In through the outfield blog

Neil Infield on business and intellectual property

05 March 2013

The DesignView database for registered designs

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OHIM, which administers the Community Designs, has a database called DesignView which enables many separate databases of registered designs, for the look of a product, to be searched at the same time. 

At present 8 national offices plus Community Designs are included. Benelux and Spain are probably the biggest offices besides the Community Designs themselves, and the joining of larger offices such as France, Germany and the UK will be welcome. Already, anyone wanting to trace registrations by a company will find it useful.

There are drawbacks, though, if searching for a particular look. You have two options: classification, and keywords.

Classification is the Locarno Classification, where two numbers express the subject. Hence 14/02 is for “Data processing equipment as well as peripheral apparatus and devices”, and 21/01 is “Games and toys” – two massive areas. Already searches for those classes give 145 and 207 hits respectively. See the image below for the appearance of the search page. The classes have to be selected from a clicked open display.

DesignView search page

You can add words in the “indication of the product” (title) field to narrow down the hits, but there are two problems with that. You have to guess at what words might be used in the title, and the actual titles are in the local languages. An exception is the Community Designs, where you can search in various European languages and it will retrieve relevant material, displaying the results with English titles.

In trying out a search for the words board game in Locarno 21/01 in the default "strict mode" I got just 3 hits. When I altered it to "contains mode" I got 150 – all relevant. The plural games was searched for,  for a start.

Useful features are that you can ask to sort results by various criteria, and that as the cursor is moved it enlarges the image in the hitlist. Below is an example of the results page.

DesignView results page

The UK’s national designs database does not permit searching by title, so its eventual addition to DesignView will be useful. Another aspect of the UK site is that it -- uniquely -- allows a third layer of the Locarno, as worked out the UK office, to be selected. This gives much more precision, and is why I always suggest that a novelty search in designs begins with the British designs. I think it unlikely that this ability will be used in DesignView, however.

10 January 2013

Transport for London and patents, designs and trade marks

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This post is about intellectual property by Transport for London and its predecessors and marks 150 years today of the London Underground. Congratulations !

From 1908 onwards there was a conscious attempt to provide what would nowadays be called a corporate identity, using initially what became this famous icon for the Underground


and this was reinforced as more lines were added. By using it as a trade mark, numerous items can be sold, as in a European trade mark registration in 2004 for named goods and services in numerous classes, some rather surprising (see Class 03 for example).

Some early attempts at the logo are still protected, as opposed to having been allowed to lapse, possibly because they are still selling souvenirs, and possibly to prevent others from using the logos. An example is British trade mark 548799, applied for in 1934, and shown below.

 1934 London transport trade mark

British trade mark 2103551 sounds rather unusual – the registration of Pantone 485 as “the predominant colour of the coloured surface of a passenger transport bus.” The famous red, that is – registered in Class 39 for, specifically, transporting bus passengers in London.

Turning to designs, there are three British designs currently registered for the appearances of buses and all for “Structure for use as a commercial outlet”, according to the title. These can be found here. Click on the logos and then on the Formal Reps to see the detailed drawings.

I suspect that the old Harry Beck maps may have been registered as designs but a long search through the National Archives design holdings would have been needed. Does anyone know the answer ?

And then there are patents. In 1984 London Underground applied for a Fare collection system which was a customer operated ticket machine. Page 68 shows the way the system worked – coins in, tickets out, etc. Provision was made for data to be collected centrally. I am guessing this is the basically the method used today.

Most patents relating to the Underground or buses are probably in the name of the manufacturers and hence harder to find. There are just five patents in the name of London Underground, from 1984 onwards.

Of course, private individuals can always join in. In 1920 Fountaine Burrell, an electrical engineer from Sydenham, London, applied for British patent 176163, which is specially marked dominoes to play a game based on the London Underground map – read it to find how it works. Perhaps he worked in the system itself. Two of the drawings are shown below.

Dominoes based on London Underground game
Something that could be protected as copyright would be the look of the floors and the seating on trains and buses. For a long time the seats have been in a variety of colours, while the train floors consist of sealed grey material mixed with scraps of yellow and white paper. I am told the reason is that if staining occurs it is much less noticeable than if the surface was a uniform colour.

