29 June 2006

US Patent and Trademark Office Inventors' Resources Site

A resource that other patent offices around the world would do well to emulate is the "Inventor Resources" page on the USPTO (US Patent and Trademark Office) website. That is a web page designed specifically for independent inventors.

The welcome page explains that "the innovation and dedication of independent inventors have played a critical role in the USA's evolution into the most technologically advanced, economically vibrant power on earth". It continues that ever since it was founded in 1802, the USPTO has been dedicated to assisting independent inventors in utilizing America’s intellectual property system. A new comprehensive Inventor Assistance Program has been launched to expand the scope of services provided to independent inventors to make sure that they receive appropriate attention.

Information on patents includes:

There is also similar information on trade marks:

Though US law is different in some respects a lot of the information on both patents (which includes what we would call registered designs) would apply here too.

The site also contains plenty of good brochures some of which apply here. The excellent little card entitled "Scam Prevention" definitely does. Another really good feature that others could copy is a chat room for advice and many of the transcripts are published. An example of the latest one follows here. There is a lot of other good stuff such as whether to hire a patent attorney, funding and special inventors' events. Good stuff nephew Sam.

28 June 2006

"The Innovators' Toolkit", Lancaster University 3 Aug 2006

I am honoured to have been invited to speak at “The Innovators Toolkit” a workshop to be held at Info Lab 21 at the University of Lancaster on 3 August, 2006 between 09.15 and 12.30.

“The Innovators Toolkit” is targeted at SMEs and organisations that assist them. The workshop gives a compact but tailored overview of the ways that innovation is best protected and managed in order to rank amongst the tangible assets of a company and to illustrate just how much more an enterprise can do itself to minimize the costs associated with the protection of intellectual property.
Topics include obtaining a patent, registration of designs and unregistered design rights, copyright, managing innovation and enforcement.

The main speaker is Dr. Ron Jones who has spent that past 25 years as an inventor/entrepreneur in his own SME and has successfully licensed technology to global corporations and seen these inventions reach a high level of commercial success. In addition to his entrepreneurship Ron holds a Master of Laws from the Edinburgh Law School in Innovation Technology and Law. I shall be talking about enforcement and ADR.

The course is organized by "ip.com" which has recently opened up in the UK and further information can be obtained from Ron at rjones@ip.com. There will be a charge of £30 to attend the workshop.

31 May 2006

Liverpool Inventors Club: I've got a Great Idea - How not to Spoil It

I have uploaded the slides of my talk to Liverpool Inventors Club at the end of last month. Late, I know but I hope you will find they are worth it. It was a good meeting with a lot of networking. The club us definitely gelling.

The next meeting will be on 26 June. Jo Pritchard of Liverpool John Moores and Jonathan Butters of JAB Design will discuss ways of bringing new products to market. They will discuss all the local services available and how they all come together.

I am very conscious that I have not put up a great deal of stuff this month. It has been a very full month for me working hard for you inventors. There are some really exciting local services in the pipeline including in particular the IPCEX IP pro bono clinic which will open in Manchester next month and the Huddersfield and Bradford inventors' clinics on 5 July. Will keep you all posted.

28 April 2006

IP Audits: Tips from Downunder

Advice that I give constantly to my clients is to carry out an intellectual property audit (see, for instance, "Acquiring Intellectual Property" on our chambers website). But what is an IP Audit and how do you carry one out. Ian Cockburn, a patent agent from Aotearoa (aka NZ), has the answer in "IP Audit – A “How to” Guide". Ian gives us a worked example of a typical SME. There are other ways of approaching the task but this is certainly one way.

Ian's article appears in the WIPO SME Newsletter together with an article by one Aswath Damodaran of Stern School of Business on valuing brand names, flexibilities and patents which complements Ian's article in several ways and an article by a whole warren of worthy US patent lawyers on when to patent and when to rely on trade secrets.

27 April 2006

Information and Communications Technologies: Presentation to West Yorkshire Information Security Users' Group

Last Thursday I gave a talk on information security and the law at Leeds Civic Hall to the West Yorkshire Information Security Users Group. The talk was essentially an introduction and overview prompted by the recent publication of the DTI's Information Security Breaches Survey for 2004. I covered the various types of legal protection for information processing and also the corresponding burdens. As an experiment I have tried an animation with a voice over for the slides. This has turned out to be one of the most difficult and tedious jobs I have ever attempted so do listen. I have also uploaded a short handout in pdf.

