31 August 2015

I want to understand how innovation works - NESTA shows you how

Lots of people have bright ideas for new products or processes. That's called invention. Most of those bright ideas never see the light of day because they are just that. Bright ideas. They exist only in the inventor's mind without any regard to putting them into production or on retailers' shelves.

Putting a bright idea into practice to meet a genuine need is much more difficult. That's innovation. Of course innovation includes more than just inventions and it involves more than just scientists and engineers. For example, the current home page of NESTA (the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts) is headed "Meet the Dementia Innovators" and features what it calls "a living map of ageing innovators" (see "Dementia who's innovating" 19 Aug 2015).

NESTA provides a toolkit of videos, templates and information on the innovation process starting with the above video "An Introduction to Innovation".  It then proceeds to "Start a Project" which begins with the "Evidence Planning" template. I shall write more about this process in future articles.

25 July 2015

Enterprising Libraries

Library card index
Author Stuart Caie
Source Wikipedia
Creative Commons Licence

On Monday 22 June 2015 I attended a reception at the British Library to celebrate the launch of a report by Adroit Economics entitled Enterprising Libraries: A blueprint for delivering economic growth in UK cities. According to Adroit Economics
"Adroit evaluated the British Library's major business support programme which provides advice on IP and other business start-up and growth issues, serving c 2,200 start-ups."
I have not yet been able to find a copy of the report but its highlights are summarized in an article in the British Library's Innovation and Enterprise blog on 23 June.

Evidently the British Library were very pleased with the report for they threw quite a lavish party which included a private view of the Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy exhibition. There were speeches by Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library, Darren Henley, Chief Executive of the Arts Council and Kanya King, founder and CEO of MOBO (Music of Black Origin). Unfortunately, the acoustics in the entrance hall to the British Library where the reception was held were appalling. I  could barely make out a word that any of them said. I could hear none of King's speech whatsoever because she spoke very softly even though I moved as close to the lectern as possible.

There were also some of the great and the good of innovation at the reception:  Mandy Haberman, inventor of the Anywayup cup. Bola Olabisi founder of the Global Women Inventors and Innovators Network whom I featured in  Innovation in Africa - Bola Olabisi 5 March 2011 and the patent agent Richard Gallafent who founded Ideas 21. There were also friends and acquaintances from the Intellectual Property Office and PATLib libraries like Joyce Gray of Sheffield and Ruth Grodner of Liverpool though sadly neither Ged Doonan nor Stef Stephenson who had blazed a trail for libraries everywhere from Leeds were present. Instead, Leeds libraries were represented  by officials whom I had never met before in the decade that I have been running the Leeds Inventors Club and giving talks and dispensing free legal advice there.

However, I made some new acquaintances in the PatLib network such as John Musham of Newcastle and a delightful pair from the magnificent Library of Birmingham  I commended the new library and the Hippodrome Theatre which I had visited two days earlier to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet's move to Birmingham and David Bintley's 20 years as artistic director of the company (see In Praise of Bintley 21 June 2015 Terpsichore). They were purring like kittens at the compliments to their city until I reminded them of the latest census returns which had put Greater Manchester marginally ahead of the West Midlands in the number of inhabitants (see Largest urban areas of the European Union Wikipedia) and muttered about the Northern Powerhouse. Cruel I know but as a Mancunian I am incensed by the notion that the city of Cobden, Rutherford and Turing yields to anyone. Now there is no longer even a statistical basis for the estwhile metal bashers to claim to be the UK's second city if indeed there ever was.

I should say a few words about the Enterprising Libraries programme. This is a joint venture between the British Library and the Department for Communities funded by the Arts Council England to develop local libraries into community hubs for local economic growth. I have written extensively about this programme in this and my other blogs over the last few years and you will find links to my articles in PatLib Libraries in the UK 25 Jan 2015. To a very large extent this initiative compensates for the closure of the Business Link network  by the Coalition government. The first phase was to develop Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield libraries into local Business and IP Centres in partnership with the British Library (see the National Network page of the British Library's website). The Arts Council has just announced that 10 other library authorities in England have been awarded a share of a £450,000 grant to develop business and IP reference services (see the Successful applicants page of the Arts Council's website). Pilot schemes to develop Exeter and Northampton Central Libraries into Business and IP Centres.

