THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Innovation and enterprise blog

16 posts categorized "Patents"

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.

05 June 2019

European Patent Office’s PATLIB Summit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The outcome of the event was a set of strategic recommendations to the EPO in a document called the Porto Paper. The Porto Paper is still a draft. It will be published on the EPO website as soon as it has been finalised (June 2019).

(EPO accessed 22/5/19 https://www.epo.org/learning-events/events/conferences/patlib2019.html)

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

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

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

29 May 2019

An introduction to intellectual property (IP)

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

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

The four main types of IP rights are:

  • Copyright
  • Designs
  • Patents
  • Trade marks

Protecting creativity

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

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

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

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

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

A flair for design

Crafter or designer?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ‘lightbulb’ moment

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

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

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

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

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

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

Building a brand

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

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

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

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

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

Sharing out the IP

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

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

Free online learning

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

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

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

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

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

23 April 2019

IP Corner: Reach for Gold - Intellectual Property and sports

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Patent application and grants are published every week and it is always interesting to see what is coming through the system and potentially on to the market.

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This years’ World Sports Day is on 6 April and World Intellectual Property Day is on 26 April, so I thought I’d take a look and see how many of the March 2019 patent publications were related to sport. There were 15 relevant patents in total including some interesting ones…

US2019083870A is a published USA application for an ‘In goal ball return or collection device” which details a flat device for soccer (football to you and me!) practice. Rather than covering the whole goal mouth this device is apparently intended to cover the lower part of the goal and to lie at an angle thereby allowing the ball to potentially bounce back to the player or to be easily retrieved. This is intended to save valuable practise time usually spent in retrieving or chasing loose balls.

EP3132778A1 is a European patent application that designates GB for patent protection. The inventors are Spanish and the invention claimed is for a “Wheelchair accessory for playing soccer”. The idea basically consists of a pair of manually-operated levers, one for each hand, which are attached to the wheelchair and have devices at the bottom for retrieving and shooting a conventional ball.

EP3132778A1

Amongst the 15 patent specifications published there are also a couple of GB applications GB2566646A, “Method and apparatus for playing a sports game”. The proposed game, consisting of at least two wickets and an inflatable ball, sounds like a derivative of cricket! Then there is GB2566799A “Sports Aid” which is basically an enclosure for sports practice.

It’s going to be a case of wait and see to find out if any of these patents do get granted.

GB2566646A

Patenting innovations relating to sports is not new, the earliest granted patent I could find relating to football boots is GB11854 of 1887. This was granted to a Harry Howe a boot manufacturers’ warehouseman from Leicester, and it was titled “Improvements in and appertaining to boots or shoes used in playing football and the like”.  His idea was to add a roughened, corrugated or grooved surface to the toe of the boot to help ensure that when the ball is booted a ‘sure kick is obtained’.

GB11854

However, football isn’t the only sport that I found patent documentation for, there is a great patent from 1894 for a new innovation in clay pigeon shooting. A certain Hugo Fuchs of Vienna, Austria was granted a British patent in 1894 for “An improved pigeon or object to be used as a moving target in shooting sports and practice”. His idea was that the ‘pigeon’ should be made out of paper or cardboard rather than the traditional glass or clay. He maintained that by filling his discs with coloured powder or soot the ‘hit’ would be as visible as a shattering clay or glass pigeon would be and his innovation would be much safer. Personally, I’d rather be hit by paper or even soot than a lump or glass or clay!

Patent searching, if you have an innovation in mind, is a must because if an idea has been patented at anytime, anywhere in the world it cannot be re-patented. So if your new idea happens to be steel toe-capped football boots, sorry that’s already been done!

If you do have an invention in mind it would be worth visiting your local Business & IP Centre, there are 13 in total around the UK details of which can be found here.

You can also download copies of our free intellectual property guides including A brief guide to patents and patent searching or if you wish you can attend one of our free workshops or webinars on intellectual property and intellectual property searching. Just take a look at our workshops and events page.

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.

19 October 2018

IP Corner: Happy 20th Anniversary Espacenet

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When I first began working at the British Library patent searching was very much a manual process which involved using a Catchword Index to find your patent classification, then looking that classification up in the accompanying Classification index to get the relevant subclass and finally, looking the classification and sub-classification up on microfiche to find any relevant patents. It was a fairly labour intensive and time consuming process, but it worked.