26 April 2006

Happy World Intellectual Property Day

Today marks the anniversary of the day on which the WIPO Convention came into force and to celebrate that event the WIPO and its several member states have designated the 26 April as World Intellectual Property Day. For those who want to know more about it and more about what is going on today around the world, see "happy world intellectual property day" my other blog.

05 April 2006

Sheffield Inventors: Website Improvements

I have added a new "Presentations" page to the site. The first of these are the slides for Miles Rees's excellent talk "Raising Awareness" which I mentioned yesterday ("Sheffield Inventors: Rees launches Group" . Other additions are eight new service providers and a link through to our hosts, Sheffield Patent Library.

I have also announced the next event which will take place in Sheffield Central Library on Monday 5 June 2006 at 18:00 hours. I will give a talk on everything you will need to know about intellectual property:
"Introduction to law of confidence, patents, designs, trade marks and copyright. How you get each of these rights. What they protect. How to enforce them. How to exploit them. How to find and instruct patent and trade mark agents. Worked examples and questions and answers."

04 April 2006

Manchester Inventors: Grobox

We have had many examples of the wrong way to develop an invention. Today we were shown the right way. Beautifully presented, Jayne Lawton presented her GROBOX. A "grobox" is essentially a bulb or bulbs in a box. All you have to do is plant the box and let the plants grow. Even the laziest and most hamfisted gardener can use it.

Jayne told her story of how she got the idea from an egg box. She tested all sorts of combinations and bulbs in all sorts of environments to get the product right. Having perfected her product she protected it with a patent, trade mark and registered design. She also made sure that she could enforce her rights by taking out IPR insurance. However, her most important lesson was how she marketed the invention. From networking with more experienced business people she learned that the best publicity came from winning awards. She has won several including some of the really major competitions.

Although Jayne has displayed considerable business acumen, she has also shown concern for the environment. On the "Ethical Environmental" page of her website, she stresses the importance of being environmentally friendly. Her boxes are made from recycled and biodegradable material - even the straw benefits the garden ecosystem. Even the gift wrapping offered is made from seeded paper.

Jayne supports several charities and will be running for one of them in the London Marathon. She is looking for sponsors.

IPCEX: IP Students to help Manchester Inventors

A team of students from the BPP Law School in Manchester intends to offer pro bono IP legal advice service to Manchester Inventors. This is the latest service provided by the IP Centre of Excellence for the North, an initiative of lawyers, patent agents, academics, business people and others to improve and promote IP services in the region. The team has already published an excellent newsletter which can be downloaded from the Centre's website.

Maria Udalova-Surkova and at least one of her colleagues from that team will announce the service to the Manchester Inventors Group meeting at Central Library at 18:00 tonight. The team will be supervised at all times by at least one member of the teaching staff who holds a practising certificate from the Law Society and there will be input from each of the major law firms and chambers who support the Centre.

The Manchester initiative complements a similar scheme started by students at the BPP Law School in Leeds. Their service does not specialize in IP but they do publish an excellent IP newsletter. The November and January issues.

Finally, though he has no formal links with the Centre, I have to mention the efforts of Ian Best of Ohio State University in the USA. Ian has just completed a taxonomy of American and Canadian legal blogs which can be found at
This is part of a blog-for-credit independent study project, the first of its kind in the USA and probably the first anywhere. Ian's effort has been featured in Moritz e-Record which appears to be an interesting online publication from his law school. He has asked us to provide a link to his taxonomy which we are glad to do and we welcome his aim of encouraging more interaction between legal bloggers in different countries.

Sheffield Inventors: Rees launches Group

Sheffield Inventors got off to a flying start yesterday with an excellent presentation by Miles Rees of the Patent Office on what the Patent Office does for SME and individual inventors. He mentioned the Patent Office's liaison with schools and universities including Think KIT, its collaboration with police, customs and other agencies to stamp out piracy and counterfeiting, the specialist teams to handle enquiries from unrepresented applicants and the Patent Office Opinions and Mediation Services which had just been launched. The only thing that Miles did not mention was the announcement attributed to him on the IP/it Update blog on 1 April.

