In through the outfield blog

8 posts from September 2009

30 September 2009

Copyright contacts for writers and artists a business advice session yesterday I was reminded how few entrepreneurs are aware of copyright law. Most do know a bit about patents, trademarks and designs, but when it comes to copyright they flounder.

Fortunately we have produced a very simple PDF guide (What is copyright?) with much more detailed information available from the UK Intellectual Property Office. The key points are that copyright protection is free and automatic (you donā€™t even need to use a copyright symbol). The point that most surprises people is that copyright for authors now extends to life plus 70 years.

However rather than hope the owners of the intellectual property wonā€™t find out you have taken their property and come after you through the courts, a much better approach is to contact them and see if you can licence their content. Fortunately thanks to the WATCH file, tracking down these copyright holders is relatively straightforward.

For example a search for Roald Dahl author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (amongst many other childrenā€™s favourites) gives the following results;

Roald Dahl   1916-1990 ā€“ 3 contacts found in the WATCH File
David Higham Associates are the principal representatives. Some copyrights (mostly for poems by Dahl) are administered by Random House Childrenā€™s Books; and film and television rights are handled by Casarotto Ramsay.
Copyright Permissions   Casarotto Ramsay Limited  VIEW
The Estate of Roald Dahl   David Higham Associates Limited  VIEW
Childrenā€™s Permissions Department   Random House Childrenā€™s Books  VIEW

WATCH is a database of copyright contacts for writers, artists, and prominent people in other creative fields. It is a joint project of the Harry Ransom Center and University of Reading Library in England. Founded in 1994 as a resource principally for copyright questions about literary manuscripts held in the U.S. and the U.K., it has now grown into one of the largest databases of copyright holders in the world.

24 September 2009

To Arthur ! 250 years of the black stuff

Today marks 250 years since Arthur Guinness signed a 1000 year lease on the St James's Gate premises in Dublin, and successor company Diageo are throwing a party, with the slogan "To Arthur !". Here are two inventions by the company for pouring its famous black, bitter stout: one famous, one not (yet?) so.

Just about everyone has heard of the GuinnessĀ® ā€œWidgetā€. This is the can of stout which on pouring gives a nice smooth head without any special equipment. It works with a device at the bottom of the can emitting gas. It won the Queen's Award for Technological Achievement in 1991 for an invention which had been worked on since at least 1959. The patent application was published as A beverage package and a method of packaging a beverage containing gas in solution. Here is the main drawing.

Guinness widget patent

In September 2002 successor company Diageo trialled a pint dispensing system GuinnessĀ® FastPour which claimed to deliver a perfect pint in only 25 seconds instead of the usual two minutes or so. It was tried out in pubs across London and Yorkshire, but was dropped after opposition from loyal drinkers: they enjoyed the ceremony of waiting.

Then Diageo came up with a new technique which it was promised would give drinkers at home the perfect head to a pint of GuinnessĀ®. The concept had been tested since 2003 in Japanese bars, which are often too small to have the usual keg-and-tap system for pouring stout. It uses a device which emits ultrasonic pulses through glasses holding specially prepared stout. The device is the GuinnessĀ® SurgerĀ® and it went on sale in some Tesco Extra stores in about the end of February 2006 at a price of Ā£16.99.

The patent application was published as the Apparatus for forming a head on a beverage. Here is one of the drawings.

Guinness Surger patent-


The kit as sold consists of a pint glass and two cans as well as the unit itself. It is plugged into the mains and a little water is added to its metal plate. Special cans of stout (using a different gas mix from normal stout), equipped with batteries, and costing Ā£4.99 for a pack of four, are poured into a pint glass and placed on the device, which is then switched on. It takes between 30 and 90 seconds to create what the company describes as a ā€œvelvet pint with a creamy headā€.

The water on the plate is there as, without it, even the best made glass would not be completely smooth at its base, and would therefore have air gaps at its base. This would reduce the contact between the bottom of the glass and the plate. Technically speaking, the ultrasonic transducer produces ā€œexcitationā€ and hence cavitation of the liquid which encourages the gas in the liquid to come out of solution.

Diageo spent Ā£2.5 million in advertising the concept. The move towards non-smoking pubs may well encourage the existing trend to drink more at home rather than in pubs, so perhaps it is a smart move. Even in bars, many younger drinkers prefer not to wait and just order a premixed drink, and busy bar staff can find it a nuisance taking so long to prepare one drink.

There are likely to be problems. The cost of the apparatus for what may be seen as a laugh is surely a deterrent, and the users will need to remember to buy the correct cans. It will take between 30 and 90 seconds for the SurgerĀ® to work, but then GuinnessĀ® drinkers are used to waiting for, it is estimated, 119.5 seconds for the ritual to end in which the bartender holds the glass at a 45-degree angle, fills it three-quarters full, lets it settle and then tops it off with its signature creamy head -- an Irish variant on the Japanese tea ceremony, perhaps.