Then in 1998 the European Patent Office launched their free search database called Espacenet. Espacenet revolutionised patent searching for the ordinary ‘man on the street’. If they had access to a computer, either at home or more often through their local library, they were able to carry out patent searching using keywords or names or numbers or dates or all of them together.

Espacenet was however kind of a two edged sword, since without any experience of patent searching it was (and still is) possible to convince oneself that your invention was new and innovative because you did not find it when in fact you were simply using incorrect keywords.

The Business & IP Centre's Introduction to patent searching workshop takes delegates through the Espacenet database explaining the searching process and providing hints and tips on how to get the best from the database. Personally, I’ve lost count of the number of inventors I have helped learn how to use Espacenet effectively, preventing some from wasting time and money pursuing an idea that already exists and helping others start on the road to protecting and producing their new product.

If you can’t make one of our workshops you can download one of our IP guides, which are free to access.

In the last twenty years Espacenet has grown from a basic search database to a database that can be used to search worldwide through 100 million documents, both published patent application and granted patents, from over 90 patent granting authorities. Searchers can now check legal status of patents, find out if patents are still in force using the European Patent Register and gain immediate access to the application files or ‘file wrappers’ from the world's largest patent offices using the Global Dossier. Full copies of patent specifications can be downloaded onto a hard-drive, or printed out if preferred, for later consultation by the searcher.

Espacenet is one of my favourite search databases mainly because it costs nothing to use but also because it empowers new inventors by helping them gain an understanding of patents, patent classifications and patent searching so that they can have informed conversations and make better decisions regarding their proposed inventions.

Happy 20th Anniversary Espacenet. Here’s to many more!

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.

01 August 2018

IP Corner: Patent databases, which one is right for you?

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Here at the British Library's Business & IP Centre we meet many inventors who are starting out on their journey through to patenting their inventions. The majority understand that their first action should be to search to see if their proposed invention is truly ‘new and innovative’ as it must be in order to obtain patent protection. What inventors will be searching for is known as ‘Prior art’ which is basically anything that shows the proposed invention is already known and is therefore not new. Prior art doesn’t have to be a patent, it could be a newspaper advertisement, a magazine or journal article or even a product on sale in another country. 

Most inventors will have heard of, and some may even have used, the Espacenet database. Espacenet is a patent search database containing data on over 100 million patent documents worldwide. Searching the database is fairly intuitive, but if needed there is a very informative Help section to aid the novice searcher. Espacenet is a great starting point for any would be inventor and is freely available via https://worldwide.espacenet.com.

What is generally less known by inventors is that here at the Business & IP Centre we subscribe to another search database that our registered readers can use for free. This database is the Derwent Innovations Index or DII as it is also known. 

DII is a search database that provides access to more than 30 million inventions as detailed in 65+ million patent documents. Once a search has been run, clicking through from the results list, users are able to view details of the relevant patent including any patents and/or articles cited as ‘Prior art’ against it. For most patents there are also links through to Espacenet to view the full published specification.

Espacenet also does this, so what are the advantages of visiting the Business & IP Centre and using DII

Well, it should be remembered that patents are technical documents which are written in such a way as to meet all the relevant criteria for obtaining a patent but, by providing only the most important information, give nothing away. 

With Espacenet you are searching the patents as published; the title or abstract, bibliographic data, description and claims all exactly as written in the original documents. This can make keyword searching problematic, not everyone will necessarily use the same keywords to describe the same subject, and often searchers will need to resort to classification searching to ensure they are searching in the correct technical area. Add to this the fact that patent titles can be slightly ambiguous and patent searching can become slightly more difficult.

With the Derwent Innovations Index (DII) what happens is that when a patent is published a member of the DII team who is experienced in the particular technical area covered by the patent takes the patent specification and does the following:

  • Writes a more concise title that describes the invention and its claimed novelty
  • Then writes an abstract giving a 250–500 word description in English of the claimed novelty of the invention
  • Finally, DII also add their own ‘Class codes’ and ‘Manual codes’ to the records: Derwent Class Codes allow the searcher to quickly retrieve a particular category of inventions whilst Derwent Manual Codes indicate the novel technical aspects of the invention.

