In through the outfield blog

Neil Infield on business and intellectual property

12 April 2012

Rights to band names: One Direction

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Today's free Metro newspaper had an article about US band One Direction complaining about British boy band One Direction. A lawsuit has been filed. The British group are in Simon Cowell's Syco label.

The US band formed in 2009 and are quoted as saying that they were the "first to file a patent and trademark application."

You can't patent a name or wording (a common error), but you can certainly register trade marks. In February 2011 the trade mark "One Direction" was filed for as a US trade mark, which is awaiting registration, for "Entertainment, namely, live performances by a musical band". Oddly, despite the claim to formation in 2009, it states that its first use in commerce was on the 2 October 2010.

There is also™ , a free registration site even if you only want to search for band names (why make life hard for bands ?) where new bands can list unique names to avoid possible conflict, although I am not sure of its legal standing.

The US group is asking for the British group to change their name and for one million dollars, as the British group has been successful in a US tour.  According to an InsideCounsel page, the lawsuit is based on trade mark infringement -- which is strange, as the US application for a trade mark is still awaiting registration.

[The IPKat blog has a very useful post which shows that the British group have applied for a US trade mark. Ed., 17 April]

09 September 2011

An evening in the charming company of Amanda F***ing Palmer and her ukulele

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I actually wrote this blog post late on Monday night, but thanks to the unpredictable nature of web editing, the whole thing disappeared in mid-edit. Whilst mustering the energy to start again from scratch, who should pop-up on my iPod but the Dresden Dolls. Considering I have over 5,000 songs, and it is set to random, I took this as a sign to finish what I had started.

As I have mentioned before, the British Library is a wonderfully eclectic place, and the events we hold reflect this.

This Monday saw a performance from Amanda F***ing Palmer to a full house of her loyal and adoring fans in the intimate setting of British Library conference centre. With the exception of a couple of songs played on an electronic piano, AFP accompanied herself with a ukulele and mandolin.

 She was also joined on stage for a couple of songs by new husband Neil Gaiman, who just happens to be an award winning science fiction writer, and who surprisingly hails from my home town of East Grinstead. Neil also gave a talk earlier in the day as part of our excellent Out of this World science fiction exhibition (which closes on 25 September).

I have to admit to not being aware of what I now understand is the cult of AFP, before Monday, so like any good librarian did a bit of desk research. I discovered she has performed as a solo performer, the driving voice of The Dresden Dolls, the Emcee in Cabaret, and as half of the conjoined-twin folk duo Evelyn Evelyn. And that her approach to clothes seems to be ‘less is more’. So I was somewhat surprised by her initial rather prim and proper outfit (below).

All rights reserved by Hannah Daisy

However, it did not take long for her to revert to her more ‘traditional’ attire of basque and suspenders (below with Neil Gaiman).

(Many thanks to Hannah Daisy for allowing me to use her wonderful photos of the evening.)

All rights reserved by Hannah Daisy

Although Amanda’s cabaret style of music is not normally my cup of tea, I was really impressed by her intelligent lyrics, humour and emotional depth.

The only slight niggle from the evening’s entertainment was the swearing. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not easily offended by rude words, and of course AFP’s stage name gives something of a clue to what might be expected at her shows. But I am now rather bored by the number of visitors to the British Library who seem to think that swearing in such an august institution is terribly naughty, and so irresistibly cool.

My first encounter with the f-word at the Library was back in 1997, courtesy of James Brown founder of Loaded Magazine, and perhaps not so surprising given his role as father of the ‘Lads mag’. You can still see him in action on our YouTube channel.

Not long after came Richard Reed of Innocent Smoothies fame,
and Sam Roddick founder of ‘erotic emporium’ Coco De Mer, and daughter of the Body Shop legend Dame Anita Roddick.

Perhaps both could be excused because this was how they expressed their great passion for their business activities.

However, the same cannot be said of comedy veteran Arthur Smith, who during his set at What’s So Funny @ British Library last January, lead a rousing chorus of “I am the Mayor of Balham / oh yes I f***ing am / I am the Mayor of Balham / I f***ing f***ing am”

I could see he was positively revelling in his ‘rebellious’ swearing.