With 10 years experience of working with libraries in the North to holding clinics, running inventors clubs and speaking on intellectual property I see the value of this initiative and will support it in any way I can. Should anyone wish to discuss this they should call me on 020 7404 5252 during normal office house or contact me through this form.

14 May 2015

The Intellectual Property Office looks at Additive Manufacturing

Turbine produced by 3D Printing
Source Wikipedia

I have written quite a lot about additive manufacturing including 3 dimensional printing over the last few years. You will find links to those articles at Liverpool Inventors Club Re-launch - Fabulous FabLab 28 Jan 2012. At the end of April 2015 the Intellectual Property Office published A Legal and Empirical Study into the Intellectual Property Implications of 3D Printing in the following parts:
The IPO had commissioned the study because Andrew Sissons and Spencer Thompson had recommended a review of the intellectual property implications of 3D printing in their report Three Dimensional Policy Why Britain needs a policy framework for 3D printing which was published by the Big Innovation Centre in Oct 2012.

Study 1 considered the legal framework in the UK and other countries and concluded that there was some uncertainty as to whether CAD files and their data could be protected adequately. Study 2 discussed additive manufacturing technologies and their application to date. The Studies concluded that from the data retrieved in Study I, there was nothing to indicate that the activity on 3D printing on-line platforms was a mass phenomenon yet. As such, there was no urgency to legislate on 3D printing. Indeed the report argued that
"a premature call for legislative and judicial action in the realm of 3D printing could stifle the public interest of 'fostering creativity and innovation and the right of manufacturers and content creators to protect their livelihoods.'”
Nevertheless, there was a need to clarify the law on  whether a CAD file is capable of copyright protection. It was thought that the territorial nature of copyright law, coupled with the extra territorial nature of on-line platforms and CAD files shared thereon, could lead to uncertainty and complex issues in the future. The Studies urged the IPO to
"establish a Working Group to cover the various IP rights which may need to be tackled in the future. The Working Group should also provide clarity on the status of CAD files and how they can best be used in industry. The Group should also consider how best to tackle the traceability of 3D printed spare parts."
In other words, pretty well much the same recommendation as Sisson and Thompson had made in their report nearly three years ago.

I take issue with some of those conclusions. Additive manufacturing may not be a mass phenomenon in the sense that there is a 3D printer in every home or a 3D print shop on every street corner but those technologies are developing rapidly and are finding ever increasing uses ranging from the fabrication of prosthetic body parts and the reconstitution of human tissues to precision engineering. The industry may be in its infancy but it is already big and it is growing quickly. Secondly, Study I concentrated on copyright but not other intellectual property rights albeit that Study 2 considered them in the context of the case studies. I do not anticipate any difficulty over whether copyright subsists in CAD files but I do see increasing scope for arguments over obviousness in relation to inventions developed with CAD technology. Also, there is an clear risk of counterfeiting through the use of such technology. However, I would agree that there is no need for specific legislation at this stage if ever. The existing legislative framework and the courts should be able to cope with all  foreseeable problems.

Should anyone wish to discuss these studies or the legal consequences of additive manufacturing technology in general, he or she should call me on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact form.

14 March 2015

Trade Marks for Inventors

Jane Lambert

Inventors are most interested in protecting their inventions for which they require patents but some set up businesses to manufacture or market their inventions. Such businesses need to identify themselves and their products in the market place and for that they need brands. Brands are built up by sales and marketing and the common or judge made law of England and Wales gives a measure of protection for established brands by the law of passing off, But if you are new to the market or are about to launch a new product or service you can't rely on that law. You need to register a trade mark first.

What are trade marks?
S.1 (1) of the Trade Marks Act 1994 defines a trade mark as
"any sign capable of being represented graphically which is capable of distinguishing goods or services of one undertaking from those of other undertakings."
The following paragraph helpfully adds:
"A trade mark may, in particular, consist of words (including personal names), designs, letters, numerals or the shape of goods or their packaging."
The Trade Marks Act 1994 applies only to the United Kingdom but our trade marks law has been harmonized for over 20 years with the laws of the rest of the European Union by an EU Directive and a string of decisions of the Court of Justice of the European Union. As all the EU member states are members of the World Trade Organization EU trade mark law and the trade mark laws of each of its member states have to comply with Annex 1C to the World Trade Organization Agreement which is better known as TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights). Art 15 (1) of TRIPS contains a definition that is very similar to s.1 (1) of our Trade Marks Act 1994.