To give you a quick example of this, the title of patent WO2018064763 on Espacenet is ‘Compactable bicycle’ as shown below:

Espacenet example
Espacenet Patent search

Whereas on DII the title is written as:

Derwent Innovations Index
Derwent Innovations Index

The Espacenet bibliography and abstract looks like this:

Espacenet bibliography
Espacenet bibliography

Whilst the DII bibliography and abstract looks like this:

DII bibliography
DII bibliography

Note: DII highlights, Novelty, Use and Advantage within the abstract.

Another advantage DII has is that using the Advanced search option searchers have the ability to ‘build’ a search by searching keywords, classifications, inventor/applicant details etc. and then adding search sets together as desired.

DII advanced search
DII advanced search

Searchers then click on the live link in the Results box to view the results list from where they can select relevant patent records to save to a Marked list. Searchers can then email the results from the Marked list to themselves to view later if they wish.

With the Espacenet database searchers can download and print out copies of the front pages of relevant specifications (known as covers) or they can select titles from their search results list to export to either CVS or XLS. Copies of full patent specification can also be downloaded and printed out if desired.

Both Espacenet and DII are extremely useful for searchers. Each database has their own strengths and weaknesses, but if you visit the Business & IP Centre we will be happy to discuss your needs and show you how to get the best from both databases.

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.

26 April 2018

IP Corner: Happy World Intellectual Property Day!

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April 26th is World Intellectual Property Day. “What?” I can hear you asking, why should there be a special day to celebrate Intellectual Property? Well, stop for a minute and take a look around you and I can guarantee that, whether you realise it or not, you will be surrounded by Intellectual Property.

Like the book you are reading (e-book or otherwise!), the iPod or MP3 player you are using to listen to music, the music itself, even the clothes you are wearing, every product or service we use in our day to day lives is the result of innovation. These innovations may be big improvements in function, or small changes in design that alter the way a product looks, either way these improvements will generally be protected by Intellectual Property (IP).

Intellectual Property (IP) is like any other piece of property and the owner of the Intellectual Property rights controls what, if anything, happens to those rights, including who can benefit from the work or from the investment the rights holder has made into the creation of the product or service.

So how does this affect you and your business?

Whatever business you are engaged in it is very likely that you are using and probably even creating a large amount of IP and, if you want to get the best possible commercial results from its ownership, you need to think about the steps you need to take to protect, manage and indeed enforce your rights.

  • Protect – register your IP rights where possible.
  • Manage – keep a record of all the IP you have and any IP that you license from third parties. Ensure renewal fees are paid and licenses are up-to-date.
  • Enforce – as the rights holder it is your responsibility to keep an eye out for any IP infringement and to take action to stop it. If you do not intend to enforce your IP rights then perhaps you need to reconsider whether or not you should register your rights.

So let’s look at each form of IP in turn;

2000px-RegisteredTM.svgThe first piece of registrable IP most businesses will have is a trade mark. Trade marks are used to indicate the origin of goods or services. They may be symbols, words, colours or even a combination of these, the choice is yours, but whatever the makeup of your trade mark it needs to be distinct enough to allow consumers to identify your products or services from those of your competitors.

As well as standard trade marks there are several other types of mark such as Collective marks, used to distinguish the goods and/or services of members of a particular association, or Certification marks, given for compliance with defined standards to anyone who is able to certify that their products meet certain standards e.g. ISO/TC 181 Safety of toys.

Trade marking is not to be approached lightly as your trade mark is likely to be one of your most valuable business assets.

Copyright-symbolNext, Copyright. Most of us when we think of copyright we think of books, music, films etc. but copyright will also exist in your website, the flyers or brochures you may produce for your business, the menus for your restaurant or café. All of these, provided they are your own original work or you have a license to use them if they were created by a third party, will be protectable.

Mark all of your original copyrighted material with the copyright symbol ©, the name of the rights holder and the year of creation, e.g. © British Library 2019.

If you are a designer then registered designs are probably something you should consider as registered designs protect what it is that makes an item attractive or appealing to its intended market. As the holder of the registered rights you will be assured an exclusive right to the design and thereby protection against unauthorised copying of the design by third parties.

PatentedFinally, patents (this is the biggie!)

A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention. It provides patent rights holders with protection for their invention for a limited period, usually 20 years, subject to the payment of annual renewal fees. Having a patent for your invention means that your invention cannot be made commercially, or distributed or sold without your written permission. You get to decide who may or may not use the invention for the duration the period of protection. However, once the patent expires, after 20 years or if you stop paying the renewal fees, the invention will no longer be protected and will enter the public domain. Basically, it becomes available for anyone to use as they wish.