So, I’m afraid on Monday I refused to sing along when Amanda asked us to yell “f*** it”, in response to prompting during her performance of Map of Tasmania. Although, from the sound of it, I was probably the only one not joining in.

The evening wasn’t all swearing however, and including a surprisingly warm mention of my local (and rather dull) town of Crawley, for being the home-town of Robert Smith founder of 80’s pop band The Cure.

She has also covered Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in concert with her father, which is a good sign of musical taste in my opinion.

Needless to say, in our age of social media connections, you can follow both Amanda and Neil on their twitter feeds with half a million, and one and a half million followers respectively.

I can’t wait to see what surprises the Library will throw up next.

03 March 2011

IP for Innovation and Growth at the RSA London

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RSA Last night was my first event at the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce or RSA for short.

Recently they invited me to become a Fellow of the organisation which is actually a charity which dates back to 1754. So I thought I would pop along after work to one of their events. The topic was right up my street, as it was concerned with reviewing the Independent Review of IP and Growth, which is being led by Professor Ian Hargreaves.

Matthew Taylor, the chief executive of the RSA had assembled a panel of experts to consider the not insignificant challenge of how the UK can develop a technology neutral IP Framework which will drive innovation and growth by serving consumer-led markets, technology companies, and research and education, as well as the creative industries.

The RSA is particularly interested in this topic as in 2005 it published the Adelphi Charter, which called for a new deal on IP for the digital age.

Given the immensely complex nature of copyright (which was the dominant theme of the evening) and the strongly held opposing views of the audience, I was impressed by how Mathew Taylor managed to keep the event in good humour and to time.

Here are my notes from the evening:

Ian Hargreaves, professor of digital economy, the Cardiff School of Journalism

  • ­    The Adelphi Charter calls for a balance between commercial interests and public rights. This should be preserved.
  • ­    The digital market-place is a troubled place, and a single government review will not be able to calm the waters.
  • ­    The Government’s aim is to boost the digital economy, but economics should not be the only consideration.

John Howkins, chairman, BOP Consulting and past director of the Adelphi Charter on Creativity, Innovation and Intellectual Property

  • ­    Historically, the study of copyright has been seen in terms of legal rights rather than commercial ones.
  • ­    6 months is too short a time to undertake an effective enquiry.
  • ­    The emphasis on economic matters is in danger of pushing out social and cultural interest.
  • ­    We require a strong body which can take a view on IP issues.
  • ­    Governments should stop using ‘bungee jump’ approaches to IP policy. Copyright is just too important to be managed in this way.
  • ­    The IPO needs to do more research into IP on a sustained basis.
  • ­    We are in danger of being overtaken by WIPO.
  • ­    We used to be a pioneer, but no longer seem interested in taking an international lead.
  • ­    We are moving to a post platform world in terms of broadcasting. Digital media transcends platforms.

Dame Lynne Brindley DBE, chief executive, The British Library

  • ­    Text and data mining – an important contribution to scientific research, but currently excluded by IP law.
  • ­    Media neutral research exceptions – we need to ensure existing exceptions for analogue content are extended to digital. Many other countries already allow it.
  • ­    Extend fair-dealing exceptions for print, to audio and film – the UK is behind other countries on this.
  • ­    Mass digitisation – The British Library is not able to make copies of technically in copyright material. But in practice most is out of commercial interest, and often orphan works, where the owners can not be traced.
  • ­    A study in the library shows as that for each ten year increment back in time the rate of orphan works increases towards 70%.
  • ­    French and German governments are ahead of the UK on tackling orphan works.
  • ­    The proposed orphan works bill should be re-introduced

Sarah Hunter, head of UK public policy, Google

  • ­    Google thinks copyright law in the UK needs fixing – not just for Google but in the public interest.
  • ­    Fair use law in the USA is relatively transparent, whereas in the UK the situation is much less clear.
  • ­    Google would not have been launched in the UK, because of the copyright complexity we have.

