In through the outfield blog

21 posts from November 2012

21 November 2012

Dragons’ Den: a versatile decorating tool invention

The Dragons’ Den episode on the 18 November featured a new versatile decorating tool where brushes and other devices could be exchanged with the handle, to increase versatility.

Matthew Page and Louise Craven of Synagi Intelligence Limited, based in Nottinghamshire, were asking for £95,000 for 25% of the company. They said on the programme that it was patent pending but it has since been granted UK rights in GB2482945B. There is no foreign patent protection. Here is the main drawing.

Versatile decorating tool patent drawing

The idea is that you can switch sizes or types of tools while using the same handle. It took I estimate about 15 seconds the tools to be switched over, and I wondered if a simpler method such as button push types to release the tools wouldn’t be a better idea. Louise admitted that it was a “prototype” and the transfer would be faster in the later models. It was pointed out that this was a weakness – razor blades are not constantly being switched over, and people are fundamentally lazy -- and that although the ecological principle was laudable there would be problems in sales.

One advantage, though, would be that if people bought the handles they would be useless without the compatible “heads” that would be sold by the same company. The voice over by Evan Davis said that the UK DIY market was worth £7 billion but obviously only some of that is relevant, and above all – what inventors often forget – is that it is rare for a new, disruptive product to take more than a small portion of a market. Despite what people say to me: “everyone will love my product” (yes, I often get told that).

There is no website for the company, whose name is unusual for a tool company. Nor as far as I could tell did the product have a name.

None of the dragons decided to invest.

20 November 2012

Dragons' Den: the bionic glove invention

The Dragons’ Den episode on the 18 November featured a bionic glove to improve hand grips when playing golf or gardening, where £100,000 was sought in return for 40% of the company.

Mark Richardson had a 5 year licensing deal with an American company to sell the glove across Europe. The patent was Batting glove by Hillerich & Bradsby, a baseball equipment manufacturer. Here is the main drawing.

Glove from Dragons' Den invention drawing

It was apparently designed by an orthopaedic hand surgeon, and dates back to a patent application in 2000. As the UK is not noted for its interest in baseball it makes sense that alternatives uses such as golf and gardening were emphasised.

What puzzled me was what exactly Richardson’s Bionic Glove Technology Europe company had bought, as there are only US and Canadian patents. Maybe it was the exclusive rights to be the company’s supplier.

Maybe, though, it was also the right to use the trade mark Bionic. Hillerich & Bradsby applied for that mark in several classes including Class 28, for sporting gloves, in 2004 in the European Union system as E3645521.

If so, I would advise that the Bionic Glove Technology Europe website be amended to show Bionic as an ® and not the TM used at present, as that means it is not registered, and therefore has weaker rights.

The outcome was that it was admitted by a dragon that the valuation at £250,000 was realistic as there was only a 5 year deal (which would continue after that only if Hillerich & Bradsby agreed), and two dragons put up the full amount for the 40% offered.

19 November 2012

Free workshop in open innovation and public services

At the core of open innovation is the understanding that an organisation won't have all the answers. A free workshop at the British Library, London on the 30 November is about increasing open innovation in public services such as health services.

Registration for Open Innovation in Public Services: new models for better value is open to all. There will be contributions from the NESTA Centre for Challenge Prizes, NHS Hack Days, GenIUS York, the Camden Council Innovation & Development Fund and the Design Council's Leadership Programme. There will be a panel discussion led by Alison Coward from Bracket.

18 November 2012

Statistics on patents and innovation within regions of countries

This posting is about finding statistics on innovation and especially patenting for regions within countries, and lists the main online sources of which I am aware.

The European Regional Innovation Scoreboard published earlier this month has lots of information and maps.  Maps have to be looked at with caution, as a huge area may have few people in it, e.g. Finland, Sweden, while tiny areas such as cities will have far more people. It helps to know your geography, as I could detect numerous small, very active areas which I knew were specific cities.

The EU's Eurostat site has a Science and Technology Statistics at Regional Level page with 5 maps, including one showing the number of patent applications to the European Patent Office.  

The UK's Intellectual Property Office has tables of data, Facts and Figures, showing the numbers of patents, designs and trade marks applied for or registered by UK region with the latest being the 2010/11 data. Figures going back to 2002 are also available. The filing data is useful but the grant/ registration data must be treated with caution. This is because the filing figures are much higher than the number of grants is that many companies use the European route having filed first in Britain, transferring to Europe 12 months (6 months for designs or trade marks) after filing as is permitted. This particularly affects patents.

For US patents, see USPTO data by state or metropolitan area but this seems to be only data, not maps (which helps to make clusters jump out). There are numerous studies of specific sectors.

OECD data for themes such as specific energy areas giving their share of the nation's patents are available but I found this very tricky to use. 

16 November 2012

The new Cooperative Patent Classification scheme for inventions

On the 1st January 2013 a new patent classification scheme will be introduced, the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC).

At present there is the International Patent Classification (IPC) which is printed on virtually all newly published patent specifications; the US classification, which is printed on American patents; and ECLA, which is a more precise breakdown of the IPC to allow for more detailed classes, and which is sponsored and used by the European Patent Office.

ECLA classes are added to the European Patent Office's Espacenet database for, broadly speaking, US patents, many European countries, the European patent scheme and the "World" PCT scheme, and is not printed on patent specifications. Its usage as applied to old printed material goes back to 1920 and sometimes earlier, depending on the country. It often takes many months to apply the ECLA to newly published patent specifications.

