’s some pretty clever technical innovation happening around the brewing and bottling process too.

If you’re a keen inventor, find out what some of the big problems that need ‘fixing’ in brewing today and ask ‘could you engineer a solution’?

If so, you’ll soon encounter the remarkable world of patents. A patent is an exclusive right granted to the maker of invention. It is a form of Intellectual Property that protects technical innovations. The innovation is eventually made public in exchange for the owner having a monopoly on the idea for a period of time (usually 20 years).

My favourite example from a past brewing patent is the story of William Painter. You may not have heard of him but without doubt you will have benefitted greatly from his invention, the ‘Crown Cap’ bottle top. Or in patent speak, ‘a bottle sealing device’.

William Painter was an accomplished inventor with a keen commercial eye. His devised a way to effectively seal a bottle of beer to prevent it from going flat. This involved a sealing disk topped with a metal cap. The advantage too was it could be opened easily. Perhaps you’ll recognise this from the patent image below?

Patent for William Painter's bottle sealing device

We’re still using the same basic technology on bottled beer and soft drinks today.

In 1894, when Painter was granted his patent, there was no shortage of bottle sealing devices but his particular patent (US468258) ensured bottling could be mass produced, increasing supply and meeting demand from a very thirsty public.

Painter himself went on to found the Crown Cork and Seal Company and quickly developed manufacturing technology to enable his patent’s potential to be fully realised. The company was immensely successful and is trading today as Crown Holdings Inc.

The lesson here is that if you find the right problem with the right solution and obtain effective Intellectual Property protection with a well drafted patent, it can be a significant advantage in a highly competitive market place.

Brewing up an awesome beer brand

Beer has personality. It has unique characteristics all to its own particular brew. It has heritage and modern edge with everything in between. Local, global, national. There’s a beer brand to suit every taste.

There are thousands and thousands of them. And a registered trademark for each.

You may have heard of the beer brand Bass. That brand has heritage, and is also UK trademark number UK00000000001 from the 1st January, 1876. The registered trademark is still in force today and no doubt worth more than every penny of the original registration fee!

Bass beer logo

 

The Bass brand also benefitted from what we nowadays call product placement. It’s not too discreetly featured in the French artist Édouard Manet’s famous, “A Bar at the Folies-Bergère”.

But beer brands rarely demure.

If we look at a modern brand such as Beavertown, they like so many beer brands, have registered their trademark too. The name is just too recognisable not to.

You can do this too. There’s a database of existing marks to check your own mark is original and to help decide what classifications of trade to choose.

Because it’s not uncommon for beer brands to produce all manner of merchandise and marketing material, so why not maximise the reach of your trademark by applying in a number of different trademark classifications?

With so many beers on offer, the beer brand you want to brew will need to be your unique identifier. Your trademark is, to put it simply, the legally registered name and/or image of your brand. It protects you by preventing others from blatantly copying or ‘trading off’ your good name and reputation. If you find yourself in that unenviable situation (and plenty have), the registered trademark is your comeback to cease and desist unfair imitation.

It also represents the incredible value of your brand. And because your trademark is your intellectual property, you can sell it or licence it to whomever you choose. It’s what will earn your reward in the future for all the thousands of hours of hard brewing.

To discover more about patents or trademarks, visit our website.

Beer that creates a first impression.

To own a registered design is to have rights over the appearance of a functional object that can include colour, shape or even texture. The form is what creates its appeal as a marketable object, instantly recognisable.

As one form of Intellectual Property, registered design is worth considering. Especially if you’re producing a beer product that wants to be distinctive.

For example there are many distinctive shapes of beer bottles that are themselves an identifier for the brand just as much as a trademark is.

And this is not only something for new beer brands striking out to get noticed, registered design is used by older established brewers as well.

Affligem, is a beer brand with an astonishing heritage, coming close to one thousand years of brewing history. But a brand with such pedigree still values other Intellectual Property assets, even if the taste of its brew is so famous.

They too have a registered design on their classic bottle shape.

Affligem beer bottle

If it’s something a thousand year brewer would have, why not consider it as a new brewer?

You can register a design with the Intellectual Property office and the Business & IP Centre runs regular webinars on it. See our upcoming webinar schedule.

The secret bit behind the beer magic.

If you’ve spent hundreds of hours in the quest of brewing perfection, and you think you’ve found it, what’s the best way to protect it from the rival brewer next door?