The companyā€™s advertising has cleverly made a virtue of the wait, with slogans like ā€œGood things come to those who waitā€, and endless television shots of entranced would-be drinkers staring at the stout slowly settling. Diageo says that the device ā€œcreates the theatre and anticipation around the Guinnessā€ that many drinkers expect and enjoy. It remains to be seen if the company gets the financial reward that they are hoping for.

17 September 2009

Saving Britainā€™s business future

The September issue of Real Business magazine has two mentions of the Business & IP Centre which are so flattering I canā€™t resist sharing them here.

In an article titled Saving Britainā€™s future, Charles Orton-Jones produces a 10-point manifesto to rescue Britainā€™s economy. At number three on the list is Open Business & IP Centres in six cities. To quote the initial text,
ā€˜In 2006, the British Library opened the Business & IP Centre. The centre fuses the British Libraryā€™s vast repository of databases and commercial documents with a plethora of services for entrepreneurs ā€“ a sort of Pimp my Business Link.ā€™

A few pages later on, in the article 27 champions of entrepreneurial Britain, Catherine Woods puts the British Library in at number 15 ā€“ behind Peter Jones, but ahead of Alan Sugar and Richard Branson.

16 September 2009

Survey shows determination as most important entrepreneurial characteristic

Real_Business_coverIt could just be coincidence, or an example of great minds thinking alike, but the September issue of Real Business magazine has a survey of 372 UK entrepreneurs which reinforces my last blog post Perserverance and the achievement of goals.

As well as showing that adversity is often a motivator for setting up  business (69 per cent of respondents), nearly 60 per cent voted voted determination as the most important characteristic in running your own business.

The full article is on the Real Business website.

14 September 2009

Perserverance and the achievement of goals

I donā€™t usually get too philosophical on this blog because I know most people are looking for practical solutions to problems.

However, on my recent holiday up in the beautiful Langdale Valley in the Lake District, and then on to the Highlands of Scotland, I managed to achieve something I first attempted 25 years ago.

Although climbing Ben Nevis does not compare to the serious mountains of Europe and the Americas, it does feel good to have finally conquered the highest mountain in Britain. Especially as my two previous attempts had to be abandoned due to bad weather, leading to dangerous conditions on top.

It made me think about how much perseverance entrepreneurs need in order to succeed in business. They will need to overcome a great many obstacles and challenges on the way if they are to succeed in the long term.

To quote Roy Castle from his Record Breakers days,  ā€œwhat you need is dedicationā€.

09 September 2009

Pressure exchangers in desalinization

I have found Forbes magazine, perhaps surprisingly, a good source for interesting articles about inventions.

Recently I read in it an interesting article about Leif Hauge of Norway and his research into using pressure exchangers in the desalinization of sea water. Using sea water as a source of potable water has long been desirable, but the problem is the amount of power involved.

The sea water is subjected to great pressure so that the water is forced through a membrane which enables the small water molecules to pass through but not the larger salt molecules. Traditionally, the story says, that pressure was allowed to go to waste. Hauge wanted to utilise it in a pressure exchanger where the pressure was used again.

Pressure exchangers do exist but Hauge's worked on a new principle. The exiting water enters chambers in a cylinder and, as water can't compress, transfers nearly all its momentum to water entering the chambers at the other end before exiting. The cylinder spins 1000 times a minute, and is the only part that moves.

The article says that the PX-300 pressure exchanger is 4 feet long and weighs 180 pounds. 13,000 gallons of water is handled an hour. The device costs $25,000 and has 70% of the market for desalination energy-recovery devices. It needs no maintenance and pays for itself in electricity savings in about six years.

Hauge eventually lost control of the company, Energy Recovery Inc. I can trace two relevant patents, the second being his Pressure exchanger patent application. 

Pressure exchanger patent

07 September 2009

Vibram FiveFingersĀ® shoes

The latest big product in footwear seems to be Vibram FiveFingersĀ® shoes.

The idea is a shoe that fits like a glove, with each toe having its own pouch. Vibram USA is a company that has been associated with mountain boots for many years. The inventor is Italian Robert Fliri, an industrial designer. Going barefoot gives more grip, but as it can lead to injuries the shoe acts like a second skin and protects the soles.

Reactions have been compared to MarmiteĀ® as people either love the sensation or hate it, having been used to their toes being crammed into shoes.

The patent application is called Footwear having independently articuable toe portions. Here is the main drawing.

First page clipping image

There is more information on the Primal Lifestyle website.

01 September 2009

Photoelectric controls on street lighting

It is always interesting to hear about the technology in well-known inventions. I was looking for something else when I came across an article from 2003 about Sean Noone and his method of switching street lighting on and off by using the presence or absence of light.

It used to be that lights were switched off when it was broad daylight. Noone was an electronics engineer who had returned to Belmullet in Mayo, Ireland. There was a lot of unemployment after a local factory closed. He learnt that the usual street lighting broke down a lot (possibly connected with commands to turn on and off ?), and devised his Photoelectric control unit with cooling chamber for which he filed a patent in 1984. This is the main drawing.

Photoelectric control unit for street lighting patent

The patent makes it clear that minimising the need for repair was built in. This technology is used as the standard method in Britain and Ireland, and the company employed 64 people in Belmullet when the article was written.