THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Innovation and enterprise blog

128 posts categorized "Start-ups"

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.

10 May 2019

How to build a brand?

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Michael Murdoch, CEO of The House, one of the Business & IP Centre's workshop partners, gives some top tips to help you build your brand...

Build a brand and sell your story Michael Murdoch workshop image 2019

Why is Branding important?
In today’s modern world it’s more competitive than ever, so brands need to do more to stand out. It’s no longer good enough just to have a great product or service and a talented team, the brand needs to connect on an emotional level too evoking feelings which are often intangible.

Storytelling is key, as it has been since the dawn of man (and woman), as it’s the most effective way to communicate messages, build trust, connect, coerce and convince the listener to ultimately believe. This must be consistent across all touch-points with the audience and honest as authenticity is paramount. Just think about your favourite brand and why you love them? John Lewis, Apple, Airbnb and Innocent often come to mind, but it could be anything.

What are the most common challenges?

  1. Budget is tight. Many start-ups have so many things to pay for and little investment or revenue to play with. But good branding does not need to cost the earth. Focus on the Brand Story, the strategy and thinking behind to style, and the rest will fall into place. If your message is clear the look and feel will be easier, quicker and therefore cheaper to produce. And the best bit is that strategy is about time and thought, so if you truly believe in what you’re doing and you have an experienced guide, you’ll be able to get things in order pretty quickly and affordably.
  2. Form over function. Too many start-ups focus on the styling of the brand before they really understand what they want and need to communicate. This often means that the brand does not quite connect with the audience, despite it looking good. It does not set itself apart from the competition and doesn’t have a strong brand position, so again, think strategically and take time to get this right before the pretty stuff happens!
  3. Start-ups often look for perfection overnight. If funding or sales of a substantial amount are not in place, don’t be afraid to try minimum viable products for your brand. This could be as simple as using online logo generators or working with a freelancer in another country. The key is to make sure this is not the end of the road and that plans for success are made. Start-up life is a journey, it often take 1–2 years to establish a new start-up (and that’s quick) so use this time to experiment and iterate so when the world is really looking, you are ready.

Top tips when building a brand?

Start with your Value Proposition 
The first step of budget friendly brand building is understanding your Value Proposition before designing anything. This is simply the offer you have e.g. your product or service and the customer segment you want to attract. What is your gift and who will receive it? From this, a designed identity and other visuals will be more appropriate and easier to create.

Conduct Market Research 
You’ll want to get things right first time so follow the old rule, measure twice and cut once. Conducting research like online surveys, focus groups (with 10 people and some pizza), one-to-one interviews, start talking with your audience via social media or just simple desktop Google searches, help to line up your ducks in a row so you know the audience and your customer problem to solve inside out!

Get Inspired
You may need a professional designer to complete your project, but by finding examples and understanding what works and what doesn’t, you’ll help speed up the process and hence reduce costs. The better the brief, the more likely it is your brand will be effective and the less time you’ll spend getting there.

Be Brave 
You need to take risks to do great things. This might be as simple as networking to make the right connections, or speaking in public at events to stand out from the crowd. Try not to list too many tasks as incremental improvements win the day…there is no such thing as an overnight success.

Focus on your Wow!
The things you decide to emphasise as your differentiator can depend on many things, including your industry and your work so far. Some examples could include amazing statistics, case studies, the number of happy customers, testimonials; it could also be an impressive innovation or award, or even the expertise of your leadership or staff. Whatever it is, be different. Make it easier for your customer to make the choice over you or your nearest rival…if it doesn’t matter it’s just a 50/50 coin toss.

Michael Murdoch

Michael founded The House creative agency in 2009 and has been a Brand Strategist for nearly 20 years working with emerging and established organisations around the world like NHS, MTV, Diabetes UK, Sanyo, Fairtrade and Nokia to smaller startups like Franklin Scholars, Mixcloud and Olive Branch. Michael has won awards for his work and helps clients find their full potential, taking them step-by-step through their projects in partnership with them. Graduating from courses at Central Saint Martins, UWE and Oxford University, Michael loves working with entrepreneurs and hopes to pass on his skills and expertise on to help them be the top 10% of organisations that succeed.