The answer is disarmingly simple; keep it a secret.

Don’t underestimate the importance of keeping trade secrets in the brewing business. Plenty of brewers rely on it.

A proper definition of a trade secret is a technique, process, formula or method of creating something that has commercial value and is known to only a limited number of persons. It is often kept secret through the use of legal agreements (such as employment contracts) or non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).

Unlike all of the other forms of IP mentioned, this is known as an unregistered right. Meaning you don’t have to register the secret with a governing body. It is yours to keep and the length of time is how long you want the secret to be kept.

A good trade secret is also good for the brand. It helps create a mystery around the product and keeps people guessing to how it was made.

Four cheers for IP

These are four forms of Intellectual Property every beer lover and maker should consider. You can pick and choose which of these works best for you. Maybe all of them. It’s all up to how you innovate, create and ultimately protect your most valuable asset, your own unique IP brew.

Jeremy O'Hare is the Business & IP Centre's Information Expert. You can find more information on intellectual property and the Business & IP Centre's upcoming events, by visit bl.uk/bipc.

03 August 2020

Meet our delivery partner: Mark Sheahan

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Mark is the Business & IP Centre’s Inventor in Residence, as well as the President of the Institute of Inventors & Patentees (a registered charity), Managing Director of Compgen Ltd (Licensing) and Proprietor of Plasgen Design (Product Design). He is also Chairman of Morgan Goodwin Ltd (Online Trading Platform) and Ambosco Ltd (IT Development). He’s also a  Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and Vice Chairman of the Round Table of Inventors (CTRI). Here’s a bit more information about him and how he can help you at one of his Ask an Expert sessions…

Mark Sheahan

I’m an experienced business owner with a demonstrated history of working in the inventing, business mentoring and licensing industry. My specialities are in business planning, invention, entrepreneurship, manufacturing, plastic injection moulding, packaging closure technology, intellectual property and licensing. 

One of my inventions, SqueezeopenTM, won me the accolade of Inventor of the Year in the UK and the top Grand Prix Award at INPEX in America. The product is an easy open and close plastic container.  

My Ask an Expert sessions are confidential, free one-hour meetings and are aimed at inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs. I suggest, to get the best out of the hour that they bring everything they can bring to the meeting, particularly samples, working or not, drawings and patent documentation, if applicable.

I see my role as nurture and clarity and try not to be judgemental in anyway. In fact, I like seeing people as early as possible, even with half-baked ideas/inventions. As, all too often, they take a wrong path and spend time and money unnecessarily. 

My first question in the meeting is normally about the idea/invention itself, as it does not matter how well you do everything else, if it does not work or has a major flaw/s the project is likely to fail. As an engineer, I can generally spot manufacturing problems and advice accordingly. Another area I like to explore with entrepreneurs is whether it is the best solution, being either cheaper or better, ideally both.     

Once I am happy with the idea/invention and only then I will move on to the business side, e.g. intellectual property position and strategy, business model, manufacturing, sales and marketing and, if applicable, licensing. 

It is very easy to get overwhelmed with advice, so you end up not knowing what to do next. I try and give that clarity and re-motivate anyone who comes to see me to take those steps.  

To book a session with me, click here.

16 June 2020

A week in the life of… Rachel Jones, founder of SnapDragon Monitoring

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Rachel Jones is founder and Head Dragon at SnapDragon Monitoring in Edinburgh. SnapDragon delivers online brand protection, seller insights and market intelligence to brands around the world. Rachel founded SnapDragon based on her experiences of defending her first creation the Totseat – a washable squashable highchair for babies who lunch – from counterfeits. The British Library's Business & IP Centre played a significant role in the market research undertaken for both businesses. Most recently Rachel was the first Entrepreneur in Residence at BIPC Glasgow, based at the Mitchell Library. SnapDragon is the recent recipient of a Queen’s Award for Innovation 2020.

SnapDragon team

Groundhog Week... It’s the first week of May. My favourite month. Usually. Awoken by insistent birdsong at 4am after yet another sporadic night of what could only be defined as a snoozing. Might as well get up. Husband is dressing, in preparation for 5am call to Singapore. Dog peed, fed enough to tide her over til 6am, mug of welcome tea and a couple of hours work before breakfast and a rigorous walk. My makeshift ‘office’ is a corner of our sitting room, sandwiched between well-thumbed texts and an ancient sofa of memories. My desk, an extended (vertically) dressing table inherited from my late mother, which previously housed small geological specimens, now with ergonomic investment to help 100+ hour weeks.

