In through the outfield blog

20 posts from January 2009

27 January 2009

Support for disabled people to start their own business

Leonard Cheshire Disability logo#

One of the great things about working in the Business & IP Centre is the chance to be involved in supporting entrepreneurs from minority groups. Sad to say this includes women:

Women are half as likely to be involved in start-up activity as men. Independent start-up activity amongst women is 3.1% of the female adult population but is 6% amongst men, while the equivalent figures for job related start-ups are 1.3% and 2.6%. (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, GEM, Jan 2004)
Key Women’s Enterprise Statistics and Trends

Disabled people actually have higher self-employment levels than their non-disabled equivalents (although it is argued this is in response to lack of paid employment opportunities)

WELMERC, School of Business and Economics, University of Wales Swansea, June 2006 (pdf).

So it is good to know we have team up with Leonard Cheshire Disability to run a one-day conference for people with a disability who are interested in setting up a business or working for themselves.

Make your Business Succeed
Tuesday 3 February 2009
10.00 – 16.00
British Library Conference Centre
96 Euston Road
London NW1 2DB

26 January 2009

Rotatable buildings

I have been hearing about a rotatable building which, despite the financial crisis, will be erected in Dubai at a cost of $700 million.

David Fisher, an architect who is based in Milan, Italy, has applied for a patent for his Rotatable building structure. It will be built in a factory which means a floor can be installed in 6 days. There will be 80 floors and it will be 420 metres high. The lower floors will be offices, then a luxury hotel, and then apartments at the top.

There have been rotating buildings before, such as observation towers, but in this building each floor can revolve independently. It was inspired by a remark made by an apartment owner, who said that he had the best view in his building. Fisher thought that was unfair.

A mixture of wind pressure on horizontal wind turbines, and solar panels, will provide the energy needed to revolve the floors at the wish of the owner -- perhaps to take in the views at sunset, or to avoid the midday sun. Excess power would go into the local electricity grid.

The patent document makes interesting reading. For example, each apartment would have two sets of plumbing etc. connections with the central core. This would mean that one set of flexible connections would stretch, and then temporarily disconnect while the other set was functioning. Here is the main drawing.

Rotatable building 

If solar panels are needed then Dubai sounds like a good place to start (but Moscow also wants one). Apparently all that is holding up the project is sorting out rights in the land, and completion is projected in 2010. Lighting will be used to create interesting effects.

The rippling effects as shown on Fisher's Dynamic Architecture web site will only be possible if all the tenants agree to move their floors according to a preset plan. Perhaps their contracts will say that on certain days they have to let the floors move as management wishes. In fact, unless the entire floor is owned by a single tenant furious disputes would erupt. In which case the preset plan sounds best. Perhaps every third evening your dining room would face the best view, for example, before the building set off turning with a light show for those down in the streets.

23 January 2009

President Obama and his BlackBerry®

The BBC site has a story called Obama allowed to keep BlackBerry which says that after a "compromise", America's new president can continue to use the device.

President Obama is the first tech-savvy President, and the article quotes him as saying that if officials wanted him to give it up they would have to "pry it out of my hands". They worried that terrorists might use it to identify his location. 

The BlackBerry® comes from Canadian company Research in Motion, and the patents were applied for in 1998. The American patent has the long but informative title System and method for pushing information from a host system to a mobile data communication device having a shared electronic address. Here is the main drawing.

Blackberry patent 

Many others seem to find them essential, although I have never used one. It isn't just a mobile/ cell phone as it does so much more, and Wikipedia calling it a wireless handheld device is much closer to the mark. The company itself when applying for British registered designs called it a handheld communication device.

Apparently is was first to be called LeapFrog, as it would surpass the opposition, and then perhaps Strawberry as the tiny buttons looked like the seeds on the fruit. Straw sounded too slow, so Blackberry was used instead.

Quite rightly, the company wants to protect the look of the device. Numerous designs have been registered to protect the looks of the various versions, and here is just one, from the European Community designs.

