In through the outfield blog

10 posts from May 2010

27 May 2010

Patented inventions to assist the disabled

I am sometimes asked about inventions for disabled persons. Patents are a good starting point as they offer a structured way to find detailed descriptions of how the innovations work.

The International Patent Classification contains a number of relevant classifications. These include the following classes or broad categories, which are mainly for the physically disabled. The numbers in brackets at the end of the definition give the number of patent documents for that class in the WO or “World” patent system, which began in 1978, and are links to a list of them.

A47G21/08, Serving devices for one-handed persons (17)

A61F4, Devices enabling invalids to operate an apparatus not forming part of the body (78)

A61G3, Vehicles adapted for transporting disabled persons or their conveyances (275)

A61G5, Wheelchairs and other chairs adapted for the disabled (1026)

A61G7, Beds adapted for nursing, stretchers for picking up disabled persons (1604)

A61H3, Appliances for helping disabled persons to walk about (492)

A63B71/00H, Games for handicapped persons (27)

B62K3/16, Bicycles for disabled riders (6)

G09B21, Teaching or communicating with the blind, deaf or mute (395)

Not all areas of interest are specifically covered of course. What makes the provision of appropriate classes much more complicated is that there are different degrees, and kinds, of disability. These could include being partially sighted, deafness, lacking a limb, paraplegia, cerebral palsy and so on. Equally, what the user might want to do will vary tremendously. What about adaptions to help horse riding ?

A61F4 is particularly varied with inventions such as the Mouth-operated input device and the illustrated Adjustable virtual reality system. This Swiss invention assists those using a virtual reality system where they are asked for example to extend their arms. The user may have difficulty in doing so, so instead of trying they see a virtual arm. The specification explains that it is particularly useful in "immersive" virtual reality systems where head-mounted displays and data gloves are used.

Adjustable virtual reality system patent

A grim indication of how patents can act as a reminder of history is that the A47G21/08 class has 30 British patents going back to 1917. Of these, 17 were in the four years 1917-20, clearly reflecting a wish to assist wounded soldiers in World War I who were unable to use cutlery.

21 May 2010

Synthetic life and Craig Venter

A lot of publicity has suddenly appeared following Craig Venter's announcement that he has created a synthetic life form. He has put the genome of a bacterium into a cell that can self-replicate, thereby opening up a new world of possibilities. This is the press release by the J. Craig Venter Institute.

I looked to see what patent documents were in his name, and list 22 PCT ("World") documents. It takes 18 months for a newly applied for patent application to be published, and it is normal to wait until the application has been made and then issue a press release. Otherwise the press release can be used as evidence that it isn't new.

So I wouldn't expect to see a patent application for 18 months, but his Synthetic genomes application, published in February 2008, sounds intriguing, and does mention self-replication. Here is its main drawing. You'd have to know a lot of biology to understand it all -- the drawing is meaningless to me.

Venter Synthetic genome patent application
Possibly the method has been altered since then, but perhaps also the patent application was indeed  about his concept and it's only now he's been able to actually put it into practice.

The separate search report, listing older, similar patents or other literature is available to see as well. Only one document is listed as an X (done before), and that only for some of the claims made to protection. The Y citations refer to obvious improvements.

That X citation is to Egea Biosciences and their Method for the complete chemical synthesis and assembly of genes and genomes, applied for as long ago as 1997. 

20 May 2010

Breakfast with the Lord Mayor of London

mayor-london-09Thanks to my friend Chris Seow, who is currently Chairman City of London Branch of CMI, I was lucky enough to attend a breakfast talk on Tuesday morning, by the Rt Hon the Lord Mayor, Alderman Nick Anstee. The event was held in the heart of the City of London at Stationer’s Hall, belonging to The Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers.

The talk was entitled What now for the City, and gave a helicopter view of the City and how it is regarded around the world. He also talked about how the City is regenerating itself and what is over the horizon. Just to avoid any confusion, you should be aware that the Lord Mayor of London is not the same as the Mayor of London (currently Boris Johnson).

As head of the City of London Corporation, which provides business and local government services to the City, the Lord Mayor of London’s principal role is ambassador for all UK-based financial and professional services. This building of  trade relationships and partnerships around the world, is something the Lord Mayor takes very seriously, and by the end of this year he will have visited 23 countries and 43 cities.

The issue of public confidence in the City was addressed at the outset of the talk, and he wanted the focus of the City of London Corporation to be restoring the trust between the City and wider society. But he felt that politicians had avoided their responsibility in this area, often scapegoating the City, and risking driving away the economic prosperity it provides to the UK economy of 8.3% of GDP and ÂŁ61.4 billion in tax revenue.

