In through the outfield blog

22 posts from March 2010

29 March 2010

It’s official – trade marks with swearing are now ok

I have to admit to not being a fan of marketing shock tactics. And I suppose the French Connection FCUK brand must be amongst the most well known example.

According to a BBC report from 2001, the FCUK logo was created by legendary adman Trevor Beattie, and is widely credited with turning the fashion retailer’s fortunes around. The British Advertising Standards Authority received 27 complaints about the logo on its launch. And a British judge branded the campaign “tasteless and obnoxious” during a court case involving the company.

Just this week I spotted a story in Springwise for a new brand of gadget friendly jeans that go by the name wtfjeans. My feeling is this is somewhat less offensive, as only ‘hip young things’ would know what the three letters stand for in this context. Having said that, a quick Google search reveals over 35 million hits for the term.

However, one of my Intellectual Property expert colleagues Philip Eagle has discovered that in January the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (Trade Marks and Designs) approved a German trade mark,  F***ing Hell.

Apparently swearing is ok as long as the offensive word is used in the abstract and not used to insult an identifiable person or group of people.

R 0538/2008-4 – F***ing Hell [Fig. mark] – The applicant sought to register a figurative trade mark for ‘clothing, footwear, headgear’ in Class 25, ‘beers and aerated waters and other non-alcoholic drinks’ in Class 32 and ‘alcoholic beverages (except beers)’ in Class 33.


Philip has just informed me that the UKIPO may have a different view on the matter as in June 2005 they refused an application for FOOK.

The Hearing Officer found that the trade mark was excluded from acceptance by reason of section 3(3)(a) of the Trade  Marks Act 1994 on the basis that it consisted exclusively of the word FOOK which is phonetically very similar or, in some regional dialects, identical to the offensive word F***. As such it was contrary to accepted principles of morality.

On a related topic I note that my old University, Keele has recently published a study showing that swearing can lessen pain.

26 March 2010

Confident Communication – speak up and get your message across with clarity, confidence and influence

 kathleen sullivanI was fortunate enough to sit in on this workshop yesterday morning and got a lot of useful ideas from it.

The trainer Kathleen Sullivan from KSCoaching was excellent. Especially when you consider that we were all much more conscious of her presentation approach given the nature of the workshop. I was immediately impressed by the way she coped with an initial technical hitch, because I have seen this throw many experienced presenters in the past.
The topic of First Impressions was well-known to most of the audience, but given its importance, was worth spending time on.

According to research you have up to seven seconds (and often much less) to make an initial impression. And if this is ‘wrong’, it can be very hard to recover from. ‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression’.
There are six key elements that go to make up that first impression:

1.    Handshake – Ideally, you don’t want your handshake to be memorable. We all have strong memories of handshakes that are too weak and limp, or too strong and bone crushing. Even more important it is to make eye contact at the same time.
2.    Appearance – Again, we all know of the importance of being clean and tidy, but sometimes you can be over-dressed for your audience. ‘If you stand out from the crowd, ask yourself it it’s for the right reasons.’
3.    Eye contact – Establish good eye contact, but don’t stare or blink unnaturally.
4.    Posture – You posture will have an impact on your audience and yourself. An open relaxed posture makes you feel more confident and will inspire confidence in those you are talking to. Your shoulders should be dropped, not hunched, your back should be upright, but not ramrod straight, your feet should be firmly planted on the ground, no crossing of legs or leaning on tables or walls for support. Your hands can rest on the table, in your lap or by your side, not hidden from view (indicates hiding something from your audience).
5.    Facial expressions – A gentle smile with both your mouth and eyes is good. A fixed grin (à la Miss World competitions of old) is false, and pursing or biting of lips is worse.
6.    Body language – To indicate fear, insecurity and defensiveness do the following; clutch your thumbs, sit on your hands, fold your arms and lock your fingers together. ‘A confident speaker has open, relaxed hands that move in line with what they are saying and have nothing to hide.’

The tricky bit is getting all of these right when you are in a stressful situation, such as a job interview or presenting to a potential hostile audience.

The key objective is to build rapport as quickly as possible.
Here are some additional suggestions taken from my notes:
1.    Shake hands with everyone you can, and when you do, say something positive and upbeat like, ‘lovely to meet you’.
2.    Aim to create positive energy in the relationship, not negativity. Don’t be an ‘energy vampire’.
3.    Be authentic, open and positive. Speak with passion and say what you mean. Your audience will smell out fakery every time.
4.    Be interesting without being overly controversial or opinionated.
5.    Listen twice as much as you speak. Practice being silent. It makes you seem more intelligent too.
6.    Acknowledge and validate their thoughts, ideas and feelings. Repeat their language back to them (mirroring).
7.    Using matching and mirroring of body positions to aid rapport. A 30 to 50 second delay is ‘natural’.
8.    Manage interruptions when you are presenting by acknowledging the speaker and repeating their comment to the rest of the audience. Once validated the interrupter is likely to feel satisfied and be quiet. Finally, sweep away the interruption with a wave of your arm and move on.
9.    Shake hands to signify the end the meeting.
10.    Leave a room with your face. In other words, make sure as you walk out of a meeting you turn and say your final goodbye so they see your face last, rather than the back of your head.