Simon Juden, head of public policy, Pearson Plc

  • ­    How to solve copyright problems?
  • ­    We could introduce fair-use laws from Europe or the US.
  • ­    Suggests a registry for copyright works for both books and music. This idea could be extended to all creative content.
  • ­    Use metadata to mark up digital content with its copyright information. The metadata would travel with the content. So users would not need to negotiate licences with the owners.
  • ­    If we could get this right, market opportunities would open up.
  • ­    Technological solutions are the best approach to technical challenges rather than constantly updating the law.

Alison Wenham, chairman and chief executive, Association of Independent Music

  • ­    Doesn’t believe IP is the problem. Lack of funding for high-risk ventures in the UK is where the problem lies.
  • ­    IP has never been valued in the UK by the investment world.
  • ­    An imbalance in safe harbours and fair-use in the last 10 years, between the US and the rest of the world.
  • ­    We need a marriage of great content and great innovation.
  • ­    Music industry has been unfairly criticised for lack of innovation.
  • ­    Solution to music pirating: Take down illegal sites, stop pirate sites appearing on search results, stop advertising on illegal sites.


  • ­    The British Library should take responsibility for copyright in the UK, as it has experts who understand the issues.
  • ­    We need to experiment with the issues to see which work best – e.g. Ideas Markets
  • ­    Yahoo handed back their music licences because it was not commercially successful.
  • ­    Disparaging the nature of free content on the internet is unhelpful.
  • ­    We need numbers to show the impact of IP on the economy.
  • ­    How do you value IP content?
  • ­    What is the economic and social impact of creative content.

27 October 2010

The end of Sony's Walkman® personal stereo

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It has been announced that Sony stopped production of its Walkman® personal stereo in April 2010, after over 200 million had been made.

When it was introduced in 1979, this audio cassette device began to sell in huge numbers, even though it lacked a record function, which at the time was thought vital in a cassette machine. It came about when Akio Morita, the company chairman, wanted to listen to opera on his many flights. Existing prototypes of a small cassette player designed for dictation, and tiny headphones were adapted to make the product. 

Morita hated the brand name, but it had been chosen without consulting him and was already being used in promotion, so he couldn't change it. He himself thought that making them so that two can listen at once was a good idea, as he had noticed his wife looking annoyed as he listened to music on it. Large numbers of that model were made, but it turned out that people regard them as personal accessories. 

The biggest mistake, though, was not applying for a patent (Sony thought it unpatentable) and therefore, perhaps, not being aware of a patent by Andreas Pavel. Here is the main drawing from his High fidelity stereophonic reproduction system.

Pavel audio system patent 
The equipment was to be worn on a belt but the principle was fairly similar, hence litigation. Pavel's patent application, made from Italy where he was living at the time, was made in 1977 and therefore predated the Sony work.

Court litigation dragged on for years.  A detailed analysis of the arguments for and against Pavel was made by Judge Peter Ford in his Patents County Court judgment in 1993, Court Decision CC/14/93 (held at the British Library), where Ford said the patent's technology was old and obvious. The case later went on to the Appeals Court, where Pavel lost again in 1996.

An out of court settlement with Pavel for using his technology (said to be in excess of $10 million) was made by Sony but, it has been said, was only possible after Morita's death in 1999.

12 November 2007

The future of technology is a wind-up

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At the recent What Hi Fi? Sound and Vision Show I spent a great deal of time on the Baylis stand talking to the friendly team.

They were demonstrating the new Eco Media Player which is a wind-up (sorry couldn’t resist that one). To be brutally frank, this product doesn’t exude the sheer desirability of an iPod. However, it makes a good attempt at addressing it’s shortcomings by packing in an fm radion, a led torch, and phone re-charger in addition to its rivals’ mp3, video and photo players.

Eco Media PlayerIts real unique selling point though is the handle that unfurls from the back of the player. They claim that just one minute of winding is sufficient to provide up to forty minutes of play. I have to say that the idea of watching the battery life drain out of my mp3 player knowing that all is required is a few spins of the charger is very appealing.

All we need now is the mobile phone with built in charging handle. I have lost count of the number of times mine has run out of power, usually at the worst possible time.