A word on spelling
You will have noted that trade mark is spelt as two words in our statute but as one word in the TRIPs. Both spellings are correct but we tend to use the two word spelling in the UK, the EU and most of the Commonwealth whereas Americans use one word. As I am British I shall stick to spelling it as two words but you may find your spell check prefers the American spelling.

Specified goods
Trade marks are registered for goods or services and when you apply for a trade mark you have to specify the goods or services to which it is to apply.

It is still sometimes possible for two different trade mark owners to register the same sign for different goods. We were once familiar with Mazda card and Mazda light bulbs. But that has become more difficult since s.5 (3) of the Trade Marks Act 1994 now provides that a trade mark shall not be registered if it is
"identical with or similar to an earlier trade mark, shall not be registered if, or to the extent that, the earlier trade mark has a reputation in the United Kingdom (or, in the case of a Community trade mark or international trade mark (EC) in the European Community) and the use of the later mark without due cause would take unfair advantage of, or be detrimental to, the distinctive character or the repute of the earlier trade mark."
Goods and services are divided into a number of classes by an international agreement called the Nice Agreement Concerning the International Classification of Goods and Services for the Purposes of the Registration of Marks or Nice Agreement for short.  Our Intellectual Property Office has very helpfully published Guidance Trade mark classification list of goods and services 2 May 2014 which you can consult on its website.

When you apply to register a trade mark you have to state the class or classes of goods and services for which you wish the mark to be registered. You should bear in mind that one class of goods or services is included in your application fee and that you have to pay extra for each additional class of goods or services.

What is the point of a trade mark?
The rights conferred by the registration of a trade mark are set out most succinctly in art 16 (1) of TRIPS:
"The owner of a registered trademark shall have the exclusive right to prevent all third parties not having the owner’s consent from using in the course of trade identical or similar signs for goods or services which are identical or similar to those in respect of which the trademark is registered where such use would result in a likelihood of confusion. In case of the use of an identical sign for identical goods or services, a likelihood of confusion shall be presumed"
That is echoed by s.9 (1) of our Trade Marks Act 1994:
"The proprietor of a registered trade mark has exclusive rights in the trade mark which are infringed by use of the trade mark in the United Kingdom without his consent."
The acts that constitute infringement are set out at some length in the first three sub-sections of s.10 of the 1994 Act.

UK and Community Trade Marks
Applicants for trade marks in the UK has the choice of registering a trade mark for the UK alone or for the whole of the EU. Trade marks for the whole EU are known as "Community trade marks" or "CTM" and I shall refer to them as CTM for the rest of this article.

If you want a trade mark for the UK alone you apply to the Intellectual Property Office or "IPO" in Newport. The department that looks after trade marks is known as the Trade Marks Registry which us usually referred to as "the Registry".  Confusingly the head of the IPO is called "the Comptroller" in relation to patents and unregistered design rights but "the Registrar" in relation to trade marks and registered designs, However, he or she is the same person.

If you want a CTM you have to apply to the curiously named Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market Trade Marks and Designs ("OHIM") in Alicante in Spain. Applications for CTM are governed by the CTM Regulation (Council Regulation (EC) No 207/2009 of 26 February 2009 on the Community trade mark OJ 24.3.2009 L78/1) but its provisions are very similar to those of the Directive and hence our Trade Marks Act 1994.

Guidance on applying for trade marks
The IPO contains a useful step by step guide to registering a UK trade mark that begins with the section "Trade marks: protect your brand". The next sections are "What you can and can't register", "Apply" and "After you apply". Most of the information in those pages would also be of use if you are applying for a CTM or a trade mark in any other country's trade marks registry.

If you want a CTM, OHIM also gives you some useful information. I recommend starting at the Trade Marks Basics page and working your way from there. There is an amusing little animated video called "It's all about trade marks" which you shouldn't miss.

There is also useful stuff on the British Library's Business and IP and World Intellectual Property Office websites and there is lots more from law firms, patent offices, trade mark and patent agencies and universities around the world but for now I would be content with the publications that the IPO and OHIM put out otherwise you will never get started.