We’re in lockdown. The middle? Still the beginning? Either way the hell persists. One day we were in the office, the next was a work from home trial. Not one technical hiccup. So we didn’t go back. We’re incredibly lucky. We are healthy, there’s food in the fridge and there is work to do.

But I’m a lousy mother currently and this bothers me. Greatly.

Edinburgh's blossom

A recent catch up call with a close friend, thankfully not on Zoom, has wrenched my jealous heart. Furloughed happily on a lovely salary, painting the house, gardening furiously, enjoying having University-aged offspring at home and imagining retirement. Other friends struggle valiantly on: juggling working and childcare, home schooling and life as single parents, life in a flat, responsibilities for the vulnerable, loathing their living companion/s, not enough money or patience to go round. And those in the middle, silently weeping with responsibility weighing heavily on hearts and mind. At the front line of caring, mending, selling, delivering, collecting, working to keep the economy going. Mouths to feed, and not just their own.

Livelihoods of many many families lying firmly in their laps.

I’m one of the latter. Not brave enough to be a front-line carer, but working day and night to keep a business afloat (and ignoring my family, I’m sorry to say, while I do so). I am horrible to live with. My team of 26, of whom I am inordinately proud, need their salaries, motivation, and sanity and our clients’ businesses need us to keep them profitable. I will not let the virus get the better of me.

SnapDragon Monitoring fights fakes online. We identify and remove infringing products from online marketplaces, social media sites, and websites. We use intellectual property (IP) to remove the fakes and fakers. Copyright – words and images – trade marks, design rights and patents. It’s cheap and efficient. Four minutes to remove a link from, say, Amazon, with the correct IP to prove originality. Why bother? At best, fake products cause disappointment. Less brilliantly, serious harm. Take brakes or beauty products and you can be scarred for life. Meanwhile those profiting from the sale, fund drugs rings, prostitution, drug trafficking and worse. And the brands being ripped off? All too often suffer in silence. As can their customers.

Fakes are no longer the domain of luxury goods. And with COVID-19, according to Europol, sales of online fakes are already up 400%. The uninitiated, forced into remote shopping, are being too easily scammed and need help. Week two of lockdown saw 50% of our much-loved client base, most of which are SMEs, pause their subscriptions. We couldn’t blame them. Supply chains were stuck in China. Shops were closed. Staff furloughed. Income non-existent. But sales of fakes proliferate, so there’s the moral dilemma of knowing our technology is much needed versus the financial dilemma that we all need to eat. It turns out, there’s really no choice. Half the team is furloughed to stretch the budget. Those part-time, juggling childcare and home schooling, the first to appreciate the option of being so. I vow (silently) to ensure a working from home allowance rewards the committed for future adventures (and paying the bills of course).

Rachel's dog at the bottom of Arthur's Seat

This morning, pre 6am, I meet yet another iteration of the weekly cash flow forecast. I hate Excel but thankfully our FC is amazing and he makes the spreadsheets sing. Today’s priorities are projections, our weekly leadership team meeting, one of the thrice weekly whole team updates (key points from which are circulated by email to everyone); understanding the new funding options being launched today and applying for whatever is appropriate, following up an enquiry about supplier validation for PPE (which has become a core competence suddenly); ensuring bright, sparking new inventors aiming for crowdfunding have considered what intellectual property they should register and recommending the British Library, the Intellectual Property Office and the European Intellectual Property Office as excellent resources.

An office visit is mandatory: to collect the mail and to run the taps (to avoid legionella and ensure compliance with our landlord’s edict). It’ll be nice to have an additional excuse to get out, other than the dog. Will check in with various mentees, not least those gathered as part of my Entrepreneur in Residence-ship at BIPC Glasgow last year. Life for some is not at all easy and it’s really important that entrepreneurs who live alone are not feeling even more isolated than usual. Then there are our Board papers to circulate, although I suspect the Board is rather tired of my updates, and others’ Board papers to digest for the voluntary boards of which I am part, for later in the week. Groundhog Day should still be only a film.