Miles had a good audience. I counted well over 22 persons in the audience which included patent agents and technical assistants, solicitors, business advisors and academics as well as inventors. Chris Hemingway of Bailey Walsh LLP and Kate Reid of Pemberton Reid said a few words about their firms as well as our host, Patent Librarian Sue Sayles, Richard Campos, Alan Warren of Business Link South Yorkshire and several other service providers. After a very lively discussion I asked for volunteers for a steering committee to confer by telephone and meet shortly before each event to discuss future events and a structure for the group. Kate Reid, Olusola Onatanmi, Sue Sayles, Chris Hemingway and Richard Campos very kindly offered to join. Many thanks to all of them. Thanks also to the Patent Office, Sheffield Central Library and staff and, of course, Miles Rees for a very enjoyable evening.

29 March 2006

Liverpool Inventors Club: Website Updates

I have updated the Liverpool Inventors Club website with some details of

- our next meeting at the Central Library on 24 April at 16:00
- our new service providers, venture capitalists Liverpool Inventors, product development consultants PD-M International and law firms DLA Piper and Eversheds; and
- our new email address at info@liverpoolinventors.org.uk.

The club now has a steering committee consisting of inventors Alan Wells and Christopher Edgar, consultant Jonathan Butters, Liverpool John Moores staff Jo Pritchard and Di Burbidge, Ruth Grodner of the Central Library, Michael Sandys of Kirwans and me. The first committee meeting will take place at 15:45 in the Hornby Room of the Library on 24 April. I look forward to meeting everybody who was there last time plus hopefully lots of new faces.

26 March 2006

Hundredth Post: New Inventors Clubs in Liverpool and Sheffield

What better way to celebrate the 100th post of this blog than the launch of two new inventors clubs? Liverpool will launch at Sheffield Central Library tomorrow at 16:00 with a presentation by Peter Raymond OBE and Sheffield on 3 April at 18:00 will a presentation by Miles Rees at Liverpool Central Library.

There will also be the first Manchester meeting of the IP Centre of Excellence on Thursday, 30 March 2006. This Centre will be the staff college for the patent agents, trade mark attorneys, solicitors and other professionals who advise inventors and entrepreneurs in the North. The topic is Freedom of Information. While the talk is most likely to appeal to IP and legal professionals everybody is welcome.

For further information about IP events in the North click "Events" on www.hip.org.uk .

25 March 2006

Baby Dream Machine

I have never been able to watch Dragons' Den. To my mind it borders on voyeurism. Watching four supercilious business people (one of whom came to grief herself) grilling folk who have put their hearts and souls into their business or products reminds me of 18th century gentle folk visiting the poor lunatics in Bedlam. I had the chance to ask Doug Richard why he did it at last month's Venturefest. He admitted that it was "for a hoot".

One of the first pitches (if not the very first) was Graham Whitby's "baby dream machine". Essentially it is an electric rocker. A video clip on Graham's sit actually shows it working. It appears to consist of a set of rollers connected by a belt and powered by an electric motor. The baby is placed in a pram or push chair, the back wheels are placed on the device, the motor is switched on and baby is lulled to sleep. At least that is the theory.

Now Graham and his partner Barry Haigh who invented this contraption didn't get very far on Dragon's Den. The dragons appeared to like the concept but they thought that Graham and Barry were asking too much for their investment. So they sent them off empty handed. But they did not give up. They found support from a local business angel and with the help of Huddersfield Business School Lecturer and marketing consultant, Nadio Granata, and his contacts they are well on the way to a successful re-launch.

One of the milestones on the re-launch was yesterday's "Enterprise Event" at Huddersfield University. This is one of a series of seminars arranged by Nadio around a real business. After drinks and canapes it starts with a presentation by an inventor or entrepreneur. It is followed by cross-examination by a financial journalist and is completed by some pearls of wisdom from an expert panel and one of the professors from the Business School.

Much of the discussion was about price and distribution but I thought that there was a very real issue about IP. I asked Graham about whether his company had any specialist insurance. He said he hadn't but when I told him about Mandy Haberman's battle over the anywayup cup (see her article "Insure or Unsure") I got the impression that he was certainly going to think about it.