Should you get professional advice?
It is perfectly possible for a reasonably well educated and intelligent individual to apply for a UK trade mark or CTM without the assistance of a trade mark or patent attorney or lawyer and many business owners do just that but unless you have a lot of experience of IP and trade marks you can easily come unstuck if you try to do it yourself. For instance, you may miss something on a search, you may fill out the form incorrectly, you may apply for a mark that can't be registered or a third party may oppose your mark after it has been advertised if he thinks that you are unrepresented in circumstances that he wouldn't try if he knew you were professionally represented. The cheapest you can register a UK mark is £170 if you make the application on-line and there are many attorneys who will do all the searches, draft the application, pay the Registry fees for £500 or less. To me that seems a no-brainer.

If you don't have an attorney and you would like me to suggest one, call me on 020 7404 5252 during normal office hours or message me through my contact form.

On-line or paper
Both the IPO and OHIM encourage on-line applications by offering slight discounts for on-line applications.

Regardless of whether you apply for a UK mark or a CTM it is imperative that you carry out a thorough search for you will probably not be allowed to register a mark that is the same or similar to an existing one for the same or similar goods or services. Even if your application does somehow slip through the owner of the earlier mark can apply to invalidate it on the grounds that it should never have been registered.

You can search the IPO or OHIM databases yourself (see Search for a Trade Mark on the IPO website and eSearch plus on OHIM's) but you will get a better result if you instruct an attorney for he or she knows what to look for. You can also get a good search from Leeds Business and IP Centre if you call Ged or Steff on 0113 247 8266.

Making the application
As there is excellent information from the IPO and OHIM on trade mark applications I am not going to repeat it here.

If you are doing it yourself and encounter a problem you can contact me on 020 7404 5252 or use my contact form. In most cases my advice will be go find an attorney and I will tell you how to get one but there may be a point of law which requires professional advice in which case I will see you in conference or advise you in writing (see "What happens if the examiner says no?" below).

IP insurance
Another thing you should consider when you apply for a trade mark is enforcement. Although some trade mark infringements are crimes which can be prosecuted by trading standards officers in the magistrates or Crown Court it is generally down to you to enforce your trade mark. You do that by issuing proceedings in the civil courts. Though you can't start proceedings until your mark has been registered your rights and hence your claim to damages can be backdated to the date of application. IP litigation in the UK has always been more expensive than on the Continent and the costs of issuing proceedings for claims over £10,000 have recently sky rocketed (see How to enforce your IP claim after court fees sky rocket 7 March 2015). Unless you have lots of money I would advise your taking out before-the-event IP insurance at the earliest possible opportunity (see Intellectual Property Litigation - the Funding Options 10 April 2013 NIPC Law) which is when in the case of trade marks is when you make your application.

What if the examiner says no?
Here's where I come in. Any decision of the hearing officer can be appealed but appeals are be expensive and you will want to make sure that you are on firm ground. You could ask your trade mark or patent attorney or your solicitor but at the end of the day they may well suggest your taking counsel's opinion. "Counsel" is another word for barrister or someone like me and if you want to know what IP barristers such as I can offer read my article IP Services from Barristers 6 April 2013 4-5 IP). I will advise you on your options and if you decide to appeal I will represent you all for a fixed fee that will be agreed in advance. Again, if you want to consult me call me on 020 7404 5252 during normal office hours or message me through my contact form.

In the IPO appeals from examiners are made to an official known  as a hearing officer who sits on behalf of the Registrar. The IPO has published two useful articles on Options following an objection to a trade mark examination and Trade mark disputes resolution: hearings which I advise you to read.

Appeals in OHIM are made to Boards of Appeal and the procedure is set out in the Appeal page.

What if someone else says no?
if the examiner finds no objection  to your application it will be advertised on the web and elsewhere. If anyone objects to your application he or she may get a trade mark or patent attorney to write to you to explain the objection and ask you to withdraw your application.  Again, this is where I could come in either at your request or the request of your attorneys or lawyers. I can advise you whether the objection is justified and if it is not represent you in opposition proceedings again for an agreed fee.

There are basically two grounds upon which an opponent can object to your application. The first is that he or she has an earlier trade mark with which your mark conflicts. The second is that he or she could bring an action for passing off, copyright infringement or some other cause of action that would prevent your using your mark.

Appeals in the IPO are heard by hearing officers and appeals in OHIM by Boards of Appeal, Much of what I have written under the previous heading applies to opposition proceedings.

