In through the outfield blog

Neil Infield on business and intellectual property

07 May 2013

01 December 2012

Eat Street is dead – Long live Kerb – for the best street food in London

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My beloved Eat St. is no more. But this is a good news story as it has been replaced by KERB, and all the great pop up shops are still there at lunch-time, sandwiched between Kings Cross Station and the University of the Arts.


26 November 2012

Cadbury's "Willy Wonka" chocolate that doesn't melt

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The Daily Mail made a big fuss about Cadbury's "Willy Wonka" chocolate that doesn't melt even if in 40C heat for three hours in an article on the 24 November.

Much of the pleasure in eating chocolate is enjoying the slow melting in the mouth. This readiness to melt has caused many problems in shipping, storing and displaying the product in hot climates. Cadbury claims to have found a method of breaking down sugar particles into smaller pieces and reducing how much fat covers them. This makes it more difficult to melt. 

This would, however, also affect the product as an eating experience. The article quotes Mr Bilsborough, from Kraft Foods, the owner of Cadbury's, admitting that the new bars would not have the same melt-in-the-mouth quality as normal chocolate. He is quoted as saying "The melting point is what makes the bar so attractive, as that is what releases the flavour. If it melts at a higher temperature, it will take longer for it to melt in the mouth."

The recipe will only be available in countries such as India and Brazil -- to the annoyance of those quoted in the article, who want it available in the UK, a country not noted for its heat waves.

The article mentioned a patent, but in fact there are two World patent applications (not granted patents) describing the technology, both published 1 November. Both are named Temperature tolerant chocolate, and they are numbered WO2012/146920 and WO2012/146921.

At present they are awaiting approval by individual patent systems round the world. Information on prior art -- what has been done before, and which could invalidate the applications -- is contained in the search reports at the end of the patent specifications. Broadly speaking, an X in the report means that a cited patent or other document means that it is highly relevant in relation to the patent claims in the Cadbury applications. In this case the reports contain quite a few X citations.

These "citing documents" can be seen by clicking on that tab on the left hand side when viewing the patent applications.

Cadbury has earlier tried a different approach by trying to change the packaging to improve resistance, a perhaps more hopeful approach.

In an August 2010 story, again in the Daily Mail, it was explained that submissions were invited from inventors for packaging that could be used for chocolate that repeatedly heats and cools. According to the story, the company suggested "'novel' insulating materials or films which are perhaps triggered by temperature or light and can store and release energy to heat or cool the chocolate accordingly".

This is an example of "open innovation", using expertise from outside the organisation on the grounds that there are plenty of experts who don't work for you. The British Library has been actively involved in efforts to encourage this kind of exchange of expertise in both industrial and office environments.

06 August 2012

Arganic Oil a niche Success Story

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Arganic_Argan_Oil_product_img_0Despite being a ‘jack of all-trades and master of none‘ librarian, I have to admit to not having heard of Argan Oil before. But thanks to Dana Elemara the founder of Arganic I now know much more than I did.

According to Wikipedia Argan oil is a plant oil produced from the kernels of the Argan tree. It is found in Morocco, and is valued for its nutritive, cosmetic and numerous medicinal properties.

The Arganic Oil website expresses it more evocatively:

Argan oil is one of the healthiest and rarest oils in the world coming from the UNESCO protected argan tree. Often nicknamed ‘liquid gold’ this oil was the Berber people’s secret for centuries

It takes approximately 15 hours and 30kg of fruit to produce just 1 litre of argan oil. This lengthy process involves skilled handwork that has been passed down from generations.

In late summer the argan fruit ripens and falls to the ground where it is gathered. It is then laid out in the sun to dry. To make the oil, the dried outer fruit is first removed, then, using traditional artisanal techniques involving stones, the seeds are extracted from the hard inner shell.

Argan TreeUp to this point everything is done by hand, furthermore it is only women involved and this employment provides not only a good source of income in a poor region but an opportunity for them to gain independence. The process is governed by cooperatives who also give these women access to free education, and use some of the profits of the argan oil trade to benefit the local tribes and communities.

The seeds are then cold pressed to extract the oil. Nothing is wasted in the process, the fruit pulp is fed to cattle and the leftover seed pulp is used as fuel. At Arganic we have strict controls at every stage of production.

Dana had attended a couple of events and courses at the Business & IP Centre, but is still relatively new to the library. But it sounds like we have already been of help.

‘I trademarked my name only after being aware of it through the free IP seminar at the British Library and it was one of the best things I could have done at the start of my business as I have come across and won IP issues since.’

Here is her story:

Dana had heard about argan oil through relatives that were raving about it but found it difficult to get hold of in the UK. It was then that she decided to leave her mathematical and corporate background behind and the idea for Arganic came about. Luckily Dana had friends living in Morocco who put her through to the right people and the more she learned about this oil the more she fell in love with it and the important social impact it plays for women in Morocco.


I’ve just received this exciting update from Dana:

What a lovely post, thank you so much. There have been so many things happen since we last met, details on my last newsletter here, including TV appearances. Also last week my argan oil won a gold award from The Guild of Fine Foods, and today I found out that I won a Shell Livewire Grand Ideas award which gives me £1000 and free PR. They said I achieved the highest points in my category, and am now in the run for Young Entrepreneur of the Year which is announced in November. So I am extremely pleased right now.

I am still visiting the library and recommending the business centre constantly.

All the best, Dana

Arganic founder Dana Elemara

Arganic founder Dana Elemara

04 June 2012

The craft of making tea

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The art and craft of tea making is a very British obsession and tea is very big business.