Although I have never managed to sit through a whole programme I have met quite a few Dragons' Den contestants - the snowbone man and the interflush to name but two. The thing that impresses me is that they are all sensible folk. I wish them all well. They deserve to be taken seriously.

21 March 2006

"I have yet to see a Confidentiality Agreement that is not flawed"

One lesson that seems to have been drilled into the consciousness of almost every single inventor is the imperative of getting a confidentiality agreement. I have even been asked whether inventors should get their lawyers and patent agents to sign these things.

Now in a sense this concern for confidentiality is a good thing. An invention is patentable only if it is new. By definition an invention cannot be new if everyone knows or can find out about it. Patents have been lost because inventors have disclosed them prematurely to the public. For instance, in Boston Scientific Ltd and another v Palmaz and another [2000] EWCA Civ 83 (20 March 2000) the inventor gave a short presentation of 5 to 10 minutes (perhaps 8 minutes) to about 40 members of the Radiological Society of North America at which he showed a series of slides including some drawings. There was no written record of the presentation and the inventor denied that he had disclosed his invention but the court took the view that he had. It followed that the patent was invalid for want of novelty as a result of that presentation.

What is often forgotten however is that it is not any old disclosure that invalidates a patent. It has to be an enabling disclosure. An enabling disclosure is one that teaches a skilled person enough to make the invention so that it is no longer new or at least enough for him or her to deduce the invention so that it is obvious.

In his talk to the Leeds Inventors Club on 15 March 2006, Dr Barry Stoddart of Procter & Gamble showed how insisting on confidentiality is often unnecessary and can sometimes destroy business opportunities. What a potential customer, partner or investor needs to know is not how an invention works but what it will do. Had the inventor of the wheel told the clerk of works at Stonehenge that he had a world beating invention but he wouldn't say a word about it unless he signed a confidentiality agreement the inventor would have been given very short shrift. If, instead, the inventor had said: "What I have is an invention which will make it much faster and much easier for you to transport stones from one point to another. Are you interested?" The likelihood is that the clerk of works would have replied: "You bet I am interested." There would have been evaluations and a licensing deal.

Companies like Procter & Gamble have large numbers of employees working on all sorts of new products and services all over the world. The problem of confidentiality agreements is that they have to be honoured. Typically, they have to be honoured for years. Where the inventor has hit upon something upon which Procter & Gamble are already working they are embarrassed. The message from Barry's talk was that inventors have to be commercially minded. There is no point in having an invention that is technically brilliant but has no consumer appeal. What P& G need to know is does the invention have such appeal and what is that appeal?

In the course of his talk Barry said that he had never seen a completely satisfactory confidentiality agreement. Hence the headline to this post. That is because different confidential relationships need to be governed by different sets of promises.

The other memorable thing he said in answer to a question from me is that P&G trust inventors' clubs. They know the people behind the clubs and trust them. I can attest to that. I introduced to Barry one of the chaps who attended the IP workshop that I give in the Huddersfield Media Centre on the last Friday of every month. Barry liked his invention and put in train a chain of events that led to his getting a licence from P & G.

11 March 2006

Patents: Resources on Yahoo

It's funny how one discovers useful tings in the most unexpected places isn't. A good example of this serendipity is the "Patent And Trade Law" (sic) - I think they meant "trade secrets" - on the "Small Business " section of Yahoo. The material is written from an American perspective and is therefore based on US law, but much of it is universally applicable.

My favourite article is "You Don't Need a Lawyer to Get a Patent". The article starts with the position of many inventors:
"you have more imagination than money, and a patent attorney wants $7,500 to file a patent application for you. Must your invention gather dust in the garage, or can you apply for a patent yourself, without a lawyer?"

The advice that the article gives is very sound. The only bit that isn't really necessary here is: "record every step of the invention process in a notebook." That is very necessary in America because the right to apply for a patent goes to whoever is the first to invent in America and not the person who is the first to file as it is in most other countries of the world including here. It is still however good practice and as many foreign inventors would want patent protection in the USA there is no harm in following it. The articles ends with potted life histories of four persons who have done very well from their inventions.