If nobody objects to your application or if all objections are resolved in your favour your application will proceed to grant and you will receive a certificate of registration and your mark will be entered on the register.  However, that is not necessarily the end of the story because it is still open to a third party to apply for invalidation of your mark on the ground that it should never have been granted. You also have to make sure that you use your mark within 5 years of registration otherwise someone may seek its revocation for non-use. Invalidity proceedings can be made in the Trade Marks Registry or as the case may be OHIM or by way of counterclaim in any proceedings you may bring for infringement of its mark.

Watch service
You need to make sure that another business does not apply to register the same or similar mark for the same or similar goods. As it is impractical for most businesses to scour the intellectual property offices or trade mark journals it is a good idea to instruct someone to do that for you. That is known as a "watch service". Your attorney ought to be able to arrange that for you but if not call Ged or Steff at Leeds Business and IP Centre on 0113 247 8266.

If you want to discuss this article or trade marks generally call me on 020 7404 5252 or use my contact form.

07 March 2015

How to enforce your IP claim after court fees sky rocket

Saturn V rocket - the biggest rocket ever to fly
Photo Wikipedia

A patent or other intellectual property rights is essentially a right to bring a law suit. With a few limited exceptions it is not a crime to infringe an intellectual property right. Patentees and other intellectual property rights holders have to enforce their rights have to enforce their rights themselves which generally means bringing proceedings in the civil courts.

1.  Court Fees are about to Sky Rocket

Unfortunately, the costs of issuing proceedings in the civil courts of England and Wales are about to soar through the roof. Art 2 of The Civil Proceedings and Family Proceedings Fees (Amendment) Order 2015 which is currently before Parliament requires those claiming more than £10,000 in damages or other monetary relief to pay 5% of the value of the claim up to a cap of £10,000.  At present, the most that anyone has to pay for issuing a claim is £1,920. That will increase to £10,000 after the Order is made - a whopping £8,080 or 421%. It is even worse for those with modest claims. Those seeking damages of £190,000 will have to pay £9,500 an increase of £8,185 or 622%.

The peers including the law lords have protested at these new fees as have the senior judges and lawyers (see Senior judges attack government's planned court cost rise 4 March 2014 BBC and Wednesday in Westminster 4 March 2015) but governments tend to get their way and the draft order will go through. So what should inventors and other small businesses do now?

2. Limit Damages Claim to £10,000

The issue fees for claims under £10,000 remains unchanged. They increased quite a bit last year but they will not be going up this time. If your claim for damages is between £5,000 and £10,000 the issue fee will still be £455. Limiting claims to £10,000 is not nearly as bad as it sounds because the principal relief that an intellectual property owner wants is an injunction - that is to say, an order of the court to do or refrain from doing something on pain of a fine or imprisonment for disobedience. Inquires as to damages and accounts of profits are very rare in IP litigation. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of cases in which I have been instructed that have actually gone all the way to a full blown inquiry.

Happily there is now a court for small intellectual property claims, namely the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (formerly the Patents County Court) small claims track. The judges of that court will hear claims for all types of IP cases except those involving patents, registered designs, registered Community designs, semiconductor topographies and plant breeders' rights where the damages or other pecuniary relief is £10,000 or less. I have written a lot about that tribunal, given a lot of presentations and even argued a case before it. You will find links to those articles at Patents County Court - the New Small Claims Track Rules 20 Sept 2012 NIPC Law. The great advantage of the small claims track is that the procedure is very simple. There is usually only one hearing which lasts less than half a day and the judge can award an injunction and damages at the same sitting. Something that can't be done in any other court. The risk as to costs is limited to a few hundred pounds though by the same token you can's recover more than a few hundred pounds if you are successful.

Even if your claim is in relation to patents, registered or registered Community designs, semiconductor topographies or plant breeders' rights you can still limit your damages claim to £10,000. Your case will be allocated to the multitrack which means that your liability for costs will increase but you will still only be charged £455 for issuing proceedings and recoverable costs in the multitrack are limited to £50,000.

3.   Bring your Case in the Intellectual Property Office

The hearing officers of the Intellectual Property Office have extensive jurisdiction in patents, trade marks, registered designs and unregistered design rights disputes and recoverable costs in proceedings before hearing officers are limited in most cases to a fixed scale (see Tribunal Practice Notice 2/2000 Costs In Proceedings Before The Comptroller).

