In through the outfield blog

27 posts categorized "Business"

24 February 2012

Make it in Great Britain

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The British Government has launched a Make it in Great Britain website. It is a "campaign aiming to transform outdated opinions of modern manufacturing and dispel the myth that Britain ‘doesn’t make anything anymore’."

It is a competition looking for entries in six categories. It is a requirement that the product is to be manufactured in the UK. The deadline for submitting entries is the 5 April, and shortlisted entries will be showcased in a rolling exhibition at the Science Museum during July to September.

Visitors each week will vote on their favourites, and the winners will be announced in September.

The categories are:

 Make it…Stronger
 Make it…Smarter;
 Make it…Sustainable;
 Make it…Life changing; and
 Make it…Breakthrough (for 16-21 year old entrants only)

There is no actual prize as such other than a lot of publicity for successful entrants.

This sounds like an exciting and ambitious competition and should attract a lot of interest.

30 November 2011

New research into patenting and innovation

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WIPO has just published its 2011 World Intellectual Property Report: the changing face of innovation.

Its 184 pages packs in a huge number of tables giving data about research and development, technology transfer, patent pools, innovation by universities and the like. It looks like a very useful reference for anyone interested in such topics.

The report's arguments as summarised in the Executive Summary are that the geography of innovation is changing, although "high-income countries" still dominate R & D; it is more international; it is more collaborative and open; IP ownership has become more central to business thinking; knowledge markets based on IP products are becoming more important; patent portfolio races complicate cumulative innovation processes; patents facilitate specialization and learning; and so on. It also says that market forces do not always lead to "desirable levels" of collaboration, and that academia is doing more now in patenting and commercialising their research.

Also recently published are two UK-focused reports.

The first report is Patenting in the UK by Dr Victor Zhiromirsky of PatAnalyse Limited and Mick McLean and Jeremy Klein of Technologia Limited.

They suggest that each patent is equivalent to about £2 million in R & D expenditure. Their analysis also suggests that about 44% of UK-origin patents are by companies filing 5 patents or more annually; 40% from those that file fewer than 5; 8% from universities, and 8% by private inventors. Some inventors form a company and then file, of course, and some universities sell or license their inventions to others who then appear as the applicants in the patents.

Tables in the report are also used to show "clustering" within technical sectors by companies.

The second report is UK patent attorneys by the same Dr Zhiromirsky.

Based on the same format, it has some fascinating statistics about individual patent attorney firms and their activities in the UK and abroad. The report suggests that 58% of UK-origin patents are handled by patent attorney firms; 25% by non-attorneys (mostly by the inventors themselves ?); and 17% by in-house patent attorneys working for industrial companies.

The report also discusses the loss of business at the European Patent Office to Munich-based attorneys.

29 November 2011

Jottify, a website for writers

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Jottify is a website where writers can "share, read and sell". I was told about it by its founder a few days ago, when he was explaining it at one of our free meetings where new entrepreneurs can discuss their business ventures.

He mentioned that BBC's Click was going to mention him on their TV broadcast at the weekend. It did indeed, about 20 minutes and 30 seconds into it -- with comments like "nice" and "homely feel". Here is the episode (UK users only). It is easy to navigate, and its interactivity encourages comment and voting on favourite pieces of writing. I can see if becoming a popular site for those who love writing.

We normally see those wanting to set up a business at an earlier stage -- the site has been live for months -- so we discussed ideas for the future.

So who is the founder ? He is a pleasant and enthusiastic man, who has extensive experience of building websites to encourage writers. He's a bit shy on the site, but you can find his picture if you click on "About" on the bottom left of the home page -- the "founder, developer and designer": Jack Lenox.

03 November 2011

Dyson v Vax, a registered design battle over vacuum cleaners

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Dyson lost on the 27 October, on appeal, a court case about a registered design for the appearance of their vacuum cleaners to Vax.

The look in question is in British registered design 2043779, applied for in 1994, for which the "best view" is that given below.

GB design 2043779
In 2010 Dyson had lost the first round, the judgment of which is available online. This was the appeal, for which again the judgment is available. The design was held valid but not infringed.

Dyson had been saying that the Vax Mach Zen had infringed the look of its DC02 model, their first one. According to an article by Which ?, which shows the rival products, Dyson had won a similar case against Dirt Devil, Vax's sister company, in France.

Companies find it beneficial to keep a distinctive look which consumers associate with them, so the result will be disappointing for Dyson. James Dyson himself was quoted as saying "We’ve invested decades, not to mention millions, in creating better technology. And sadly we waste millions more in cases like this. We need to better protect British design."

For a more detailed analysis of the judgment, see the posting from the Class 99 blog on designs.

Back in 2001, Dyson had won a court case on appeal against Hoover, the judgment of which is again available online, for European patent 42723B. If possible it is good for a company defending what they see as their intellectual property to fight both for patents, for function, and for designs, for looks. 

02 November 2011

Global Entrepreneurship Week 2011 at the British Library

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Every year the British Library celebrates Global Entrepreneurship Week, and this year it's in the week 14-18 November.