Two interesting related articles are "Patent searching online" and "Making your own patent drawings". There are also some good articles on enforcement, non-disclosure agreements and plenty of other stuff.

09 March 2006

IP Centre of Excellence for the North

I have mentioned the launch of the IP Centre of Excellence for the North several times already. I am now glad to announce that it has a website at www.ipcex.org.uk and plans 3 new events:
- 30 March 2006 "Freedom of Information 15 Months on" BPP Law School, Manchester 18:30 to 20:00, Speakers Gerrard Tracey, Assistant Information Commissioner and Ibrahim Hassan,
Freedom of Information Specialist, Proprietor, Act Now Training;

-10 May 2006 Half Day Seminar: "Alternatives to Litigation for Resolving IP Disputes" - BPP Law School, Leeds, 14:00 - 17:00 Speakers: Ignacio de Castro, WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Centre, Felicity Brandwood, NCC and Sara Ludlam, Keeble Hawson; and
- 15 June 2006 Prof Jeremy Philliips "Five Live IP Issues" - BPP Law School, Leeds. 18:00 - 20:00 to be followed by dinner in nearby restaurant.
Please email me on john.lambert@ipcex.org.uk or call me on 0870 990 5081 ASAP if you want to come as space is likely to be limited.

08 March 2006

OFT moves on Invention Promoters

A post from my other blog that readers may interest readers of this one is that the Office of Fair Trading has issued a stern warning to the directors of a Dublin based invention promotion concern that is now out of business that they can expect swift action if they try to carry on their activities through a new company (see "OFT issues warning to former directors of inventions promotion company", 8 March 2006).

The OFT reminded the public that there is plenty of free advice about from the Patent Office, the Institute of Patentees and inventors' clubs. One of the reasons for providing "service provider" membership in the Huddersfield, Liverpool, Sheffield and other clubs is to divert folk with bright ideas away from the cowboys to reputable businesses and professional practises that offer useful and cost-effective services, in many cases free. I am glad to say that Eversheds and Nabarros have joined the list of service provider members to the Sheffield club and that Halliwells will be at the first meeting of the Liverpool club.

04 March 2006

American Wisdom: The 6 Life Stages of Inventors: Part 6 Senescense

Since January 2001 the adjective "American" has been associated with the noun "wisdom" less and less frequently, but the phrase "American wisdom" is not an oxymoron. It abounds in copious quantities on the Rethink(IP) and companion blogs of US patent lawyer Stephen Nipper. One series of articles that I would urge all here to read are "The 6 Life Stages of Inventors". I picked it up at "Part 6 Senescense" but I have seen the others and they are all worth reading. Also worth reading is "The Invent Blog".

Sheffield Inventors Group

Joining the inventors clubs that I sponsor in Blackburn and Manchester, and the ones that I helped to start in Leeds, Huddersfield and Liverpool is the new Sheffield Inventors Group. The group will launch at 18:00 on 3 April 2006 with a talk by Miles Rees of the Patent Office at Sheffield Central Library in Surrey Street.

The group will be run very much like the others. There will be two classes of members: inventors from anywhere in South Yorkshire and service providers (people who offer business and professional services to inventors) from anywhere.

Now that we have a fair measure of organization in the North we should soon be in a position to negotiate substantial benefits for Northern inventors such as discounts for searches and library services, legal advice and representation, patent and trade mark agents' services, prototyping and IP insurance.

Michael Sandys of Kirwans and Kate Reid of Pemberton Reid and I have already giving free workshops and clinics. So, too, has Chis Hemingway of patent agents Bailey Walsh. Nadio Granata of PNG Marketing gave a lot of input to the Huddersfield inventors as did product development consultant Richard Hall of PD-M International Ltd. On the financial side Iain MacLeod of IP Insurance Services is already working on a group IP insurance policy for members of any of the Northern inventors' clubs. After that, we shall try to arrange networking events with angels and VCs.

Details of these events are or will be on the "Events" page of www.hip.org.uk. We hope to help make you all rich men and women. We shall certainly do our best.

Manchester Inventors' Club: Arthur to tell us how

At the end of the last Manchester Inventors Group a remarkable thing happened. An inventor appeared who had made a success of his invention. And in less than a year too. The inventor's name is Arthur Arnold and he has nabbed immediately by Steve Mansfield to give the talk next Tuesday.