In patents, for instance, hearing officers can decide who is entitled to a patent or to be named as an inventor, they can amend or revoke a patent, they can declare that a patent has not been infringed and they can decide compulsory licensing and licence of rights disputes. They can even hear infringement claims with the consent of the parties under s.61 (3) of the Patents Act 1977 though that has rarely if ever happened, possibly because hearing officers cannot grant injunctions.

In trade mark disputes hearing officers can revoke or declare trade mark applications invalid.

In designs hearing officers can cancel design registrations and determine the conditions for licences of right.

Appeals from decisions of hearing officers in trade mark disputes can be made to an Appointed Person rather than the court who will generally award costs on the same scale as hearing officers.   S.10 of the Intellectual Property Act 2014 makes similar provisions in respect of designs.

4.   Seek an Examiner's Opinion

For the last 10 years Intellectual Property Office examiners have delivered non-binding opinions as to whether a British or European patent is valid and whether it has been infringed.  This has proved very popular and their jurisdiction has recently been extended to other patent disputes and will shortly extend to designs. The cost of an examiner's opinion remains at £200.  In some cases an authoritative opinion is all that is needed to resolve a dispute. In cases where the losing party refuses to back down a favourable opinion should make it easier to get after-the-event insurance or litigation funding.

5.  Use established Arbitration or other Alternative Dispute Resolution Schemes where they exist

Probably the best known schemes are the ICANN Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy for generic top level domain name disputes and Nominet's Dispute Resolution Service for domain name disputes in the .uk top level domain name space. For a few hundred pounds trade mark owners can obtain an order for the transfer of a domain name in less time than it takes to exchange statements of case in many intellectual property disputes. Costs are irrecoverable but then you don't usually get all your costs back on a detailed or summary assessment anyway.

6.  Insert Dispute Resolution Clauses into your Licences and other Agreements

If you don't want to go to court to resolve a dispute with your licensee, joint venturer or other associate you can insert provisions for mediation, expert determination or arbitration into your licences or other agreements.

7.  Take out Before-the-Event Insurance

Although the 622% and 421% increases that I mentioned above are enormous, they are not a large part of the total cost of litigation and should not increase before-the-event insurance premiums greatly. There are some good IP packages on the market, particularly the IP Insured package which Sybaris IP offers to ACID members.

8.  On the Horizon

The British government has signed an agreement to establish a Unified Patent Court with exclusive jurisdiction to determine disputes over European patents and passed enabling legislation to implement the agreement. Art 71 of that agreement restored legal aid for inventors which was taken away from them by paragraph 1 (h) of Schedule 2 to the Access to Justice Act 1999. The Court will consist of a Court of Appeal in Luxembourg and a Court of First Instance with a central division based in Paris with a section in London. The Court will have its own rules and charge its own fees. So long as this country remains in the EU it is the best news for private inventors for 20 years.

Should anyone wish to discuss this article or IP law in general, he or she should call me on 020 7404 5252 during normal office hours or message me through my contact form.

29 January 2015

PatLib Libraries in the UK

Manchester Central Library
Photo Wikipedia
Yesterday the Intellectual Property Office published an updated guide to PatLib (patent library) centres in the United Kingdom. These libraries are part of a European network of over 320 patent information centres that provide information on patents and other intellectual property rights to the public.

There are now 15 PatLib libraries in this country, the latest being Hull and Northamptonshire Central Libraries. The others are at Aberdeen, Belfast, Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool. Llandudno Junction, London. Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, Plymouth, Portsmouth and Sheffield.

As well as offering access to Espacenet and other on-line databases, many libraries offer other services such as searches, patent clinics, watch services, workshops and seminars and inventors clubs. The services offered by each British library are listed in the guide.

The Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield central libraries are linked to the British Library in a national network of Business and IP Centres. This network is sponsored by the Arts Council of England, the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Intellectual Property Office. Last week I attended the opening of Sheffield Business and IP Centre and wrote about it in Sheffield Business and IP Centre Launch 24 Jan 2015 IP Yorkshire.

Inventors, entrepreneurs, business owners and others who are not close to a Business and IP Centre or a PatLib library can nevertheless benefit by subscribing to the British Library's Business and IP newsletter and joining its Linkedin and Facebook groups.