According to Euromonitor’s GMID database (available in the BL Business and IP Centre) we drank our way through no less than 112 million tonnes of tea in 2011. The importance of the industry is also reflected in the intellectual property it generates.

Exploring the British Library’s intellectual property collection reveals the enormous range of IP assets which have been built up over the years by demand for our national drink. Goblin devised the Teasmade® (a registered trade mark for “Time controlled electric apparatus for making tea”) back in the 1930s. You can see a detailed description of the machine in the patent Apparatus for making hot beverages. This charming illustration is among the drawings.

Teasmade patent drawing

It also refers back to an earlier version of the Teasmade® by the same inventor, William Thornton.

The Teasmade brand is of course now famous and, after disappearing for a while, the device is back on the shelves again. Apparently the first name put forward by the chairman of the Goblin board was “Cheerywake”. Fortunately he was outvoted!

As trade marks are not supposed to describe the product or service “Tea’s made” might have had a problem – but by now long familiarity with the name would make any challenge difficult to mount. Goblin Teasmade was registered in 1938 (now just Teasmade®).

Trade marks and registered designs have been used to protect the “concept” behind some familiar marketing campaigns for tea . The “tea folk” depicted below, much used as cartoon characters in TV advertising, were registered by Tetley in 1991. Each has a specific role – Morris is the (all important!) inventor.

Tetley tea folk trade mark

More recently, Unilever has been promoting its PG Tips brand with a series of TV advertisements featuring comedian Johnny Vegas and a monkey (voiced by Ben Miller). “Monkey” is the subject of a British registered design (shown below) which is owned, surprisingly, by Comic Relief .

Comic Relief image of monkey

Unilever also introduced the triangular, “Pyramid” teabag for its PG tips brand back in 1996. Their publicity describes it as “revolutionary”, and states that “with more space inside it acts like a miniature teapot, giving the leaves more room to move.”

Molins, a Midlands company that specialises in machinery for preparing food or tobacco, devised technology for filling the triangular sachets described in their European patent application Apparatus and methods for producing packets.The drawing below is one of eight illustrating the process of putting the “filling material” (tea leaves, presumably) into the packaging.

Molins tea packing patent drawing

It is interesting that tea experts claim triangular bags do not mean a better cup of tea, just a quicker one.

Even the box in which the same tea bags are sold is an IP assest protected in this case by British design 2035706, as shown below. Clearly, when it comes to tea, intellectual property has it covered from every angle. Pyramid tea bags package

26 April 2012

The Apprentice hits the mark with gourmet street food

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Lucky_ChipThis evening’s Apprentice shows the show’s researchers have their ears to the ground with regard to the latest trend in street food retailing.

Pop-up shops selling gourmet fast food is all the rage in the trendier parts of London these days.

Luckily the Kings Cross development area is just one such place, with its Eat Street, just up the road from the updated eponymous station, and literally across the road from the recently opened University of the Arts.

I have been lured over to this new venture on numerous occasions, despite the relatively high prices compared to traditional fast food outlets. But the food has always been worth it, with a notable spicy burger which had a real bite to it.

As was pointed out during this weeks Apprentice episode, branding is a key element of any enterprise, and some of the stalls in Eat Street certainly have memorable names. My favourites are Daddy Donkey, Well Kneaded Ltd, Yum Bun, Hardcore Prawn, and Eat my Pies.

Tongue-n-cheekHowever, I think that Tongue ‘n Cheek needs to find a way make its delicious sounding underrated meat cuts and Italian inspired street food treats, such as Ox cheek with caramelized onions and polenta, a bit more accessible given the queue size I observed the other day.

These names certainly compare favourably to the Apprentice team’s choices of Gourmet Scot Pot and Utterly delicious Meatballs.


22 February 2012

A refreshing cup of coffee half-way down the piste

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Starbucks_squaw_valleyOnce again Springwise has come up with an innovative service, this time from Starbucks. I’m off to the Alps in a few weeks time for a bit of ‘piste-bashing’, so this story caught my attention. Starbucks have opened the world’s first ski-in ski-out coffee shop on the side of a mountain.

Today 10 February 2012, Squaw Valley is officially opening the world’s first ski-in/ski-out Starbucks location.

On the mountain at elevation 8,000 feet, Squaw Valley’s new mountaintop Starbucks boasts spectacular mountain views and the unique ability for guests to keep their skis or board on while they order their Starbucks® beverage of choice.

“We worked closely with the design team at Starbucks to create a one-of-a-kind experience that we know our guests will truly enjoy,” said Andy Wirth, Squaw Valley’s president and CEO. “Nowhere else in the world can skiers and riders enjoy a delicious Starbucks coffee without missing a beat on the slopes.”

Now, you can can me an old stick in the mud, but I think the idea of whizzing down the mountain with a cup of steaming Java in my hand is taking the idea of ‘coffee on the go’ a little bit too far.

09 November 2011

James Dyson Award: world winner 2011, Airdrop

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The world winner of the James Dyson Award has been announced. It's Edward Linacre and his Airdrop irrigation concept.

In response to drought conditions in much of Australia, Edward has devised a system that uses water as effectively as possible. Moisture in the air is harvested and is then taken underground by pipes where it cools and condenses to water the roots of the plants. More details are given on the site.

Edward is a student at Melbourne's Swinburne University of Technology. He explains in a video on the site linked to above that he made a simple, small version and put it in his mother's garden and it produced a litre of water in a day. Even in very dry climates, he says, there is some moisture in the air.

There were over 500 contestants. Edward will receive £10,000 and the same amount goes to his university. All the projects can be viewed on the site.