Arthur has invented a device for securing disabled badges. It is sorely needed because hundreds are stolen in Manchester alone. Arthur showed us his invention in a blister pack ready for sale. He has already had loads of interest from police forces around the country, local authorities, disabled groups and many others. A good example of what can be done.

The talk will take place in the committee room at Manchester Central Library. Refreshments will be available from 18:00 on 7 Mar 2006. Afterwards, Steve will buy a drink for anybody who follows him over to the pub. Can't remember its name but it is in the building where Slater Heelis (one of the oldest law firms in Manchester) used to practise.

02 March 2006

Liverpool Inventors' Club: Monday 27 March 2006 16:00 - 18:00

We are delighted to announce the launch of Liverpool Inventors' Club.

This is a joint venture between Michael Sandys (commercial partner of Kirwans who is qualified both as a barrister and solicitor and who previously practised with Cobbetts LLP and Halliwells) and me.

We have had a lot of support and encouragement would like to thank in particular Ruth Grodner of the Liverpool Patent Library, David Gilmour of Potts Kerr and Jo Pritchard of John Moores University.Our first meeting will take place at Liverpool Central Library at William Brown Street, Liverpool, L3 8EW, Tel 0151 233 5835 Email nipclaw@yahoo.co.uk on Monday 27 March 2006 from 16:00 - 18:00. Admission and refreshments will be served courtesy of Kirwans and nipc.

To kick off our programme, we have an excellent guest speaker in Peter Raymond MBE who gave a first class talk to the Manchester branch of Ideas 21 on 21 Feb 2006. He has an impressive track record of success in innovation working with industry, universities and the public sector. He knows Liverpool well and will have a lot to tell us.

Space in the library is likely to be limited so call Ruth Grodner on 0151 233 5835 well in advance to avoid disappointment.

28 February 2006

Football: German Patent Office Website

A post from my other blog which may interest some of your chaps is on the German patent and trade mark office's contribution to the world cup celebrations "Fußball und Technik" ("Football and Technology"). It covers virtually everything one could ever wish to know about football and intellectual property from patent specifications for footballs to the prior art of stadium technology. The site is in German but many of the specifications are from the UK and other English speaking countries and navigation is pretty obvious.

Basic Patent Law Presentation

Although intended primarily for solicitors I have uploaded a basic introduction to patent law on my IP/it Update website which inventors may find interesting. It covers the sort of questions that I am most frequently asked as counsel:
- Which is the best way to protect investment in R & D?
- How to resolve disputes between collaborators?
- What happens if someone infringes a patent?
- How can my client make money from his invention?

I have experimented with putting hypertext links in the text. Thus, if you want to find out about inventors clubs click "Inventors Links" on slide 19 to be transported to the Wessex Round Table's excellent links page.

26 February 2006

Blackburn Inventors: "From Shed to Success"

My wife and I attended Ideas NW (Blackburn inventors club)'s jamboree at the Saturn Centre in Blackburn yesterday and very good it was too. The event is continuing today and readers in the area are urged to visit it. The Saturn Centre is a bit difficult to find (even for those who have been there before) but the event is well worth the trek.

There is an exhibition which includes the Patent Office, their neighbours Awdurdod Datblygu Cymru, Forbes (a local law firm) who dispensed some rather nice orange bags - good to see some competition for Taylors who have had the IP solicitors' market in the old cotton mill towns more or less to themselves up to now - Lancaster University and our very own pd-m Ltd from Harrogate. There were also talks. I sat in on Chris Brown's of Manchester Patent Library which was very good. Also good was a talk by Mark Wyatt from Enterprise Ventures on venture capitalists. Like every such talk he stressed the prime concern of a VC was an exit strategy. I hinted that most of the bods there could make better use of a business angel which was a proposition with which Mark did not disagree.

Altogether, it was a very good day and Basil Philipsz and his team are to be congratulated.