Further Reading

29 Jan 2015 Northamptonshire Central Library joins the PatLib Network IP East Midlands
24 Jan 2015 Sheffield Business and IP Centre Launch IP Yorks
17 Jan 2014 Alternatives to Invention Promotion Companies
2 Jan 2015  Putting IP at the Heart of Your Business Plan   4-5 IP
2 Sept 2014 Sheffield Inventors Welcome Joyce Gray  IP Yorks
15 Aug 2014 Sheffield Business and IP Centre IP East Midlands
18 Oct 2013 Where to get free basic Information on Intellectual Property IP South East
14 Oct 2013 Business and IP Centre National Network IP Yorks
21 July 2013  Finding the Right IP Advice IP North West
10 July 2013 Practising the Dark Arts in Leeds and Sheffield - roll up to be enlightened IP Yorks
6 Mar 2013 Enterprise and Libraries: a New National Network of Business & IP Support
5 Oct 2012 Organizations that Inventors in Manchester should know about IP North West
21 Jan 2012 BIPC Newcastle
15 Aug 2011 Inventors Resources in Northern Ireland
2 Apr 2011 Resources for Inventors in South East England
21 Mar 2011 Business Support Update
23 Jan 2011 Resources for Inventors in Yorkshire and the Humber
5 Dec 2010 Resources for Inventors in North West England
26 Oct 2010 Resources for Inventors in North East England
21 Oct 2010 Local Enterprise Partnerships begin to take Shape
2 Mar 2006 Liverpool Inventors Club
15 Jan 2006 New Leeds PatLib Library Website

12 January 2015

Alternatives to Invention Promotion Companies

The other day I was asked for my opinion on an invention promotion company. It was not one that I had ever dealt with so I could not answer the enquiry directly but I referred the inventor to the advice that the US Patent and Trademark Office and our own Intellectual Property Office had given on invention promotion companies generally. 

The inventor thanked me for my reply and added:
"My family and friends have given me very positive feedback on my invention but how else do I check if my invention is good ?
What should I do next ?
Where can I find trustworthy contacts ?"
I replied:
"First do some market research. You can get some help with that at the Business and IP Centre of the British Library.
Next you should decide whether to exploit your invention directly by setting up in business to produce and sell it or licensing it out to someone else.
If you decide to license it out you will need to show your licensee how it will make money from the invention which means that you have to do much the same work as you would if you were making and selling it yourself. If you do get it out you will get a licence fee which will typically be a small percentage of the sale price.
I can advise you on the legal issues but not on the financial ones.
I wish you all the best with your invention."
The British Library and its associated libraries in Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield have massive resources on market research, business planning and everything else an inventor would need to know to set up in business. If he or she is not clear how to use those resources there are courses from the library staff and its partners.

I also advise the inventor to join an inventors' club if one is nearby. There he or she will meet product development consultants, patent attorneys, business advisers and other professionals who assist individual inventors and, most importantly, other inventors who can share their experience with him or her. I have listed some of the inventors clubs that I know about in the side panel to this blog. The Wessex Round Table of Inventors has a much longer list. I am sure that there will be lots of trustworthy and knowledgeable contacts at any of those associations.

In my email I made clear that I am a lawyer and not a business adviser. Here are some of the things I can do for inventors.

1. Tailoring a non-disclosure agreement to the inventor's needs or reviewing or advising the inventor on somebody else's.
2. Advising the inventor on the optimum intellectual property protection for his or her invention and if that includes patents helping him or her find and instruct patent attorneys in this country and abroad who can apply for them.  As I do not prosecute patent, design or trade mark applications I have no interest in selling the inventor a service though I must stress that every patent attorney I know would try to advise objectively too.
3. Representing the inventor at a hearing in the Intellectual Property Office if the examiner challenges his or her application.
4, Helping the inventor negotiate and draft agreements with collaborators, investors and consultants.
5. Drawing up terms and conditions, manufacturing and distribution agreements if the inventor wishes to make and sell the invention him or herself or licences if he or she doesn't and just about any other agreement the inventor may need.
6. Helping to keep the inventor out of trouble with third parties and resolving difficulties if any arise.

There was a time when barristers could be approached only through solicitors or patent or trade mark attorneys but that rule changed over 10 years ago, Now we can do more or less anything that a solicitor can do and as we don't have offices to maintain our services are often cheaper. You can find out more about instructing us in IP Services from Barristers 6 Apr 2013.

Should anyone wish to discuss this article, invention promotion companies or help to inventors in general they should contact me through my message form or call me on 020 7404 5252 during office hours.