Anthony Lau and his Cyclehoop success story

Cyclehoop October 2009It was great to read about Anthony Lau in this weeks Evening Standard, with the news that Camden Council are about to install his invention.

Anthony is one of the growing number of Business & IP Centre Success Stories, although we are always looking out for more.

A Revolution in Bicycle Parking

Cycling has an important role to play in making our cities more sustainable. As more and more people take up cycling, cities struggle to provide sufficient cycle parking.

The Cyclehoop is an award-winning design that converts existing street furniture into secure bicycle parking. This innovative product won the Reinventing the Bike Shed international design competition and has been installed by local authorities across the United Kingdom.

It is a quick and cost effective solution helping local councils solve the problems of bicycle theft and the lack of on-street cycle parking.

Cycling has an important role to play in making our cities more sustainable. As more and more people take up cycling, cities struggle to provide sufficient cycle parking.

The Cyclehoop is an award-winning design that converts existing street furniture into secure bicycle parking. This innovative product won the Reinventing the Bike Shed international design competition and has been installed by local authorities across the United Kingdom.

It is a quick and cost effective solution helping local councils solve the problems of bicycle theft and the lack of on-street cycle parking.

Are you ready to publish your book?

They say everyone has at least one book inside of them, although I have yet to find mine. However, I have now seen quite a few clients who are ready and waiting to find a publisher for their manuscript or idea. Now we have a course tailored just for them, and you, if you are burning to get yours out into the wide world (and of course a copy for the British Library under legal deposit).

*  Have you thought about writing a book but didn’t know where to start?
* Have you got lots of ideas and don’t know which one to choose?
* Are you concerned about writing something that may not get published?

Get Published Today!
Get these and many more questions answered at an information packed half-day course on Wednesday 14th April from 10:00am -  13:00 with registration from 9:30 at the Business and IP Centre, British Library.

Veteran book coach Mindy Gibbins-Klein (best known as founder of The Book Midwife®) will be guiding you through every step of the process of planning, writing and publishing a successful book. Her clients have written and published over 300 books and most of them have completed the writing in just 90 days!

* Learn how to choose the best topic, title, publishing solution and market for your book
* Understand what your true message is
* Avoid the mistakes most first-time authors make
* End up with the best possible book in the shortest possible time
* Engage with your target market so they respond to you
* Know when the editing is finished and the book is ready
* Understand how the publishing industry works and use that to your advantage
* Get help from unlikely sources to promote your book
* Make your book ‘work’ for you and earn you income and higher fees
* Get the media attention you want and deserve
* Catapult your book to the top of the bestseller lists…and much more

How to write & publish your book in 5 easy steps

24 March 2010

Revision of the International Patent Classification

Many changes have been introduced from January in the International Patent Classification (IPC), which is printed on most patent specifications and which can be used on databases to identify the novel technical subject matter of inventions. This revision is meant to be used on any patent specifications printed from January 2010 onwards.

The revised classification can be found online together with a tab for a catchword index and a tab for Compilation, which highlights the revised wording. New sub classes, often moved from other classes, are shown there in italics. Older versions of the IPC can be seen by clicking open the "Version" box at top left on that page.

A quick glance suggests that the following are the main classes affected by adding numerous sub classes.

B62M, rider propulsion of wheeled vehicles

B65H, handling thin or filamentary material

C12N, micro-organisms or enzymes [especially stem cells in this revision]

F16H, gearing

G01Q, scanning probe techniques or apparatus [an entirely new class]

The IPC is quite complicated, including how to use it best. It originated in the 1960s when new editions would appear every five years or so. If a subject changed its class in a new edition, the former class had to be searched for as well as the new class.

Fortunately the Espacenet database was revised some years ago so that a vast number of patents were reclassified (and will continue to be reclassified when necessary). This goes back mainly to 1920 and affects most European countries plus the USA and the "World" patent system.

A more detailed version of the IPC called ECLA goes back to about 1911 for France, 1909 for Britain, 1888 for Switzerland and 1877 for Germany. This means that the database can be very useful for those searching the history of old technologies. The ECLA variant of IPC can be found as Classification Search on Espacenet. The ECLA additions can be identified as they always start with a letter.