19 February 2006

What the Dragons were looking for

One of the most interesting presentation of Venturefest Yorkshire last week was the presentation by Doug Richards of Library House. Doug, like me, is a graduate of UCLA. As I observed when I asked him a question, we Bruins are not too thick on the ground in this country. While I would have preferred to have heard more about Library House and the Gauntlet Test in particular, it was his appearance on "Dragons' Den" that drew the crowd. As it happened, one of the people who didn't manage to get any money out of him was in the audience and posed a question about why better due diligence had not been done on one of the panellists who ended up needing help herself.

Doug's talk centred on what the dragons were looking for. He listed four things:
  • benefit
  • team
  • market and
  • return.

One trap that all entrepreneurs fall into is what he called the "ugly baby" trap. Nobody would ever hurt a new mother by telling that her baby was ugly even when it is. So it is with entrepreneurs who discuss a project with family and friends. Few will be offensive enough to tell them that their idea is rubbish. So they will be told that they have a great idea and proceed to waste resources on it. Far better to get an objective opinion.

Not everyone agrees with Doug's judgments on bright ideas. One inventor he turned down was David Wilks of Varyflush who has just won £40,000 in the Shell Springboard competition. Congratulations David!

One point that bugged me throughout Doug's presentation was why would anyone as capable and busy as Doug go onto Dragons' Den? It can't be for the BBC appearance money. Doug is clearly not short of a bob or two. So I asked him. The answer I got was that he did it for a hoot. And then I am afraid I cooled on him. Making these poor chaps climb us several flights of stairs (in some cases carrying their invention) and then bare their souls seemed positively Hogarthian. A bit like visiting Bedlam.

07 February 2006

Patent Insurance

I have just received an email from IP360 (a US intellectual property news subscription service) about an article on patent litigation entitled "Patent Insurance: Pricey, But May Be Worth It". You have to subscribe to the service to read the article but the website advertises free trials and individual monthly subs start at US$39.

The interesting thing is that Americans actually feel they need patent insurance. One would have thought it would have been a lot easier for patentees there than here. By and large, legal and patent attorneys (agents)' fees are more reasonable there than here. There are some lawyers who will take infringement cases on a contingency fee. Costs do not usually follow the event. Triple damages are available for wilful infringement and "wilful infringement" means infirngement in the knowledge of the existence of a patent. There are no threats actions there. Patents are available for inventions that are not patentable here. The doctrine of equivalents catches claims that would not be caught by art 69 EPC.

05 February 2006

Huddersfield Inventors: New Inventor and Service Provider Members

There has been an excellent response to the launch of Huddersfield Inventors. We have had enquiries from both inventors and service providers.

The latest service provider to join is PNG Marketing, a consultancy run by one of the University's most talented marketing gurus, Nadio Granata. Nadio is well known for a number of initiatives including LunchNet networking events.

One of the first inventors to pick up the phone was Varyflush who is already an established local inventor. So we are off to a good start.

IP Insurance: Two More Insurers Identified

The most popular post to have appeared on this blog is "IP Insurance". In that post I mentioned a number of websites which contained some useful information. I can now add two more:

REA(C)T a service provided by Charles Milne & Co and underwritten by Hiscox Plc. The website has a lot of information about intellectual property, the policies offered by that company, FAQ and links.

Camberford Law IP: There is not a lot of information on their site but they appear to be a firm of brokers established in Bromley.

Neither of these mentions is an endorsement. Readers should make their own enquiries and rely on their own judgment and professional advice. Further information on IP insurance will be provided as and when it becomes available.

More Gadgets

Yesterday, I drew your attention to the spider catcher. On today's BBC's website there are some more weird and wonderful contraptions such as a table top gamer, e-paper, anti-bugger and freespace controller (The future of today's technology). Great solutions for the world's problems all of them! Aren't they! Rather more interesting in my book is Nicholas Negroponte's US$100 laptop at One Laptop per Child ("OLPC"). Interestingly, ZD Net reports that Microsoft is miffed by the OLPC concept and is thinking of introducing its own based on a mobile phone (Gates 'secretly bitter' about $100 laptop).

04 February 2006

Things that Folk Invent

The Spider Catcher tickled my fancy just now while I was looking up the Second Tuesday event on the Ideas21 website. There was a banner just above the site called "The Spider Catcher" and I couldn't resist clicking on it.