To view all of our upcoming events, including The House's next workshop, visit our events page

02 May 2019

Start-ups in London Libraries: Business support on ten London borough high streets

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The British Library’s Business & IP Centre has launched a major new initiative, Start-ups in London Libraries, a three-year project to support London entrepreneurs from all walks of life get their business idea off the ground.

Where can I find this service?

The project is launching in the boroughs of Bexley, Croydon, Greenwich, Haringey, Lambeth, Lewisham, Newham, Southwark, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest.

Who is this for?

Open to early-stage entrepreneurs, including start-ups, pre-start-ups and those who have simply dreamed of being their own boss, the new services will provide a grass roots solution to business support by equipping visitors with the skills, information, confidence and connections they need to turn their ideas into viable businesses.

In a launch event at City Hall today, Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library, said: “For the past 13 years, our Business & IP Centre has worked tirelessly to try and democratise entrepreneurship across the country. From fashion designers to digital innovators and social enterprises, tackling homelessness in our capital, the wonderfully eclectic cohort of businesses that we have supported through our National Network shows that all libraries have the potential to be hubs where ideas of any kind, dreamt up by anyone, can become a reality. We are delighted to be awarded ERDF funding to continue breaking down barriers to entrepreneurship across some of London’s most diverse communities.”

What will the libraries offer?

The participating libraries will offer free, walk-in access to business information resources including COBRA (the Complete Online Business Reference Advisor), a programme of live webinars, practical fact-sheets and market research reports.

What if I need further business support?

Further support is available at the Business & IP Centre in the British Library, which is home to over £5 million worth of market research reports and IP intelligence including the UK’s national patent library, as well as a dedicated scale-ups programme, Innovating for Growth, offering £10,000 worth of support and tailored advice to help London-based SMEs grow.

I’m not based in London, what help can I get?

The project is modelled on the Business & IP Centre’s National Network of 13 Centres located in major UK libraries.

Did you know: Over the past two years, the Business & IP Centre has helped create more than 1,800 new businesses and 3,600 new jobs. Of these businesses, 64% are owned by women and 42% are owned by people from a black and Asian minority ethnic background, compared to just 20% and 5% of UK business owners respectively.

To find out more about Start-ups in London Libraries or to book on to a workshop, click here.

01 May 2019

National Pet Month: Pawfect pet businesses

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National Pet Month was set up to raise money for UK pet charities and promote responsible pet ownership. We caught up with three Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups alumni whose businesses are formed around our furry friends.

According to Mintel, the pet industry is going from strength to strength, with pet services one of the fastest-growing areas, reaching £717 million in 2017, as pet owners are looking for more ways to treat their pets.

One business in this sector is Longcroft Cat Hotel, the UK’s first luxury hotel group for cats, founded in 2010. Longcroft Luxury Cat Hotel Group is the vision of founder and cat lover, Abi Purser, who recognised the demand for a higher standard of feline boarding in the UK. It all began with a chat over a coffee between Abi and her mother, which developed into the concept for the first five-star luxury cat hotel. Abi, struggling to find suitable accommodation for her own beloved cat, Norman, and felt that the industry approach to cat boarding was outdated. Cats were too often housed in small cages or kept in veterinary surgeries. Owners struggled to find adequate care for their beloved pets when they went away. After beginning in Abi’s back garden, with space for six feline guests, the business has now expanded to 20 hotels, which Abi runs as a franchise and has won awards including The Guardian’s Most Innovating Home Business. This rapid growth led Abi to apply for Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups.

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Longcroft Cat Hotel after their win with the Business & IP Centre's Nigel Spencer and Ian Gibbs, head of commercial insight at the Guardian

Abi explains, “Demand for Longcroft’s five-star level of service quickly outstripped the number of rooms available, so we sought support and guidance for the best way to grow the business, how to develop a successful franchise and open more hotels following the same model. The global pet care market has grown 3% on average over the past five years. In the UK specifically, there has been an explosion in the pet care market, and change in culture. There has been a strong trend towards premiumisation, which is reflected in the success and growth of the Longcroft brand.”