For example, A63F7/06 is the IPC for games that simulate outdoor ball games. ECLA adds ten subdivisions, such as A63F7/06T for tennis. Clicking on the little hollow box next to that sub class and then on Copy transfers it to a search mask. Running that search gives 59 hits, going back to 1922. The drawing below is from one of these, Tennis novelty.

Miniature tennis patent

ECLA classes are, generally, only applied to patent documents from European countries, the USA and the PCT (the "World" patent system), and it can take months or longer for it to be assigned to a newly published patent document.

This limits its usefulness in current awareness, but it is a valuable tool for checking the prior art, as often very relevant material is quickly found, perhaps by using keywords as well. However, there may be other relevant material not found, published in for example the Far East.  

Sorting out my digital music mess with Pollux

I have been thoroughly addicted to digital music for several years now. In fact it is all too easy to forget just how revolutionary the iPod and its successors have been. Who would have thought, even ten years ago, that many of us would be walking around with our entire music collection at our fingertips?

However, even iTunes, Windows Media Player and other music software have their failings. In particular they are not good at recognising individual music tracks in terms of artist and album source. I have wasted many hours in the past manually inputting their details onto my computer so I can find the right track amongst my 5,000 songs.

Needless to say it was only a matter of time before an ingenious young whippersnapper of a programmer solved this annoyance. In this instance it was three undergraduate students from Berkeley, Santa Cruz and Karnataka (Chetan Surpur, Second year undergrad at U.C. Berkeley, California. Shashwat Kandadai, Second year undergrad at U.C. Santa Cruz, California. Manoj Mardithaya, Third year undergrad at National Institute of Technology Karnataka, India.)

Together they have created Pollux, which was initially discovered by net@night with Amber and Leo. The first version was Mac only, but just last week I downloaded the Windows version. I went straight for the full version at $10 for a year, instead of the free trial. It took my computer around 24 hours to work its way through my entire music collection. But, now I have a full set of tagged songs, with album art to go with them, and I am very grateful to Chetan, Shashwat and Manoj.

Amendment: I just discovered on my way home this evening that this service also downloads the lyrics of songs. Finally I can read what my current favourite artist Regina Spektor is singing about; ‘I have dreams of orca whales and owls, But I wake up in fear‘. Even if I don’t understand what she means

Never worry about organizing your music library again
Completely automatic and easy to use
Tags name, artist, album, album art, genre, year, and lyrics
Analyses the track’s unique fingerprint, so it can never be wrong
No existing track information necessary
Automatically corrects each track’s information as it is added to iTunes

 Pollux (star) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(β Gem / β Geminorum / Beta Geminorum) is an orange giant star approximately 34 light-years from the Earth

Marks & Spencer wants your green idea

I was somewhat surprised to see a full page advert in the Evening Standard the other night offering a £100,000 prize for the best green idea.

Your Green Idea is all part of Marks and Spencer’s commitment to be the ‘world’s most sustainable major retailer by 2015′. They have already made a start with Fairtrade, organic and recycled products, and a 5p charge for plastic bags (with the money going to Groundwork charity).

I like the idea that the £100,000 for the winning idea goes to the winner’s nominated green charity, rather than into their own bank account.

22 March 2010

The iTeddy®

I occasionally come across the patents of those who have appealed for finance on Dragons' Den. Here is another, Imran Hakim of Bolton, Lancashire, whose background is as an optometrist and "serial entrepreneur".

His iTeddy® came about after he was challenged by younger brother Zubair to come up with a novel birthday present for their neice Aaminah, who was seven months old at the time. A personalised, talking birthday card had limited potential and had already been done, so he thought of an interactive teddy bear. A search on the Internet suggested that it was new.

The company web site explains this and links to video clips, including of his successful appearance on the television show in February 2007. He secured £140,000 for 15% of the equity. If you saw the show, Zubair was dressed up as a giant teddy bear. Here is the main drawing of the An interactive toy patent application.

ITeddy patent image
An MP3 player is included and pictures can be shown. A microphone and voice recorder means that the child's voice can be played back.

Out of curiosity I looked for other patent specifications of the same kind. The Hakim patent specification on page 23 lists three patents as "X", not novel, for all 15 claims in his own application. These are the Affective digital children's companion; the Subliminal recording device , with its main drawing shown below; and the German-language Spielfigur. All show teddy bears.

Subliminal recording device patent

Despite the recent withdrawal of Hakim's patent application before grant from the European Patent Office, the iTeddy® has apparently been a great success, and a new model is planned for this year, with added features.

Imran tells his own story on this video.