IPC looks like B62B7/14, rotatable children's carriages. ECLA classes can be the same but are often  more precise. In this case for example /14 is divided into three possible subclasses by adding a letter, such as B62B7/14R, which contains the idea of such carriages which transform from seating to lying positions.

In 2010 the US Patent Office and the European Patent Office agreed to merge the best aspects of the US and ECLA classifications to form the CPC with (estimates vary) 200,000-250,000 classes. ECLA had 140,000 classes. At present only the European Patent Office applies ECLA, but the US will also classify by CPC.

CPC will resemble ECLA but will use longer numbers to replace the old ECLA letters at the end of classes. The US scheme is strong in "business methods", for example, software to carry out a commercial function, and numerous extra classes will go in G06Q10. The cross-reference art collections and digests, which cover interesting concepts which are not themselves patentable, will be added to the Y area already in ECLA  which at present mainly covers climate change and green technologies. An example of such a new class is Y10S101/40, means of printing on golf balls.    

The new scheme means savings for the offices, and hopefully better access by searchers to detailed classes for inventions, but is likely to mean a lot of work for those organisations which offer patent databases, as the old ECLA material will all have to be reclassified. Searchers will also have to adapt their work and strategies (especially current awareness).

In December 2012, rather than January 2013, Espacenet will switch to CPC. This means that only CPC and not ECLA will be usable on that database (but IPC as before can be used in a separate search box). Presumably as now you will be able to search by keyword as well as class on the database's classification search site. The CPC site will have a variety of help material such as tutorials and concordances to assist in the transition.

An example of what we will have is the class for steering land vehicles, B62D1. At present it contains 22 IPC subclasses and an additional 12 ECLA subdivisions for a total of 34 possible classes.

This is the current ECLA class for B62D1.

And this is the CPC class for B62D1. The complete CPC scheme can be found as separate PDFs on the official site (but you have to know which classes are of interest, as there is no index).

Switzerland has announced that it will use CPC on its printed patent specifications but it is probable that most countries will use the IPC as before, and the CPC will be used only for more detailed searching on certain databases. I get the impression that the USA at least will use the CPC on its patent specifications.

It will mean a big change for those used to US classification as this will be phased out in a few years. Details of this are on page 5 of the October issue of CPC News . Examiners will apparently be able for a while to choose either US or CPC on newly published grant documents, which sounds confusing.

A bonus, though, is that old American patents will eventually all be classified by CPC. It used to be that coverage only went back to 1920 but I've noticed pre 1900 material that can be found using ECLA on Espacenet.

15 November 2012

Yamasaki YM125 motorbike – the ultimate in brand flattery

Yamasaki--logoThey say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I think the Yamasaki YM125 may well be the ultimate expression of that in the biking world. Yes, I’m back on my favourite topic of motorbikes again, but this story is all about trademarks and branding.


Real Business and the Wonga Future 50 companies

The British Library last night hosted Real Business magazine's Wonga Future 50, where they were unveiled in an event chaired by Matthew Rock, the magazine's editor. The aim was to "discover the bold, disruptive new generation of entrepreneurial businesses that are triggering change in their market; or creating a new one."

It was preceded by a graceful tribute to Mark Sheahan, who we are delighted to have as the British Library's Inventor in Residence, who has carried out over 500 one-to-one meetings with inventors, and who was one of the judges selecting the fifty. Mark did admit that some of the people he met were "off the planet" and also talked about  sharks who "ripped off" inventors. He was also said it was considered bad to be called an inventor -- I always advise people to call themselves designers, as that term is regarded as more acceptable. I am sure Mark knows how grateful all the inventors he helped are.

The fifty companies were indeed often in disruptive innovation, and green themes, energy and digital media were strongly represented. We heard short presentations from seven companies. These were:

WhipCar , Car sharing where instead of maintaining a fleet of its own vehicles, actual owners rent out their cars for brief periods.

Pavegen. The only one, to be frank, I'd heard of before from this list of seven. Energy is generated by people walking on pavements. I've posted on them before. Here's the drawing from their Energy harvesting patent application.

Pavegen energy harvesting patent drawing

Pod Point, a networked electric vehicle recharging system.

Endomagnetics, a University College, London spin-out who have pioneered using magnetism rather than radioactivity in identifying where lymph nodes are in cancer treatment. Here is a drawing from their Magnetic probe apparatus patent application.

Endomagnetics patent drawing

Playmob, a combination of social gaming and charitable giving, where players pay for virtual objects and the money goes to charity.

Parkatmyhouse, an example of "collaborative consumption", they said, where house owners rent out their parking spaces on an occasional basis. Apparently many owners of expensive cars are more interested in protecting the cars from damage than in making savings on parking fees.

Shutl. My favourite, where numerous tiny "point to point" delivery companies, which deliver direct to one customer, as opposed to a lorry moving around all day, are aggregated in a service provided for stores that sign up and customers have very specific delivery times.

It is interesting that four of these seven have systems that rely on communicating through the Internet.

The Future 50 companies are listed on the Real Business website and a special issue of the magazine in January will feature them and will announce the "people's champion", the favourite as voted for on the website.

It was a fun event and in the reception following I spoke among others to a former client about his (confidential !) ideas and to Stijn Paumen of Snappli (a company which compresses data used on mobile phones to save users money) where we talked about my Dutch origins (he is from Arnhem, my ancestor was from Rotterdam).

I know that these stories can also be found on the Web, but for me there's no substitute for hearing the stories and meeting the people.