The trend for luxury and a premium experience for pets could be for a number of reasons, but Abi believes certain groups are key to this, “Millennials have emerged as a major driver for growth in the UK pet care market, more likely than others to view their cat as a member of their family and willing to spend more on them, i.e. trading up the quality of pet foods, matching owners’ own dietary habits. Tech savvy customers are also better informed and have access to a greater breadth of services and reviews than ever before. They consequently demand a higher quality of experience for their pets as well as greater convenience.”

To keep ahead of the competition and to ensure the cats’ experience and welfare is as high as possible, Longcroft offers a range of features which benefit both the guest and their owner. “Longcroft has rewritten the rules on feline accommodation, our innovative and forward-thinking approach limits the number of feline guests in any of our hotels offering a far higher human to cat ratio. Animal welfare is the number one priority, which gives owners complete confidence their beloved pets will be well cared for.

“Longcroft offers a home-from-home experience and provides one-on-one handling and care from hotel owners for every cat. The five-star, fully licensed accommodation offers each feline their very own climate-controlled bedroom, leading onto a private, safe, garden play area, complete with multi-storey viewing platforms. Each suite provides the highest standards of hygiene and luxury, which includes Longcroft’s bespoke wrought iron cat beds with soft pillows. Hotels put owners’ minds at rest by sending them regular updates and photographs of their feline friends enjoying their kitty retreats. Longcroft offers a tailored service with a host of added extras, including a cat chauffeur service, room service with a choice of dishes from the ‘A La Cat Menu’, kitty pampering experiences and the Milky Whiskers Turn Down Service.”

Longcroft Letchworth

Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium is another Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups alumni who is putting welfare at the heart of their business. Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium is a cat café, where guests can dine with 14 rescued felines in wonderland-themed tea rooms. To ensure the cats are puur-fectly happy, the Chief Cat Carer monitors best cat care practices and trains all staff.

Founder, Lauren Pears explains, “We employ a committed and caring workforce who love the cats and are driven to safeguard their best interests. Policies are necessary, but the key is having people who will enforce them and who will follow them willingly and with an understanding of why they matter.” The surroundings are also extremely important to make sure the cats are happy and happened to be one of Lauren’s favourite moments in business so far, “We took a week off to build a paper mâché tree in the basement for the cats. It has become a beautiful defining symbol of the café that we are all super proud of, and it was also wonderful to have that time with the team and create something special together. When it’s business as usual we don’t get that kind of time together as we’re always quite busy.”

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It’s not just the staff who love interacting with the cats, customers can also see a benefit as Lauren states, “Cats are an icebreaker! I think the gift the café gives people is the ability to be distracted and unselfconscious. Guests tend to chat with each other and are more open and friendly because they’re starting from a shared love of animals. It’s a rare place in London where people are naturally inclined to chat away with strangers!”

Another business catering for the pet market is CT Vets, a mobile service providing visits for pets in their own homes. After working as a vet for more than 20 years, the founder, Martina Emiliani, has met clients who were unable to bring their pets in or who had pets so scared of new environments, that they developed the idea to offer a more comfortable way to see the vet. This brings multiple benefits to both the pet and the owner as Martina confirms, “It suits all types of owners, including those who have mobility issues, and we are the only chance they have to take care of their pets. We spend up to an hour to address all of the owners' concerns and we provide free unlimited follow-up calls by phone or video. Another benefit is that pets are safer, they don't risk meeting infectious animals, they don't have to move if they are in pain/uncomfortable, if they have diseases which deteriorate with stress (cardiopathic for example) it is absolutely contradictory to put them in a carrier or a car and bring them anywhere, and the list goes on… Ultimately, pets and owners are happier and less stressed in the environment of their home.”

Vet near me

Martina started using the Business & IP Centre for different workshops and made the switch between vet and entrepreneur. Once her business was up and running, the Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme became vital in helping CT Vets scale up, “I didn't know the impact that this programme would have on my business [when I applied]. Since completing the programme we have reorganised all protocols, hired two new members of staff, changed management system, rebuilt the website, focusing on a better user experience, we have started sending emails for clients, and we are launching live events, alongside other significant changes. All of this in the last six months!”