Probably lesser known, but just as important IP rights are Know How and Trade Secrets. Know How is the practical knowledge of how to do something, to get something done. This sort of knowledge will not necessarily be included in a patent for example, but will be necessary to finish the product, project or job. For examples of Trade Secrets; think of the Coca Cola recipe or the recipe for Irn Bru. These rights are not registrable and need to be protected using contracts and/or confidentiality agreements.

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This post just touches on the subject of IP really as a way of highlighting World IP Day and anyone thinking of using IP or making any financially crucial or business crucial decisions based on IP should speak to an IP attorney. The website of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys can help you locate an attorney in you local area via their website. Most IP attorneys offer a free 30 minute one-to-one advice session.

Alternatively, you can visit your local Business & IP Centre for free, impartial, non-legal advice. Click here to see the full list of Centres around the country. 

A final comment; innovation through the years has shaped the world we live in, from the simple hand cast nail invented more than 2,000 years ago to the invention of the wheel and the wheel and axle concept, from Gutenberg’s printing press to the telephone, the electric lamp to penicillin, all of these innovations have made our lives easier, better and more interesting and, hopefully, the inventors and innovators of our generation will continue the trend.

 

Maria Lampert, Intellectual Property Expert

05 July 2017

How Intellectual Property helped Julie Deane start a £10 million business from her kitchen table

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So many small businesses lack IP awareness and understanding, but IP is something of an unsung hero and can prove critical in making or breaking a business.

The Business & IP Centre team are dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and SMEs understand what IP is and why it’s important, what IP they might have created and how they might increase their business success and profitability by protecting and exploiting that IP in the future. Over the years the team have supported thousands of small businesses unlock the value of their IP, and much of the support we provide in the Centre uses case studies and real-life stories to demonstrate how having a handle on your IP gives you a huge commercial advantage.

One such example is Julie Deane OBE, founder of The Cambridge Satchel Company, who has taken her business from the kitchen table and a £600 start-up budget to a global success story with a turnover of £10 million. Along the way Julie has overcome numerous business challenges including managing designers, manufacturers and overseas distributors, establishing web and physical retail sites around the globe and dealing with thousands of imitator brands. Here, in a free 30 minute podcast with the Intellectual Property Office, Julie lays the truth bare on how she’s developed strategies to tackle copycat websites, build the brand, keep putting the quality of the product at the heart of the business and “hang on to the passion that made you start the business in the first place.”

 

Podcast IPO

 Here are our 3 ‘top tips’ for what you need to know when it comes to your Intellectual Property:

  1. Think about trade marks - Is your business name protectable in the countries that you wish to trade? Is it already being used or does the word have another meaning in a different country. Future investors will want to know that you have the rights to trade in the countries that they wish to trade in, and you need to consider this right from the start to give your business the best chance of success.
  2. If you’re creating a ‘thing’ - Do your research before filing for a patent; is there a market for your product? It is expensive and takes a long time to protect your idea so make sure you do your market research and can be confident that somebody will buy it at the end of the day. If you have paid for your product to be patented and want somebody to manufacture it for you, you also need to ensure you have agreements in place limiting their rights to your initial idea or design.
  3. Founder’s agreement - It is easy to set out a document with your business partner right at the start when setting up your business agreeing things like % of ownership and what should happen in the case of a dispute, or if one of you wish to sell then business and the other one doesn’t. Once a dispute has started it is much harder and messier so you need to make sure all parties are clear on this from day one.

You can find further help, support and information on IP in any of the eleven Business & IP Centres up and down the country, including the British Library in King’s Cross. Speak to any one of our specialist staff face-to-face, over the phone or by email. You can also log on to our free of charge online workshops to grow your knowledge about IP, and increase your chances of business success.

Julie 2
Julie Deane in the Business & IP Centre

Julie Deane is Entrepreneur in Residence at the British Library and a huge champion for ambitious business owners. She recently gave advice and practical tips on Intellectual Property at the Library’s Scale-up Summit alongside Will Butler-Adams, CEO of Brompton Bicycles. Cambridge Satchel and Brompton recently launched a range of colour-matching bags and bikes where the satchel fitted perfectly to the handlebars. This ‘made-in-heaven’ brand match caught the attention of the press and delivered extremely high sales. Will and Julie's opening keynote presentation on ‘Getting your business in the media’ was a great success too.