Look of a Blackberry model

22 January 2009

The Vision Thing

National Archives and Records Administration

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking at the Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C., in 1963. Credit: National Archives and Records Administration

With Barack Obama’s recent presidential inauguration, and references to Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech, in the media, I have been pondering ‘the vision thing’.

So many of the successful entrepreneurs I have met, or heard speak, have had a clear and powerful vision of the future of their business, invention or service.

For me, the entrepreneur with the clearest vision has been Jordan Kensington, founder of Invincible Media who I mentioned back in November 2007. He described in vivid detail how, when starting out he had a film running in his head showing people on the streets reading his magazine (his first product), and the kind of stories it contained. He explained how the power of his vision was so strong it drew people with the necessary finance, and expertise into his network and led to a successful business.

Gerard Burke in his Growing Business column from last November last year describes the concept in more detail. He gives the example of Karan Bilimoria and his Cobra Beer, who even when he was delivering his first cases of beer in a battered 2CV car, had a vision of Cobra as the first global Indian brand.

21 January 2009

Robot legs

I have a regular patents column on the Ideas21 web site, and (a little late, sorry) the November story is about Honda's robot legs concept.

20 January 2009

The BIG and Easy Guide to take a Bright Idea from Drawing Board to Successful Revenue


the_big_and_easy_guideAs a librarian of over 20 years there is nothing I like better than a book whose title describes its contents.

The BIG and Easy Guide to take a Bright Idea from Drawing Board to Successful Revenue is nothing if not informative. However, the fact it is written by Rob Lucas who has helped to develop our e-learning courses in Intellectual Property, and more surprisingly, seems to be a unique publication in covering this important topic, gives it even more value.

Certainly, those better informed on this topic than myself are impressed.

“Whether you are an aspiring inventor working from home or in the R&D department of a major institution, this book is an essential read.  I know of no other book like it”
Dr John Beacham CBE; DSc; FRSC
Former Senior Innovation Advisor to the
Department of Trade and Industry (now the DBERR)

Once again Amazon provides the opportunity to have a peek inside, to see that Rob covers the key topics of confidentiality and when to file for protection.

19 January 2009


It is said that in recessions people stay in a lot and play board games. One game that I recommend is called Upwords®.

First page clipping image

This is the main drawing of Elliot Rudell's Game board and playing pieces. You get points for altering words by building upwards (get the pun), to a limit of 5 pieces. So FOOT might change to COOT by putting a C on top of the F. Each tile contained within an altered word gets you a point. 

Unlike Scrabble®, the players continue until nobody can play, rather than when a player has used all their letters. To my mind that, and the ability to build up, makes it more creative. 

Rudell applied for his patent in 1982 and it was published in 1988. The US trade mark was applied for in 1983, citing first use in that year, and is shown as owned by Milton Bradley. It is registered as "Apparatus for Playing a Parlor-Type Three-Dimensional Strategy Board Game". I see that the British trade mark database shows it being filed for there in 1984 -- and owned by Hasbro. Hasbro in fact has taken over Milton Bradley (and also Parker Brothers).

Rudell has scores of patents for toys. They are listed on the web site for Rudell Design. The company is a prolific provider of concepts which are taken on by toy companies, much like Marvin Glass, who gave us the Mousetrap® game and many others. Toys and games by both companies are sold under the trade marks of others and so are not readily identifiable as their work.  

17 January 2009

Visit Camden libraries for books and therapy

camden_therapyThis weeks edition of the Camden New Journal has a story headlined Free therapy for all to help kick recession depression.

In a first for the UK, Camden are addressing an expected significant increase in cases of depression and anxiety disorders caused by the economic gloom.

“While other areas in the country have piloted the idea of self-referrals, Camden is the first place where the scheme is up and running. Ms Leibowitz added: “We would encourage anyone who feels that their life is badly affected by these problems to contact us to find out what is available to meet their needs.”
Thirty extra therapists have been hired and will be stationed in surgeries, libraries and employment advice centres across Camden.”

What with the British Library offering business advisors, Birmingham City Library record deals for aspiring musicians and Camden libraries therapists, who knows what limits there could be to library services.