National Pet Month - top tips

Apply now for over £10,000 worth of business advice!

If you are already running a business and are looking to take it to the next level, our three-month Innovating for Growth programme can help turn your growth idea into a reality. Find out more here and register your interest!

24 April 2019

A Week in the Life of... Hugh Duffie, co-founder of Sandows

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Hugh is one of the co-founders of Sandows, who have been instrumental in introducing cold brew coffee to the UK since launching in 2014. Cold brew is a type of coffee drink, in much the same way as an espresso, cafetière or a flat white, and the process involves infusing ground coffee in cold water overnight. This long, slow method draws out an unexpectedly smooth and refreshing flavour that’s caffeine charged to boot.

Australian-born Hugh moved to the UK at 18 and started working in restaurants, where he trained to be a barista and bartender. He left to specialise in coffee and met Luke Suddards at TAP Coffee in Wardour Street, where he developed the roasting and café management skills that have served him well at Sandows, which the pair started in 2014, initially working from an Islington café’s basement.

Hugh

Sandows ambition is to make great cold brew something you can find everywhere and Hugh sees Sandows as a creative expression of the pair’s vision for great coffee - trying to take care of quality with humility, whilst engaging people with distinctive design and simple explanations.

Sandows produce a range of products from premium glass bottles in the style of whisky flasks that sit in specialist cafés, luxury retailers and members clubs, to cans that sell in more mainstream retailers. Hugh is an alumni of our Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme and will be a speaker at the upcoming Thinking Outside The Pots talk, so we asked him to tell us about a week in the life of running Sandows…

Most weeks are pretty different and it can be fluid which I like, but here’s an example of the kind of thing I normally do. My morning routine is probably the only really consistent part of my day and though I used to cycle every day, I actually find my (pretty short) commute really helps clear my head and set me up for better focus. I’m very much the kind of person who hits snooze half a dozen times - have to admit I’m not really a morning person, it’s no wonder coffee is a big part of my life. I usually wake up and deal with anything urgent email-wise whilst still in the comfort of my bed. I get up and take a shower and head to the Overground for about a 30 minute door-to-door trip which will usually feature listening to a podcast or some music, working through a long read or firing off a few memes to friends in one of the WhatsApp or Instagram groups I’m in. I just about always stop off at Lanark Coffee on Hackney Road for a chat and a coffee. This year I’ve been trying to keep my intake to just two coffees a day, usually before midday, whereas previously I’ve had virtually no limit and found myself feeling very wired/weird after my 6/7th coffee.

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Monday I get in to our office, part of a small ‘village’ of adapted shipping containers by the canal in Hackney, and set myself up for the day. Recently that’s meant some cereal and a brain function nootropic and then it’s straight into it. Mostly chasing up recent leads, preparing for calls or email pitches for potential new customers, or thinking about marketing and what we need to be executing on this week.

Tuesday I tend to schedule meetings for Tuesday/Wednesday so I can try and get ahead on the Monday and have a bit of room to give sales another push later in the week. At the moment there’s a lot of work trying to balance day-to-day execution with piecing together our long term plan in the form of a pitch deck, aiming to show potential investors that we have a clear plan for growth whilst also demonstrating that we have delivered on plans previously.

Wednesday Likelihood is that I will have a meeting or two booked and given our office is in a shipping container leaving it a bit exposed for conversations, I’ll sometimes arrange to meet elsewhere to avoid disrupting everyone. These meetings could be with mentors, wholesalers, freelancers we work with, investors, potential investors or even sometimes Luke when we need to walk around some of our stockists, take stock of where we’re at visually and talk through our plans as we walk.