 

Brompton
The Cambridge Satchel Company / Brompton Bikes collaboration

 

04 November 2015

Spotlight on Nimble Babies founder Von Sy

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Von Sy had always dreamed of being an entrepreneur and eventually decided to set up his own business using his skills as a chemist to help parents keep their babies bottles from smelling of stale milk. When starting up Von used the Business & IP Centre to help with market research which was crucial to getting his business off the ground. We asked him some questions. 

Von Sy (Nimble Babies)

Where did the idea for your business come from?

One day my sister asked me, knowing that I'm a chemist, how she could get rid of the milk odour and film building up in her baby's bottles. She said that a regular washing-up liquid could do the job but she had to use loads of it and it made her bottles smell of washing-up liquid.

I thought that perhaps this was a problem that only my sister complained about, so I did a quick search online and, to my surprise, I saw a lot of parent blogs and forums that talk about similar problems in baby bottle washing and there was not a single brand out there addressing them.

Thus, I saw an opportunity to come up with a business that could help parents free their baby bottles from smelly milk residues.

What is so unique about your product?

Nimble Babies Milk Buster is a new washing-up spray that is specially made to remove smelly milk residues from baby bottles.

Unlike regular washing-up liquids that are made for heavy food grease, Nimble's patent-pending formula detaches milk fat and proteins from plastic surfaces.

It also comes in a spray format that mums love because it allows them to clean teats more easily.

Product Shot - front back on white580
 

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

Most definitely! As a student back in the Philippines, I used to carry extra stationery items in my schoolbag which I sold to my classmates in case some of them forgot to bring their notebooks, paper or pens. In uni, I tutored Maths and Science to primary and secondary school students so that I would earn extra money on top of the money my parents gave me. I bought and sold things too like CDs and college rings. So since an early age I have been quite entrepreneurial, and this did not fade even when I was working for a huge consumer goods multinational for 10 years.

What planning did you do before starting up?

It took years before I managed to have the guts to leave my job. But whilst I was working as an R&D Manager, I would take evening courses on marketing, finance and economics to give me a basic understanding of other business functions.

I'd also read business books and watched shows like Dragon's Den to keep me inspired and aware. I also saved up money because I knew one day the time would come when I would be able to start my own business.

When I finally took the leap, I did a lot of market research work at the Business & IP Centre in the British Library and conducted surveys in cafes and shops (John Lewis in Oxford Street was my favourite turf) by randomly and cheekily asking mums for short interviews, as well as attending a number of workshops and networking events.

In use with bottle

What challenges or obstacles have you had to overcome?

As I lived in the North (Liverpool and Leeds) for a total of seven years prior to moving to London, I did not know very many people who understood what I was going through as a new entrepreneur. I need to meet others who could help me figure out where to start and guide me in areas I wasn’t experienced in: for example, graphic design, branding and accounting. And this is where going to networking events and doing my research at the Business & IP Centre helped a lot, as I got the chance to meet like-minded people who were at the same or more advanced stage as I was.

If you could have given yourself one piece of advice when you started what would that be?  

I would say to myself not to wait for everything to be perfect and complete before doing anything, because what matters most when you have your own business is that you're able to test your ideas fast enough to know if they will succeed or fail.

 

We are now taking applications for the next Innovating for Growth programme find out how you can apply today.

20 July 2015

Top 5 Intellectual Property Mistakes Made by Small Businesses

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Intellectual Property (IP) law can be a minefield, particularly for start-ups and SMEs that either don’t have the necessary experience or resources. As a partner to the Business & IP Centre and at our firm of patent and trademark attorneys, London IP, we work with small businesses to sort out IP problems that could have been avoided if the right steps had been taken at the right time. So, to help you avoid any problems with IP we have put together a list of our top five IP mistakes (and how to avoid them).

1. Being scared of IP and ignoring it

 There is a myth that IP is an expensive business, and no doubt it can be. However, really you can spend as much as you want to. The UK official fees for registered designs are £60, for trademarks fees start at £170 and for patents £230. Indeed, the official fees to obtain a registered design that covers the whole of the EU are only EUR350!

If you use a patent or trademark attorney to help you then you will need to pay their fees as well, but compared to the cost of many other business expenses such as rents and business rates IP isn’t all that expensive. For example, the cost to get a UK patent granted could be anywhere in the region of £1500 to £4000 spread over five years or so. For a potential twenty year monopoly, and a halving of corporation tax (through the patent box tax scheme), that may be a very worthwhile investment.