04 December 2012

Brand Beckham: designs and trade marks registered by David and Victoria

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David and Victoria Beckham have in effect turned themselves into brands, and evidence for that can be found in designs and trade marks registered in their own names or by Beckham Brand Limited.

This is smart use of the intellectual property system to commercialise their images and names – they’ve spent plenty of time in the public eye getting known in the realms of music, football, advertising and fashion.

The latest accounts for Beckham Brand Limited give a turnover in 2010 of £5.6 million, with a profit of £3.5 million before tax, a useful margin. David and Victoria were both named as directors, their occupations being given as “pro footballer” and “musician” when appointed in 2004. Each own a third of the company, with XIX Management UK Limited having the remaining third.

I got this data from the Fame database, one of many accessible for free by British Library registered readers.

The earliest use of the intellectual system I can find by them is in 1999, when David Beckham applied for Smokey Beckham in the UK trade mark system for potato crisps. I like the pun on “bacon”.

Three other UK trade marks are registered in his name, and one by Beckham Brands Limited. There are none by Victoria Beckham (or Adams, her maiden name).

23 Community Trade Marks have been applied for “Beckham”, a mixture of the company or their own names, through the OHIM website since 2000 (not all are currently still registered). This is a cheap way to protect a brand across the entire EU. They include David Beckham’s own signature, as shown below:

David Beckham signature trade mark
 The names David Beckham and Victoria Beckham have both been registered for 11 of the possible 45 trade mark classes of business products and services. Another is a logo registered by Victoria Beckham, applied for in 2002:

VB and cat trade mark logo
Several of the marks relate to David Beckham’s football academy, but there is also Intimately Beckham, Intimately Yours and David Beckham Bodywear. If properly looked after these trade marks can be protected forever for those classes.

Turning to designs, for something’s look, in 2007 a series of 17 related designs were applied for as Community Design 00798467, also through the OHIM office. This included the design shown below, with the initial V between a d and a b, with presumably the d being the mirror image of the b representing the initials for Victoria Beckham. Or is d for David ?

DVB Victoria Beckham design logo
The series includes star logos and items (bags ?) with star logos or the logo shown above in different positions, or simply plain. The title for each one is simply “Ornamentation”, with no need to describe what products are involved, as the look covers all possible products. They may, perhaps, be available to see on the Victoria Beckham website. As designs, they have a limited life before being available to others (a maximum of 25 years).

Finally, seven trade marks have been applied for through the US federal system, a selection of those protected in Europe.

These include That extra half an inch, which initially puzzled me – it sounded very saucy – but it turns out that Victoria published a book called That Extra Half an Inch: Hair, Heels and Everything in Between back in 2007. I must have missed its publication. The trade mark covers a vast number of products and services listed (as required) in great detail, such as “live fashion shows by a famous individual or professional entertainer”.

02 July 2012

Heatherwick Studio exhibition

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At the weekend I visited the Victoria and Albert's exhibition Heatherwick Studio: Designing the extraordinary.

A year ago I attended a lecture by Thomas Heatherwick himself at the Royal College of Art about his work. I'd never heard of him before then, but am certainly aware of him now. I regard him and the Heatherwick Studio's work as of exceptional interest and importance, and enjoyed the virtuosity on display.

Again and again, materials and shapes are manipulated and twisted to produce apparently impossible solutions to problems. For example, the rolling bridge at Paddington Basin, London, which can roll up into a ball; the zip bag, with a continuous zipper that changes the bags from a small black bag to a larger bag with alternate black and white stripes; the extraordinary seed cathedral for the Shanghai World Expo 2010, with 60,000 acrylic rods coated in aluminium, each with seeds visible to the visitor inside (illustrated below).

Seed Cathedral image

To my surprise I can only find three US design patents, all related to the zip bag idea, such as US D505226.

Below is a video of stills from the exhibition.


The Victoria and Albert is also showing another priced exhibition, British Design 1948-2012 which is also worth seeing at the same time. That one ends 12 August; the Heatherwick show on the 30 September.

15 June 2012

The Central Saint Martins' degree show 2012

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I’ve just visited the degree show at Central Saint Martins’, close to King’s Cross, and wished I had longer than an hour and a half.

There was a vast amount to see, as well as exploring the building, which only opened last Autumn in converted buildings linked or roofed by huge amounts of glass, next to the Regent’s Canal, as part of a huge regeneration project. It has several thousand students who all study art.