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Thursday As we approach the end of the week I’m always checking in on current cash flow, sales for the week and progress towards our monthly goal and usually chasing those leads again from Monday. I don’t like emailing people a load of times and hassling them so I try to keep my tone really jovial and if we’ve met and had a laugh together (always my goal) I’ll throw in a joke or meme to try and elicit a response. Thursdays are a big day for launches and industry events and we straddle both coffee and alcohol industries across our various products (for example our Espresso Martini Mix is stocked by a lot of bars and we work with many alcohol brands to promote it) so often times I’ll find myself representing the brand after the working day finishes, meeting people and explaining what we do and seeking out new opportunities. I guess as a founder your work is so associated with your identity (life) and your lifestyle is so dictated by your work, so for me the answer is to ensure I’m enjoying work and life. That means working with people I get on with, not taking life too seriously and trying to share my enthusiasm for what I do. My whole philosophy is a bit like that question ‘how do you eat an elephant?’ where the answer is ‘one bite at a time’. I just try to move things forward every day and accept that it ebbs and flows and be grateful that I have the opportunity to control my own lifestyle so much and express myself through my work every day.

Friday Fridays we put our heads together as a team and go over the week’s activity, re-align on everything that’s happened and ensure production and sales are in sync. On a monthly basis Luke and I will need to put together an investor update for our lead investors and we present the data (financial performance), talk through successes and failures, team news, share the content that has been shaping our thinking and confirm our plan for the month/s ahead. We finish up with a few drinks and generally wind down with perhaps fun food Friday or some Friday tunes or both if we’re lucky. I’ll usually leave the team once we head our separate ways and meet with friends and have a few drinks. Given my family are in Australia, I look to my best friends to fill that place in my life and so investing in those relationships is really important to me.

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Weekend For a long time (nearly three years) Luke and I worked seven days a week and it was a case of fitting work into every waking hour to push the brand along. We reached the point of burnout and for the most part, Luke and I now avoid work on the weekends to take that time to decompress, gather our thoughts and really establish some balance and get inspired by doing new things. I love going to the cinema or exhibitions at the Design Museum for example, but I can be lazier sometimes and end up just watching Arsenal play and then stay at the pub for the other football games on that day. I love dropping in to our stockists on the weekend and seeing people experiencing our brand, but I guess I acknowledge that building a beverage brand is about quality interactions as much as quantity and that getting that right means patience and stamina over a prolonged period.

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.

18 April 2019

National Gardening Week with Natalie from Acacia Facilities

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National Gardening Week falls at the end of April and we took the opportunity to catch up with Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups alumni and current mentor for the Innovating for Growth: Mentoring programme, Natalie Taylor, founder of Acacia Facilities, a landscaping service for businesses and individuals throughout the UK.

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Acacia Facilities specialises in interior and exterior landscaping from design to finish, including garden, pot and replica plants, living walls (very Instagram-worthy), fresh cut flowers and seasonal decorations alongside maintenance services.

What are the benefits of having plants_

After growing up in a family of avid gardeners, Natalie had inherited the green fingered genes (her grandmother’s maiden name was fittingly, Green) and was destined to work with nature. After becoming inspired by the benefits of having indoor and outdoor plants, both in personal and business spaces, and spotting a gap in the market, Natalie set up her business in 1996 to improve wellbeing and transform spaces with plants and maintenance services.

Finding the gap in the market can be a difficult task, but for Natalie the best piece of advice she received was to “break from the norm. Look at your interests and problems in your sector of business and ask yourself the questions: Are they things people, other than you, are interested in? Do people spend money on these activities? Are there problems present that people need solving? Are these things that make people happy? If any, all or some of your answers are a ‘yes’, then you have a niche which could be profitable.”

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Natalie is also proud of how Acacia differentiates themselves from their competition, “we pride ourselves in offering a personalised service to our customers. We will provide bespoke services to customers’ needs. We are always ready to assist at all times during our business agreement. Our customers are not just a number we know each customer by name.”

Word of mouth has been extremely important to Acacia, with 80% of business originating from recommendations, which highlights the importance of the personal touches. Not to rest on her laurels however, Natalie applied and was successful in getting on to the Business & IP Centre’s Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme to help take the business to the next level, using the specialist tailored business support in area such as marketing, branding, intellectual property and more.