Also, it’s worth knowing that IP law is actually quite generous in that it gives you free IP rights that you don’t have to do anything to obtain other than create something that is worthy of being deemed to be protected. The most well-known of these rights is copyright, but there are others.

For example, any designs you create may be automatically protected for three years by EU unregistered design right, and for up to 15 years by UK unregistered design right.

That said, unregistered design rights are not as strong as registered rights as unregistered rights (other than the ‘passing off’ right for unregistered trademarks) are only infringed by copying, whereas registered rights provide an exclusive right meaning that they can be infringed even if the original work has not been copied.

Thus, it must be recommended that you register your IP rights if possible.

2. Being fooled by scam invoices

The publishing of applicant and inventor names and addresses is essential to the transparency of the IP system as the public needs to know who owns a particular IP right.

Unfortunately, all this information can also be used by criminals, so if you do choose to register any IP rights then it is almost certain that you will receive one or more very official-looking letters from rogue companies that try to scam applicants for patents, trademarks and registered designs.

These scams can simply be an invoice that appears to be from a ‘patent office’ or a ‘register’. The amounts of money requested vary, but are sometimes quite significant.

The UK Government seems to be generally powerless to stop most these scams as they are often run from overseas

Beware.

3. Not registering IP at the right time

There is nothing more disheartening than a client describing what sounds to be a marvellous invention with a view to protecting it with a patent and the client commenting ‘it’s selling really well’.

To obtain valid patent protection in most of the world a patent application must be filed before any non-confidential disclosure of an invention.

So before you file a patent application for your invention you can’t sell it, put on a crowd-funding website, use it in public, etc., etc.

You can of course talk to third parties in confidence without jeopardizing your chances of obtaining valid patent protection. You may wish to use confidentiality agreements with third parties just so it is clear that everyone understood that the discussions were confidential.

As an aside it is worth noting that all correspondence with patent attorneys is inherently confidential both under common law and their code of professional conduct, so using confidentiality agreements with patent attorneys is quite unnecessary.

It’s not just patents though; many countries of the world require registered design applications to be filed before any non-confidential disclosure of a design in order to grant valid protection.

Furthermore the trademark system in many ways operates on a first-to-file basis so trademark applications should be filed as early as possible to safeguard future use of the mark and to minimize the chances of expensive and protracted disputes with owners of later-filed conflicting trademarks.

Many trademark disputes would never have occurred if a relevant trademark had been registered when use of the mark started.

In summary, IP should be considered at the very outset of any new venture to try to make sure that patent, trademark and design applications are filed at the appropriate time.

4. Ignoring infringement issues

It should be appreciated that IP is double-edged sword and along with protecting your own IP rights you need to careful not to infringe existing IP.

As mentioned above, registered IP rights provide the owner with the exclusive right to use the IP in the territories covered. This means that you may believe that what you are doing is original but you could be infringing an existing right.

This is the case even if what you are doing is in fact original as registered IP rights can be broader in scope than the thing that they were created to protect.

For example trademark registrations give the owner the right to stop use of identical and similar marks, and registered designs protect against designs with the same ‘overall impression’.

Often we see clients obsess about protecting ‘their’ idea with a patent, and ignoring the fact that someone else might have thought of it before (perish the thought!).

So before spending money on branding, prototyping and tooling, try to make sure that whatever it is that you are developing isn’t going to infringe.

If it does infringe and you can’t obtain a license, then unless the IP can somehow be worked around you may need to completely reconsider your project.

5. Not understanding IP ownership issues with commissioned works

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

IP doesn’t work like that unless the ‘builder’ is legally an employee, so problems regularly arise with commissioned works, where the person doing the work is paid money for a project, but is not an employee.

For example, if you commission someone to design a logo or a product, or to write something for your website then (unless there is an agreement in place to the contrary) the person that does the work will own all of the IP rights when the work is done.

Because this is so counterintuitive a lot of disputes about the ownership of intellectual property arise. Indeed, if the law on this were to be changed a lot of IP lawyers would be out of a job!

It is therefore very important to have a clear agreement at the outset of any commissioning process about who will own all the IP once the work is completed and to ensure that, if desired, any IP rights created are legally transferred to the commissioning party.

 

David Warrilow, Patent & Trademark Attorney London IP, on behalf of the Business & IP Centre