In through the outfield blog

Neil Infield on business and intellectual property

31 January 2013

Marks & Spencer alleged to have copied Nudo’s olive oil logo

There have been newspaper reports, such as an article in the Evening Standard, that Nudo, a small olive oil producer, is stating that Marks & Spencer are using a very similar olive tree logo to theirs on their olive oil range. Here are the contrasting logos.

Nudo and Marks and Spencer olive tree logos

Nudo was founded as a company by Jason Gibb and his partner Cathy Rogers in 2005. Her sister designed the logo. It is a premium Italian olive oil.

In 2011 Marks & Spencer launched their range, and it seems strange that the dispute has only just occurred. Mr Gibb is quoted as saying “I just want these big players to stop ripping off the small guy.”

M&S deny copying the logo and say that the olive tree theme is common in the sector “as customers instantly associate them with the product”.

While I am not a patent attorney or lawyer, I wonder if Nudo would be on stronger ground if they alleged not copyright infringement, which is what seems to be happening, and where copying must be proven, but rather trade mark infringement. The problem is that the olive tree logo has not been registered by Nudo. In fact they have not registered Nudo as a trade mark either. I checked all three systems that cover the UK: the national, European and Madrid Agreement Protocol.

It would have cost just £170 to register a UK trade mark via the Web at the UK IPO for activities in Class 29, which includes olive oil. It is possible that they would have been asked to add the word Nudo to the logo to make it more distinctive, which in turn would admittedly weaken any claim to trade mark infringement. There are several registered trade marks that include the word Nudo, and one covers Class 29:

Nudo sushi box trade mark logo

Trade marks can co-exist in the same class if no conflict arises: few would associate sushi with olive oil, I suggest.

As so often, one for the lawyers to sort out.

30 January 2013

The LumiPotti® night-time toilet for children

I recently came across the LumiPotti toilet to help children use a toilet at night. I have written on the topic of toilets with aids for children before, in my post Toilet training aids for children.

The LumiPotti website says that two mothers, Rachael and Kerry, thought of the idea over “coffee morning banter”. The site announces that they have received a granted UK patent, Childs pot. Its main drawing is given below.

 LumiPotti nightime training aid for children patent image

It involves a “potty” (child’s toilet) with a removable lamp which has a motion detector with a timer to switch off after an interval. As often happens, the title had changed since the patent application, when it was called Motion detector lamp for potty. Rachael Louise Forder is given as the inventor, and the applicant was Small Ideas Limited, of Southsea, Hampshire. Both women are named as the directors of that company.

The website says that the recent grant of the patent “is a big step in the security of LumiPotti and means that we are now officially the world’s first and only ‘night-light child’s pot’ for night toilet.”

I’m sorry but that isn’t quite true. It may indeed be the only toilet that switches a light on when used in darkness, but having a granted patent for a method of doing so (there may be more than one way of doing this, which can also be patented) does not make the invention “official”. The UK IPO themselves found 8 patent specifications which had a certain similarity which are listed here.

I would also suggest that the owners add the ® symbol to the end of LumiPotti on their website and in other usage as this makes it clear that the brand name is a UK registered trade mark, as it was registered last September as no. 2623533

While it is not essential, it is a good idea to use the symbol in a consistent fashion as it shows that the mark is registered, which gives it stronger rights over non-registered usage, and that the owners are serious about their intellectual property.

The product is not yet available for sale. I wish the owners well with the product in the future.

29 January 2013

Consultation on patent law harmonisation

The UK IPO is inviting interested parties to complete a detailed questionnaire (36 pages including notes) as part of a consultation on patent law harmonization.

It is called the Tegernsee Experts Group – Informal Consultation on International Patent Law Harmonisation and replies are requested by the 1 March 2013.

It is part of an international effort to sort out and harmonise four aspects of patent law and procedure. These are

 Grace periods. Should it be permitted to have a “grace period” during which disclosure of an invention is allowed before filing a patent, which establishes the novelty “priority” filing. The USA for one allows domestic applicants to use the grace period.

 Publication at 18 months. At present most countries publish patent applications 18 months after the same priority date. Applicants have the right to file for foreign rights within 12 months of the priority date. Is this timing correct or should the timescale be altered.

 Treatment of conflicting applications. Because publication occurs 18 months after the priority filing, sometimes an application is anticipated by another application made months before, that neither the patent office nor the later applicant knew about. What should be allowed.

 Prior user rights. This is about the right to continue to use an invention if that was being done before someone else filed a patent for the invention. Has there been actual use or only preparations for use.

This looks like a very interesting amd important consultation and I would encourage interested parties to reply.

25 January 2013

24 January 2013

The Patent Box: tax breaks for UK innovation

From the 1 April 2013 UK companies will be able to claim a corporation tax break on profits from patents in what is called the “Patent Box” scheme. HM Revenue and Customs have a page explaining how it works. 

Here is my summary of the main provisions. It is vital that anyone interested reads the full details to check if they are eligible.

The companies must either own the patents or have exclusive licenses for their use; must have worked on their development (or a related company must have done so); and must be making a profit from the patents.

The relief will be phased in over several years to achieve a tax rate of 10% on profits from patents. At present UK corporation tax is 24%, coming down to 23% this year. The details are quite complicated, with the following formula and notes being quoted in the website:

RP × FY% × ((MR - IPR) ÷ MR)

In the formula:

•RP is the profits of a company's trade relevant to Patent Box

•FY% is the appropriate percentage for each financial year

•MR is the main rate of Corporation Tax

•IPR is the reduced rate of 10 per cent

A couple of examples are given on the website of how it might work out.

The article The new Patent Box regime and corporate tax reform in the UK, published in International Tax Journal, September-October 2012, pages 51-58, gives many details and suggests that pharmaceutical and biotech companies in particular would find the scheme attractive (as so much of the value in their products depends on patents). I found it in the database Business Source Complete, which we subscribe to for the use of our readers in the Business & IP Centre.

23 January 2013

21 January 2013

Web in Feb: events to advance your business via the Web

The British Library has a number of events in February as part of its Web in Feb month to help you advance your business by using the Internet.

They include search engine optimization, social media and crowdfunding and are held here in our London base. These events are always stimulating and interesting for me and even more so, obviously, for those for whom it will move their business or innovation forward.

I have noticed that of the meetings I have with inventors, perhaps a third are related to the Web -- apps, mobile phones, social media sites and so on. Another third are fashion-related.

18 January 2013