One of the most memorable jobs in her career, as Natalie explains was for the Shrek première, “we were asked to create a swamp style effect with plants and flowers at Somerset House. The outside grounds of such an historical building was huge and took a lot of planning, but the finished product looked amazing and exceeded the customer’s expectations and ours!”

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Apply now for over £10,000 worth of business advice!

If you are already running a business and are looking to take it to the next level like Natalie, our three-month Innovating for Growth programme can help turn your growth idea into a reality. Find out more here and register your interest!

15 April 2019

What happened next? Start-up Day revisited

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September 2018 saw our biggest Start-up Day yet, a day of free talks, workshops, tailored advice, speed mentoring and more, not just in London but throughout our National Network. Our flagship event is designed to help the thousands of people around the country who have a business idea, but aren’t sure how to turn the idea into a reality.

The day is about encouraging and empowering people from all walks of life to start and grow businesses. Six months on, we’ve caught up with some of the people who attended or who were involved with the talks and events, about what the day meant for them…

Madeleine Barnes won the Start-up Day prize draw competition and since then has attended workshops including Networking for success and Online marketing masterclass. Madeleine attended the event as she wanted to find out more about marketing as she is in the process of further developing The Craniosacral Practice in Highbury, Richmond and soon in Barnes, which offers Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy (CST), a gentle way of working with a light touch that interacts with deeply subtle rhythms and impulses in the body to assist with self-repair.

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Madeleine came to the Business & IP Centre because she “was looking for some practical and alternative ideas for direction and strategy. I also love talking to people about CST and hearing their discoveries along their journeys, so any opportunity to meet people suits me. I came to the Business & IP Centre to explore strategy, ways to educate and to be amongst other people starting businesses, as other friends have for theirs.”

Julie Boadilla, Reference Specialist at the Business & IP Centre since 2007 took part in the speed mentoring on the day, an opportunity for people to talk to specialists in particular businesses or areas, to help them answer some of their business queries. It’s also an opportunity to hear from the experts’ experiences and learn from them.

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Julie explains, “It’s a great opportunity for people who are interested in starting a business. There is a specialist per table, made up of experts from within the Business & IP Centre reference team and our delivery partners, who can talk about their industry, or more general business topics, such as IP.”

Madeleine had CST in her twenties for RSI and persistent headaches but it was a treatment with her six-month-old son that drew her in entirely. She'd had an interest in nutrition, Ayurveda and Homeopathy, for many years so it was an easy choice to develop her intrigue in CST and to embark on the three-year training course, achieving accreditation and becoming a practicing therapist, "the biggest present I've ever given myself!".

However, Madeleine continues to learn through the challenges of growing a business, “Life as a CST practitioner is unpredictable, but word spread. Some people come for five or six sessions to address an acute condition and others come for weekly constitutional sessions. Volunteering at a charity, helping people suffering from addiction, was an invaluable experience in the early days. I set up in Richmond at Neal's Yard which has grown and grown. I also occasionally do home visits which aren’t as easy for the practitioner but are enormously beneficial for people who are homebound. Having had hyperemesis gravidarum (the extreme sickness that also hospitalised HRH Duchess of Cambridge during pregnancy), I have known the loneliness of confinement. I am passionate to spread the word as I know how much CST can help!”

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Challenges haven't stopped Madeleine from being able to grow her business, “There’s always more to do and further to go!” which involves CPD, keeping in close touch with fellow CSTers (particularly helpful for referrals), seeing her own CSTer plus consulting with her supervisor on a regular basis, allowing her to grow her depth of understanding. It’s also involved finding her niche in a field where every client is different and has a different experience, and each practitioner brings their own unique touch, supporting clients past anxiety, low energy or chronic pain to live their lives to the full.

Anis Qizilbash, who delivered the talk on How to charge your worth, echoes the importance of the impact on your customer. “One tip for people to charge their worth is, instead of looking at your expenses, costs, overheads and then coming up with a price, ask yourself, ‘how is your client’s life transformed after buying your product/service?’, or ‘what difference does your product/service make in their life?’ Continuing down this line of questioning gives you the confidence and certainty to charge more.”