The highlight will be planning, at some point, deliveries to each and every one of the team to celebrate next week’s announcement that SnapDragon is to receive a Queen’s Award for Innovation. We plan a Zoom party with miniature bottles of fizz delivered to all. Tech businesses are very rarely awarded this accolade. The thought of being able to make this award public spurs me on.

The team celebrate a delighted email from an Australian client as to the efficient identification and removal of a frightening number of fakes professing to be his product. Someone has a birthday and is enjoying the cake I had dispatched from the local baker, who has pivoted from corporate to home deliveries. We discuss topics for the weekly Lunch and Learn, and issue covert instructions for an online gathering at 6pm the following week, eluding the rationale.

Somewhere there needs to be time to wave at the long-suffering family, eat, ignore eight feet of clean washing (I measure it vertically), drink tea, brush my teeth and send virtual hug texts to family and friends. I miss the hugs. Mustn’t forget the food run for isolating next door neighbour. Sanity, such that it is, is necessitated by the dog’s need for a vigorous stride up Arthur’s Seat (Edinburgh’s extinct volcano) after breakfast, or round the local golf course, thankfully currently free of calls of ‘fore’. The blossom, birdsong and oddly-coconut-smelling gorse provide all to brief opportunities for the odd deep breath. There isn’t an empty minute. At midnight, I stick a ‘thank you’ note on the dustbin for the refuse team, as no one felt up to drawing a rainbow. 

View from Arthur’s Seat

Postscript Second week of June
SnapDragon Monitoring, the proud recipient of the Queen’s Award for Innovation, is on track. Most of the Dragons are back from furlough working, at least from their kitchens, and planning holidays – which lightens my heart. 

The ergonomic investments in the sitting room have proved their weight in gold. The family has nearly forgiven me (the pile of washing has not).

The business is, almost, overwhelmed with work and positivity: those who paused their services came back much quicker than anticipated, so the counterfeiters are no longer winning; there is a stream of new clients to onboard; the team is happy and healthy; we are planning a socially distanced, super-safe and supportive working environment in the office; the tech sprint is ahead of target.

And my spreadsheet is singing. Onwards.

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.

11 December 2019

Meet our delivery partners: Bob Lindsey

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Bob Lindsey, founder of Thames Productions, runs one-to-one workshops for entrepreneurs at the British Library's Business & IP Centre, for innovators seeking advice on their product ideas and what to do next. He also runs a workshop on How much will it cost to get my new product to market.

Bob Lindsey

Bob Lindsey’s background includes, manufacturing, product design, and marketing. Originally a student/apprentice at the Ford Motor Company, he obtained a honours degree in Mechanical Engineering at City University. After working in Zambia (in copper mining) he studied for an MBA at Sheffield University, specialising in marketing. Subsequent experience included general management of manufacturing plants in the UK including responsibility for product design. After a spell in New Zealand (advising on capital project in pulp and paper manufacture), he moved into consultancy covering managerial and technical matters, and running training programmes on new product development. He won a DTI SMART award for developing a new industrial process and designed new products and sold manufacturing licenses. He knows all the challengers of turning that gem of an idea into a successful, profitable product.

Bob says, “I’m happy to meet innovators in my one-to-one sessions who are at any stage in the process, whether they’re at the ideas phase, right through to them having full demonstrable prototypes. There are many steps to that often tortuous journey, and I can advise on many aspects of it, including working out the likely routes to market. Attendees can ask all the questions which have been in the back of their mind, often for a while. I have learnt most of the obvious mistakes, and also the rare ones. I can share my experience to reduce the probability of clients repeating them.

“The British Library themselves provide excellent workshops on Intellectual Property (IP) and this is an area I can also cover in the context of the product areas being discussed. Manufacturing might often involve the adherence to mandatory standards which have to be met, and which might not be so obvious to those starting out in this field.

“In recent months I have seen some of the perennial favourites; food and drink products, hair treatments, skincare products, fashion and footwear and travel items. But there have also been household items, lifestyle products and interesting medical devices. Over the years there have been pet-care products, personal hygiene, and even adult toys. In addition to physical products I can discuss the provision of services or APPs."

In 2020 Bob will be running the workshop How much will it cost to get my new product to market, where all the hidden and surprising items of expenditure will be highlighted, particularly during that difficult start-up phase when sales might be small, but where the costs are high. In this workshop he will cover:

  • Market testing
  • Researching IP opportunities (and impediments)
  • Product safety standards
  • Prototyping
  • How to commission a designer, together with a framework of professional charges
  • How to source tooling
  • How to source a manufacturer
  • The challenges and extra costs of sourcing those small start-up batches and what it is like to sell to a professional buyer in the retail market.