I paid particular attention to the product design exhibitions, of which there was lots, but the jewellery, ceramics, graphics – well, the whole place was full of exciting and stimulating work. I was delighted that a lot of the work seemed to come from working with industry to design products to meet specifications, which is a great way to learn. Many were based on saving space in our shrinking houses by using compact furniture.

Among the dozens of possibilities I’ll just pick out a few that caught my eye. Today, at least, the designer was often standing next to the exhibit to talk to.

Edouard Burgeat, the tetra project for creating miniature vertical gardens quickly out of discarded drinks containers.

Sangkeun Yu, with his hanging partition to cushion the noises that resonate around so many restaurants (something I also hate, modern restaurants seem to be designed to be noisy as they usually lack soft furnishings).

Alix Bizet, with a cupboard with a front that opens up and comes down to form a table, with the support neatly folding back to the front and looking decorative.

Thomas Radwanski’s Neptune dining table, a proposal for the John Lewis store, a transparent table that has wooden supports with a centre piece that rises when the end pieces are pulled apart, revealing for the first time metal. The transparency is deliberate to show off the bones, as it were, of the table.

Fanny Nilsson, the sound station for Urbanmiix which is a handheld wireless speaker that can be stuck onto a docking station to enhance sound and also recharge it.

Tahiya Mueen, with her multitasking bag to help mothers transport in an easy and convenient way the things they need for the baby.

Perhaps my favourite – Yifei Chai’s collapsible table that folds up out of sight like origami.

The last day of the show is the 21 June – look at their website for exact days and times.

04 May 2012

Guide to intellectual property in the fashion industry

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London's Centre for Fashion and Enterprise has put four guides to aspects of intellectual property and the fashion industry up on the Web.

They all have the title Intellectual property and the fashion industry and are on trade marks; design rights; copyright; and licensing. They date from March 2012.

These are practical guides to carrying out business in the industry, with real case studies to illustrate strategies -- hence mention of Jimmy Choo and Vivienne Westwood, for example. They look very useful. My only small quibble is that the mention of "design rights" could be confusing as "registered designs" and "design rights" are two separate rights that can be used to protect the appearance of things, while the brochure covers both.

The Business & IP Centre here has a Fashion Industry Guide listing valuable sources, mainly in reports held on paper or in subscription databases, which can be used by its readers.

01 May 2012

Shoe hangers as registered designs

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Even the simplest thing needs to be designed and made. I was reminded of that when I bought a pair of slippers which were attached to each other and to a hook above by a "shoe rack". The main drawing from the registered design is shown below.

Phineas shoe hanger
On it read



Community Reg. Des.


This told me that it was a Community or EU-wide design as administered by OHIM in Alicante, Spain. What Americans call Design Patents, for the look, are called registered designs in the UK.

The OHIM designs database lists 59 hits for Phineas Products, mostly devices for suspending shoes from hooks, with some coat hangers. 39 hits are on the UK designs database. There are none in the US system.

Phineas Products is based in Bristol, England but has 3 other offices across the world. They have taken the trouble to provide a page explaining why it is a good idea to hang shoes -- mainly, it is an efficient use of space and their use makes it easy for shoppers to see the product. 

The site even has a video (narrated by an American voice) explaining why this particular model, PP122, is effective. Here it is below.


Overkill ? I don't think so. The company is obviously expert in their niche product area and have targeted their audience: not the ordinary consumer, but the shopowner or manager selling shoes.

20 March 2012

Product development advice

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Getting good advice on developing a product, making a prototype and so on is hard to get.

The British Library has a regular programme of workshops which include "Product development clinics" by Bob Lindsey, with the next ones on the 3 and 12 April, and "What next for your invention ? Plan, prototype or protect ?" by Bang Creations, with the next one on the 5 April.

I have many one-hour meetings with inventors and designs to discuss their intellectual property and business plans. It helps a lot if the person sitting opposite me is an engineer, but they tend to lack skills in marketing. Or they might know a lot about finance and marketing, and have no idea how to protect their idea or the importance of building and refining a prototype.

These workshops, and the others on our regularly updated programme, help to fill in those gaps.

In addition, our free advice meetings can be booked on our web page. These can include business ideas where there is no hope of a patent.