Anis is a delivery partner for the Business & IP Centre and runs monthly workshops on selling and mindfulness and started her business, Mindful Sales Training, after listening to start-ups and freelancers about their fear of selling and was inspired to help them. Her talk at Start-up Day aimed to give confidence to those who didn’t think they were the ‘right type’ of salesperson, but more generally, Anis highlighted the benefits of attending Start-up Day. “It’s a rare opportunity to get inspiration, build a network, and receive actionable insight for you to take the leap to start that idea.”

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The day was packed with tips to take away with you, Anis’ advice for entrepreneurs who are demotivated or lacking in confidence would be, “avoid looking at social media because it usually makes you feel worse when you’re feeling so vulnerable. Instead, look back to how far you’ve come; look forward to the lives you’ll touch with your business; look within, remind yourself why you started your business or want to start a business.” For Anis, the most rewarding part of her career is hearing the feedback and success stories from the people she’s helped. Stories like, “after hearing your talk I increased my rates by £100” or “I made my first sale!” or “thanks to you I realised it was in me all along, not something I expected from a sales coach”. “These comments fuel me and makes me want to do more for more people.”

Start-up Day 2019 will be taking place on Friday 11 October - booking is now open, click here to find out more.

10 April 2019

How having a mentor can benefit your business

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Having a mentor at a crucial time in your business can make all the difference. You’ve started your business, you’re working at least part-time on it, your website is up and running, you’re generating revenue … then what? You might feel you need someone to help with professional and personal development, give advice and encouragement, explore new ways of thinking, help expand your professional network. You might want to consider becoming a mentee and pair with an experienced and successful entrepreneur. Our mentoring programme, for those based in London, matches mentees with a mentor from our Innovating for Growth programme.

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One mentee, Tina Bernstein, founder of Mapology Guides wanted a mentor as they can “potentially help you move mountains. They don’t do the work for you. They believe in you and lend a much needed guiding hand, which is priceless when you run a small business.”

Sarah Orecchia, fellow mentee and founder of Unbeelievable Health agrees, “It was a bit daunting starting my business in wellness, an industry which was new to me, and I asked my father, an entrepreneur himself, for guidance. He suggested getting in touch with people doing similar things or those with market knowledge to ask for advice which I thought was a bit mad, 'contact strangers?! No way…'. He said at least one or two out of 10 people asked would be flattered and would probably be chuffed to help. One of my mentors (a father of a child in my daughter's school who I approached), had built and sold a very popular supplements brand and was immensely helpful, he shared all sorts of tips and contacts and gave me the confidence I needed to crack on and was there, quietly in the background for years, offering up help and advice when needed.”

Mentors will guide you through the challenging and rewarding process of running a high-growth business. One of our mentors, Amelia Rope, founder of Amelia Rope Chocolates encourages those who are thinking about having a mentor, “Mentors don't necessarily have the answers but they can help you find your own answers. For myself, I value someone who is non-judgmental, open, trustworthy, honest, has a solid track record and top of the list... a very good active listener. Some of the time, as a mentee, you need to talk, to air undigested ideas/thoughts... be listened to. Oh and a sense of humour is pretty vital too! Always appreciate the time your mentor gives to you. They are doing it out of kindness, free of charge and as an altruist.”   

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Tina also sees the benefits as a recent mentee, “Ask yourself: have you had bad experiences with people advising or guiding you in the past? Are you fearful of something? If so, what? What do you imagine would happen? Now turn it around and dream up of what could happen. Where do you see yourself in three years and how will you get there? These are all things that a mentor can help you with. They gently guide you, they hold you accountable, they are on your side, they want you to be successful. The most successful business people have had mentoring. The wise amongst us know that having a mentor is a crucial part in the journey of a business.  I’d go as far as to say it’s critical!”

Amelia Rope has seen both sides of the journey and has benefited from mentors during her business lifecycle, “I have had mentors along my way. I have found that the right person tends to appear at the right time and then leaves when they have shared what I was in need of learning. I see it as a 360° experience, people move into your world when you need them (even if you are not aware at the time) and then they move on when you have absorbed what you needed to absorb.”