In the workshop, Bob will look at case studies of successful entrepreneurs who have got their products to market, but whose eventual journeys were not as they had originally planned. If applicable, Bob will also be able to suggest other people attendees could be talking to, including specialised designers and IP advisors.

You can also see Bob at the Business & IP Centre's monthly Inventors Club at the British Library, which meets on the last Monday of the month. This is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to float their ideas to gather feedback. Bob says, "sometimes what you feel is a great idea, might not have the support in the wider market. This is a good opportunity to network with fellow entrepreneurs.”

You can find out more information about Bob's workshops on his website. To find out what workshops and events are taking place at the Business & IP Centre, visit our website.

12 July 2019

IP Corner: The inventions of Leonardo da Vinci

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Sitting on the train reading the news on my mobile phone today it struck me how far the humble telephone has come since the day it was first invented by Alexander Graham Bell. The mobile phone still does what Bell intended, it allows two people to talk to each other at a distance, but over the years improvements have been made to Bell’s invention so that mobile phones are now telephones and so much more. And this is true of practically everything we use today.

Take someone like Leonardo da Vinci, we currently have an exhibition of his drawings, diagrams and handwritten notes here at the British Library (Leonardo da Vinci: A Mind in Motion) and whilst many people may know him as a great Renaissance painter, perhaps most famous for La Giocconda better known as the Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci was also a great visionary with ideas such as:  

  • a flying machine
  • an underwater breathing apparatus
  • a diving bell
  • an armoured car
  • a revolving crane
  • a parachute
  • a pulley
  • water-powered mills and engines
  • single-span bridges

Let’s take a look at a few of Leonardo da Vinci’s ideas and see how inventors brought variations of the ideas into being, whilst not necessarily being the first to patent!

A flying machine

Leonardo - Mumford 1
Edwin Mumford's patent GB3214 of 1905

 

Leonardo da Vinci created a design for a machine that is sometimes described as an "aerial screw", unfortunately, Leonardo’s drawings do not indicate that he came up with a way to stop the machine once it had taken flight. Like all inventions though, Leonardo’s “aerial screw” was taken and improved upon by people such as British inventor, Edwin Mumford. A naval architect from Dumbarton, who came up with an invention titled ‘Improvements in or connected to Aerodromes or flying machines’ and received patent GB3214 of 1905 for his trouble.

Leonardo - Mumford
Edwin Mumford's patent GB3214 of 1905

An underwater breathing apparatus

The first underwater breathing apparatus to be patented was the Rouquayrol regulator, a device intended to regulate the flow of compressed air. This was invented in 1860 (1860 44655) by Frenchman Benoit Rouquayrol, a mining engineer from Aveyron in France. Originally the invention was intended to assist miners to escape flooded mines, but Rouquayrol adapted his invention in 1864 (1864 63606) and patented it under the title ‘moyens propres à protéger les plongeurs’ or ‘means to protect divers’.

A diving bell

A British inventor by the name of John Stapleton invented ‘Apparatus for working under water’ in 1693 under patent GB318. Stapleton’s idea was for a device that allowed a person enclosed in it to walk under water. Unfortunately the patent doesn’t have any diagrams so we will have to use our imagination to visualise the apparatus in actual use. However, it might have looked like this:

Diving bell
Diving bell, Marinmuseum (Naval museum), Karlskrona, Sweden ©Henrik Sendlebach 2015

An armoured car

Leonardo da Vinci's armoured car invention was regarded as a forerunner of the modern tank. Covered in sheets of metal, the armoured car was intended to be capable of moving in any direction and was to be kitted out with a large number of weapons. It even had a turret on top to aid steering of the vehicle and aiming correctly when firing the weapons. In truth, the armoured car as designed by Leonardo would never have worked as it was far too heavy for humans to move and far too small for animals to be used to manoeuvre it.

Car
An armoured tank designed by Leonardo da Vinci at the Château d'Amboise (this work has been released into the public domain by its author, AYArktos. This applies worldwide)

In 1898 Frederick Simms an engineer from London was granted a patent, GB7387 of 1898, for his ‘Motor driven car for use in warfare’.