However, he also recognised that the impact of the City must be socially useful as well as economically significant. Although the City retains its position as the worlds’ leading financial centre, despite the economic crisis, it needs to communicate its’ value to the public. To help this process they have created TheCityUK, an independent membership body, promoting the UK financial and related professional services industries.

After the short speech, there were some interesting questions from the audience:

Please comment on current press speculation about regulation of the finance sector,  is the City obliged to educate the public.
We have to engage and inform the public, but also recognise that financial institutions need to do their part. We are looking at challenging the ethics and code of conduct of staff. We are also investigating possible changes to recruitment policies for City institutions. A conference is planned for 7 July covering this area.

Please comment on the rising mortgage default rate in the US. Are we not out of the woods yet?
There is a risk. The US economy is moving out the recession at a reasonable rate. But concerns about regulation may be leading US banks to hoard cash. That cash needs to be freed up in order to stimulate the economy, e.g. invest in Small and Medium Sized Enterprises.

Stationers Hall in the City of London

Ingenious Britain report by Sir James Dyson

In March a report came out by Sir James Dyson, inventor and designer of the dual cyclone vacuum cleaner.

It was called Ingenious Britain: Making the UK the leading high tech exporter in Europe. It was written at the request of David Cameron, then the Conservative Party leader and now of course the British Prime Minister.

Dyson says in its foreword that he was asked to look at five themes, which in a few words were enhancing the reputation of science and technology; how to encourage those at school to work in science and engineering; helping "blue sky research" turn into products; encouraging the finance of high technology; and encoouraging investment in research and development by British companies.

The report is 57 pages long and there is plenty to read in it and, perhaps, sometimes to disagree with. One interesting remark was that industry has repeatedly been told to make their processes economical, while Dyson thought the way to advance was to create new products that the public actually want. High costs will always be a problem for manufacturing in the West but we can at least design the products in the first place (the "high value" end).

I would certainly agree that inspiring the young so that they want to work in industrial design is very important. A big problem is that is it so lucrative to look instead for a job in law or finance. Dyson's report reminds me of the Royal Academy of Engineering's Educating Engineers for the 21st Century report from 2007.

19 May 2010

What happens to innovations in fast moving tech markets?

  VichyI recently met for a coffee with one of my earliest Business Information Advice clients from October 2008. I was glad to find out her business was successful, but surprised to hear that it was now quite different from the project we had discussed nearly two years before.

Her original innovation involved the use of dedicated computer terminals in shopping centres. However the rise of smartphones, in particular the Apple iPhone led to a change in plan. Now her company specialises in developing shopping related iPhone applications (apps) and they have just launched their first one for L’Oreal UK Ltd.

It is a Vichy Skin Health Consultation and helps you find the right free sample starter kit for your skin. Having perfect skin myself (bad joke) I don’t personally have use for this widget, but I can see it being popular with those who do care about their complexion.
Our mission is to give you tools, advice, access to expert and products to help you achieve healthy, beautiful looking skin.

That’s why we have launched the Vichy Skin Health Mobile Application, giving you a FREE Skin Health Consultation on your mobile. After the Consultation you’ll be able to receive a FREE sample starter kit so you can try the products before you buy.

In the app we’ve included exclusive content on our most popular products, a pharmacy locator so you’ll never be too far away from your nearest advisor and a bar code scanner to find out if a product is suitable for you. We’ve also included some special offers, promotions and competitions.

With all this at your fingertips, we hope you’ll be one step closer to achieving healthy, beautiful looking skin.

12 May 2010

Rasheed’s 5 keys to making it as an entrepreneur

rasheed ogunlaruOur life and business coach partner Rasheed Ogunlaru has shared his five top tips to making it as an entrepreneur. All of his points below ring true for me with my experiences with aspiring and successful entrepreneurs.

Each year I meet thousands of entrepreneurs, sole traders and business owners – including many at my workshop Making it as an Entrepreneur. Their challenges are usually the same and so are the success factors:

1. Clarity & focus: Who are you? What do you want to achieve personally and in business? What is you business about and can you communicate this in a way that anyone can understand? What are your values? Why are you in business?

Passion, flair & courage: Without these you are unlikely to stay the course, or survive the ups and downs. It is these qualities that will often attract customers and supporters and these strengths will also give you the creativity and flexibility to find your own space in the market place and stand out.