We in the Business & IP Centre have always believed in bringing together patents and other intellectual property with business. The first won't make money and products or services without the other. We have an exciting list of events for you to attend: speed mentoring is available each day, and it's free. I will be at the Friday event in the afternoon to help out. It's very busy and people clearly learn a lot.

I will also be at the Inspiring Entrepreneurs event on Monday evening, where Tim Campbell (The Apprentice), Lara Morgan and Vernon Hill will be speaking and answering questions. I rarely miss one of these events as it's so interesting to hear how people succeed (a passion about what you do, persistence and planning are perhaps the key messages). I haven't heard Morgan and Hill before and I look forward to hearing them. Networking over wine and canapes follows, and it would be good to meet some of my readers there.

We will also have a stand at the Business Startup Show at Earl's Court, 17-18 November. I hope to be there for some of the time, and it should be as usual frantic. Admission is by a free ticket. It's a great opportunity to find out more from the many exhibitors about what's involved in setting up a business. We will be at Stand 412.

05 October 2011

The Patent Blog, Live: a fun event !

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Last night we had The Patent Blog, Live, a new kind of event where readers of this blog could meet me and ask questions. This was the posting advertising it.

Unfortunately Nigel Hanley of the UK IPO was unable to make it, so it was left to me to field questions on a variety of topics, which was followed by networking over wine. There were many questions and comments on marketing and developing your product, the role of patent attorneys, the different kinds of intellectual property, and confidentiality agreements.

Questions included, was it worthwhile worthwhile patenting a product ? Not necessarily, I suggested -- it may not be worth the cost and effort of getting a patent. First-mover advantage and/ or trade secrets may be best, especially for a novel product where you plan to get out in say six months.

I also suggested that trade marks are often the most valuable possession of an entrepreneur. Someone asked if you could register an image as a trade mark. Yes, I replied, but in my opinion it is best to use words as well or instead, as words and not images are easily searched for on Google (or asked for on the phone). Sometimes a domain name is best, especially if the brand you want describes the product or service, and you want to drive customers to your website (trade marks cannot purely describe the product or service). Think of the companies you see on TV whose sole intent is that you remember their website.

Obviously I couldn't give detailed answers in many cases. Just the same it was clear that those attending found it a fun and stimulating event. I certainly did, as I was kept busy all evening.

Something that was appreciated in the networking  was our offer of free "one to one" meetings where anyone can meet with one of our staff to discuss their ideas. The relevant intellectual property is explained, and suggestions made for their business plan (I always emphasis the value of business plans, including financial projections). This is meant for early-stage businesses only. Requests can be made through our information clinics page.

23 August 2011

Bang Creations: a product design agency

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Yesterday I visited Bang Creations in Haslemere, Surrey, a "product design agency", following an invitation to see them.

Stefan Knox, its founder, and his colleague Alan Ward explained to me about the way their company works. They can design a solution to a problem, or refine an existing product to improve it; they can work on the packaging or brochures, and on the actual marketing.

Stefan is clearly an outstanding product designer and is enthusiastic about what he does -- making something better, and more attractive to customers. He originally had a lot of experience in the toy industry, such as with Hasbro, although the company now mainly works with any kind of consumer products.

Here are a couple of stories they told me about. The website has other case studies.

LoJo® is a transformation of the beanbag concept. It looks rather like a beanbag, but you can unzip it so that a seat falls down and the remainder supports you. The support comes from an inflatable bladder, which means that it can be shipped deflated, which saves on costs. It was created by Stefan and his wife Kristin, and there is a website for the product. Below is the main drawing of the patent specification, Collapsible seat.

LoJo collapsible seat patent drawing 
Another project was being asked to improve a sun lounger, Rotasol®, where it can fold away within a shell. The case study page shows the original drawings at the bottom, and the refined look at the top in mauve. There were constraints, such as keeping within the original shell dimensions (as tooling had already occurred), but it was possible to bring in features to improve versatility and safety. There is also a website for that company.

Bang Creations will do a certain amount for free. They can send a questionnaire about a concept (with a non-disclosure agreement) to anyone interested, and will briefly comment on the answers. This may lead to a free initial one-hour consultation.

All in all, I was impressed by the sheer range of what the company can do, and the obvious commitment and professionalism of those who work there. 

20 June 2011

Innoventique, magazine for innovation

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Innoventique is the name of a free, quarterly magazine, with its aim being "how to make money from innovation".

It is the successor to Inventique, and is available on the Innoventique: from innovation to marketplace website. It focuses on the UK scene, and I found it an interesting read, with a mixture of factual items and features. Back issues are available as well.

The website belongs to Innoventique Communications, a not-for-profit-company, with Frank Landamore of the Wessex Round Table of Inventors as its editor. The Round Table is based in Southampton, Hampshire, and is one of the many regional or local groups that encourage, inform and generally help inventors or small companies.

Also helpful is nearby Portsmouth Public Library, who run one of the UK's Patlib centres assisting those interested in researching and protecting their innovations.