Leonardo -warfare
Frederick Simms' patent GB7387 of 1898

The problem with armoured cars, as was discovered during the First World War, was that the wheels of the vehicle sank into the mud of the battlefields. The solution was to add caterpillar tracks to the vehicles so that it was capable of moving over any terrain, but this didn’t happen until later.

Although when others later tried to reproduce the ideas in Leonardo’s drawings they often found that they didn’t work as they should and needed modifications. Had there been a patent system in place in Leonardo’s day, the fact that his ideas worked in theory would have been enough to get him a patent as there is no requirement of the inventor to supply a prototype or other proof that their idea works in reality. This often leads to claims that the patent, once granted, should be declared invalid and, of course, if the inventor could not get his or her invention to work then there would be no chance for them to commercialise it.

Today users of the Business & IP Centre can speak to our partners who specialise in prototyping to get an expert opinion on whether their idea has legs or not, or they can take advantage of joining our Inventors’ Club which meets on the final Monday of every month.

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.

01 July 2019

Getting musically inspired at the Business & IP Centre

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

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

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

1280px-Emile_Berliner_with_phonograph

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

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

StockSnap_EGWGJWAIXX

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

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

SLP-145

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

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

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

07 June 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Biro
Biro’s British patent GB498997

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

Ball point pen
Ball point pen US patent US392046

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

BiC
BiC's British patent GB2218381A

And what about pencils?

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

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

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

Halls
Hall’s Diplometer patent GB11060

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

Hammond Typewriter
Hammonds Typewriter patent US224088

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

Writing
By Daderot - Self-photographed, Public Domain.

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

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

23 November 2018

IP Corner: Registered designs and knitting

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When people think of intellectual property what most often springs to mind is patents, closely followed by trade marks. There are other forms of IP though and I came upon a good example of one when looking at gadgets to do with my favourite pastime – knitting.

This is the Wool Jeanie a nifty little device that holds the ball of wool/yarn whilst you are knitting releasing the wool evenly as you knit. The yarn holder is suspended from the frame using magnets and when not in use it can be disengaged from the frame and rested on the platform below.

Knitting

The Wool Jeanie is a UK registered design registered with the IPO UK and given design registration number RD6011452. The full design record can be viewed via the DesignView database upon entering the registered design number in the search box.

If you are not sure how to use the database, or if you are just interested, you can download our free IP guide A brief introduction to registered designs and registered design searching.

Registered designs protect the outward look of a product particularly the lines, contours, shape or texture, but they can also protect the material or ornamentation of the product. You cannot protect the way the design works, only the way it looks. To protect its functionality you would need to apply for a patent. For a design to be protectable it must be new and it must be unique.

A UK registered design gives the rights holder the exclusive right in the United Kingdom to make, use, sell, import and export any product embodying the design, if it is a shape, or bearing the design if it is ornamentation.

Registered designs can apply to a wide variety of products from packaging to furnishings, from clothing to jewellery and from household goods to textiles. However, registered designs do not last forever. Registered designs last a maximum of 25 years and are renewable every five years to the 25 year maximum. At the end of the 25 years, or if the renewal fees aren’t paid, the registered design falls into the public domain and is there for anyone to use.

So why should a business protect its designs?

By registering your designs you:

  • contribute to obtaining a return on investments made by you or your company into creating and marketing your products.
  • obtain exclusive right to the registered design allowing you to prevent or, if necessary, stop others from exploiting or copying your design without your written permission.
  • have the opportunity to sell or license the rights to the design to another enterprise for a fee.
  • strengthen your brand.

It is worth remembering that a vast majority of businesses today are web-based and the IP registrations the company holds, or the licenses it has to use others' IP, are assets of the business which can help increase the market value of a company and its products.

Within the UK unregistered ‘Design right’ also exists and automatically protects a design for a maximum of 10 years from the end of the calendar year in which the design was first sold or for 15 years after it was created whichever is the earlier. However, design right only applies to the shape and configuration of an object.

When deciding whether or not to register your designs it is worth speaking with an intellectual property attorney. Most will offer free 30 minute one-to-one advice sessions and you can find one in your local area via their website.

So what about my Wool Jeanie? Well, it has proved to be one of the best gadgets I have bought it my many years of knitting and crocheting and I am busy spreading the word about it to all my handicraft friends and acquaintances.

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.

To see all upcoming workshops, webinars and events, visit our website.