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If you are interested in finding out more about our mentoring programme, click here. You can also find our FAQ blog with some additional information.

04 April 2019

Happy returns make for happy customers

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Royal Mail published a report on delivery for online shopping, Delivery Matters. In this guest blog post, they explain how businesses can make their customers happy by making their online shopping, and returns, experience as convenient as possible...

As online shoppers become increasingly savvy, they look for reasons to shop with a particular brand. The perfect example of this is the growing trend of being able to ‘try before you buy’ – already offered by numerous retailers. This is a convenient and flexible way of shopping online and is proving increasingly popular with online shoppers. In fact, 76% of consumers said they would ‘definitely’ or ‘maybe’ purchase more items if they were offered a ‘try before you buy’ option, with shoppers saying they would order an average of three extra items each month.

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With 17% of global retailers already adopting this kind of model, it’s important to consider putting ‘try before you buy’ at the heart of your returns offering – and staying one step ahead of your competitors when it comes to customer satisfaction. By giving people what they want (and expect), it is more likely they will continue to shop with you in the future.

One in three (34%) of those that return items have used ‘try before you buy’ services. 18 – 34-year-old shoppers (49%) are more likely to use a service like this if it was available. Clothing (52%) and footwear (39%) are the categories people are most likely to use this service for, followed by electrical goods (39%). Two in five shoppers (40%) believe they would purchase more items if a retailer offered a ‘try before you buy service’.

Reasons for returns

The average online shopper in the UK sends back an online purchase every month*. Over half (53%) of those that return clothing or footwear said the most common reason to return is because the item didn’t fit or was the wrong size.

The study, part of Royal Mail’s annual Delivery Matters report, reveals women are more likely to return something because the item is not what they expected. Men are more likely to return a non-clothing item because it’s incompatible or not useful for its intended purpose.

Clothing (75%), electrical goods (42%) and computer software/hardware (33%) are the most commonly returned items. Over half of clothing is returned because it didn’t fit or was the wrong size. For electrical goods, the most common reason for returns is because the item was faulty or arrived damaged.

What online shoppers want

According to the study, six in ten (60%) online shoppers will not use a retailer again if they have a difficult returns experience so it’s important to get it right. To keep customers returning to purchase time and again, retailers should make sure their returns experience is a simple and affordable one.

There is a recurring theme when it comes to what online shoppers want when they return items: ease and convenience. People want the option of local, easy access, as well as knowing they won’t have to wait indoors all day for someone to come and pick their parcel up. They also want to use a returns provider they can trust. Royal Mail continues to lead the way on that score, with over three times as many online shoppers trusting them to return their item over their closest competition. Shoppers need to be able to trust that their items will get back to who they bought them from safely to get their refund. With branches up and down the UK, people prefer returning items at the Post Office® more than anywhere else.

Speed of refund after an item has been sent back is also important, with 93% of shoppers believing it’s crucial to receive a notification of a refund after they have returned something. Almost three quarters (73%) of respondents think it’s important for retailers to provide clear returns information on their site and at the point of purchase, as well as wanting marketplace sellers to make returns information easy to find (68%).

Peace of mind and reassurance are key when returning items so it’s important to provide tracking. Not only does tracking allow someone to keep up-to-date on where an item is at any given time, it also provides the much-needed proof of posting and delivery which are vital when someone is expecting a refund.

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Key conclusions

‘Try before you buy’ is a huge trend that appears set to stay. Smart sellers can satisfy savvy shoppers by offering them this convenient, flexible returns option. What’s also clear is that the returns process needs to be as easy as possible with many online buyers not prepared to shop with a retailer again if they have a difficult returns experience.

Factors such as speed of refund remain important, as does clarity of information about a company’s returns policy at the point of purchase. Shoppers now expect more from sellers and increasingly want to be able to return an item how they want, where they want and when they want. If retailers keep up with change and meet customers’ expectations then shoppers will continue to buy from them again and again.

*Taken as an average from the research that revealed online shoppers, on average, returned three packages within a three month period.

The research was independently conducted by Trinity McQueen and based on a sample group of 1,503 UK online shoppers that make returns.