2. Knowing your business and your market: Who are you customers exactly? What are all their different needs, problems, desires and fears? What exactly do they want and how do they want it? If we do not understand and incorporate this then you won’t have a business – merely a wish list. This is an ongoing process of listening to your, your customers and others. The more you listen the more you’ll learn and be in the loop.

3. Support: No entrepreneur is an Island. You can not achieve it alone. The quality of your real or virtual team will be a huge factor in your success. What skills and support do you have and do you need? Who can help you? You’re unlikely to win the Premiership with a third division team. And if you are to rise from the third division to the premiership you’ll need the right leadership, team and support.

4. Being organised, effective and motivated: I meet and coach many business owners who struggle with this. Simplicity and clarity are the key. Simple systems, priorities and messages. Do you have the right tools, systems and support in place to help you achieve your goals? Using the right technology and psychology is important. What are you spending your time and your energy on and what would be the most effective use of it? You also need time out for yourself, your health and to keep your business and life on track.

5. Excellent product & customer service: Ultimately if you don’t have a good product / service nobody’s likely to buy it – or keep buying it. Having a good product is not enough. You need to really care about your customers – not just their cash. I’m amazed at how many businesses actually do not care enough about their customers. if you don’t sooner or later it will be you, not they who pay the price.

One more thing: ultimately business – like all things – is about relationships. If you have a rich relationship with you, what you do, your customers, your suppliers, your peers and your prospects… then you, your business and those you meet will blossom. This is what I call the heart of business. Many people overlook it and many experts do not speak of it, but it is what will make people fall in love and stay in love with you and what you do. Business is after all about our inter-connectedness… if you remember this you will enjoy the journey.

11 May 2010

E-courses on intellectual property helping Bonbon Balm

Chocolate Lip Balm Image It is always nice to get positive feedback on events and activities we run here in the Business & IP Centre. However, our E-courses on intellectual property sometimes get a bit forgotten with the excitement surrounding big name speakers such as Alan Sugar.

So it was good to get a reminder from Sally who runs the Bonbon Balm website.

I have just started up my new online business ( and wanted to say a thank you to the team at the British Library.  Your information and support on Intellectual Property has been invaluable during the start-up process. I don’t think I could have understood everything without your online courses.

Many thanks!

inventors shed

E-courses on intellectual property

A brilliant idea can take you a long way, but the road to protection and development can be challenging.

To help you, we have launched a series of free online courses on intellectual property.

Course 1: This will help you get to grips with IP, including patents, trade marks, registered designs and copyright.

Course 2: The second course will teach you how to search intellectual property databases to see if your idea is original.

Course 3: The third course will help you find out if there is a market for your idea.

10 May 2010

New books in our Small Business Help collection

Although it might be easy to assume I am only obsessed with web related information for business start-ups. In fact I am also interested in good old fashioned books. And looking at the recent additions to our collection below there are some essential reads, especially in specialist business areas.

How to start a buiness when you're youngGood Small Business Guide 2010 [new edition replaces last year's edition]
SBH 658.022 BLA

How to Start a Business When You’re Young
Barrie Hawkins & Luke Wing
SBH 658.110842 HAW

Good Small Business Planning Guide
John Kirwan
SBH 658.022 KIR

Good Green Guide for Small Businesses
Impetus Consulting Ltd.
SBH 658.4083 IMP

How to Start and Run Your Own Petsitting Business
Fiona Mackenzie
SBH 636.0887068 MAC

Reading and Understanding the Financial Times 2010-2011
Kevin Boakes
SBH 338.43 BOA

Coffee_BoysThe Coffee Boys’ Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up and Managing Your Own Coffee Bar
John Richardson & Hugh Gilmartin
SBH 647.950681 RIC

Getting to Plan B: Breaking Through to a Better Business Model
John Mullins & Randy Komisar
SBH 658.401 MUL

How to Set Up a Freelance Writing Business
Jason Deign
SBH 659.13202341 DEI

How to Make it in Music
Stuart Smith
SBH 780.2373 SMI

Good Finance Guide for Small Businesses
[no author]
SBH 658.1592 BLA

Virtually Free Marketing
Philip R. Holden
SBH 658.572 HOL

Successful Business Plans
Jane Khedair & Michael Anderson
SBH 658.402 KHE

How to Be a Successful Life Coach
Shelagh Young
SBH 158.3068 YOU

The Handbook of Global Outsourcing and Offshoring
Ilan Oshri et. al.
SBH 658.4058 OSH