As its name suggests its a way of catching spiders. Two products are available: a standard spider catcher and a travel spider catcher. The story with a picture of the inventor Tony Allan posing with Trevor Baylis is well worth reading.

The invention apparently won the Geneva invention fair in 2001. Well done, Tony and good luck! Perhaps you would like to come onto this blog and let us know how you are doing.

Forthcoming Events

The following events likely to interest inventors in the North of England are coming up shortly:

7 Feb 2006 Manchester Inventors Group: Tony Ward and Mark Stone Manufacturing Institute "From an Idea to a Manufacturer", Manchester Central Library, committee room, 18:00 - 19:45 (tea and biscuits will be served).

15 Feb 2006 Leeds Inventors' Club: Dai Davis, Nabarro Nathanson, "Making Money from your Ideas" Leeds Central Library, top floor, 18:00 - 19:45 (tea and rather better biscuits than you get in Manchester will be served).


that day you can hear me talk to the Manchester solicitors about patents: "All You Are Ever Likely to Need to Know About Patents So long As You Stay In Manchester" Friends Meeting House, 6 Mount Street, Manchester M2 5NS.

Dai's talk is free whereas the Manchester Law Society will charge you £58.75 to hear mine. On the other hand, if you are a solicitor you do get some CPD points. Call Donna Brown on 0161 819 1927 or email her at DonnaBrown@manchesterlawsociety.org.uk for details.

17 Feb 2006 Huddersfield Inventors "Brass from Gumption" at the Kirklees Media Centre 14:00 to 16:00, Launch meeting in the Circle Room 14:00 - 15:00 (free tea and biscuits), free patent clinic with patent agent Chris Hemingway from 14:00 to 16:00 in the Business Generator Boardroom (call Ged and Stef on 0113 2478266 or email them at piu@leeds.gov.uk to make your booking and Ged will be giving free patent, trade mark and design searches in my room in chambers at the same time (give them a bell to make the booking).

21 Feb 2006 Ideas 21, CUBE 113-115 Portland Street, Manchester, Peter Raymond MBE, "University Contribution to Inventive Innovation", call Linda on 020 8780 9017 (there is a £20 charge unless you are in Ideas21 in which case you get £5 off but Ideas 21 do throw in some food and drink).

24 Feb 2006 My end of month IP workshop for the Huddersfield Business Generator, NIPC
Book through Jacquie Asquith on +44 (0) 1484 483080
The Media Centre 7, Northumberland Street, Huddersfield, HD1 1RL

25/26 Feb 2006 North West Inventors Expo 2006 Saturn Centre, Greenbank Technology Park, Blackburn (The Saturn Centre is about as easy to find as Phoebe on a Saturnine eclipse so you will need to email Mark Grogan mailto:markgrogan@fsmail.net or Jim McGovern j.mcgovern@blackburn.ac.uk on 01254 581467 for directions). I sponsor Ideas NW (the Blackburn inventors club) to the tune of £120 a year so if you live or work in the area please try to make the effort.

These and other events are all listed on the "Events" page of the Huddersfield Intellectual Property website. There are also links to other peoples' events from that page.

02 February 2006

HI Huddersfield Inventors

The reason why this blog has been quiet over the last few days is that I have been working on the website for HI. HI stands for Huddersfield Inventors and is a club for businesses and individuals with bright ideas in the metropolitan borough of Kirklees. The strapline for HI is "... exploiting bright ideas from Huddersfield" and we hope to do that through:
- Events like talks, workshops, clinics, exhibitions and brainstorming sessions,
- Providing a venue for inventors to meet funding bodies, lenders, investors and others, and
- Negotiating
concessions and discounts from those who provide services to inventors.

There are two classes of membership:
- inventors in Kirklees (the people for whom this club is founded and who I hope will eventually take over management from me and run it for themselves in the way that the Blackburn, Croydon and Wessex clubs run themselves) and
- service providers such as patent agents, lawyers, funding agencies, universities, IP insurers and just about anybody except invention promoters anywhere in the world who are prepared to offer something to inventor members like a 20 minute patent clinic or a discount on their fees.

Membership of both classes runs from year to year and is free for the first year so if you want to join just send an email to Huddersfield Inventors.

The first event will be the second "Brass from Gumption" open day at the Huddersfield Media Centre on 17 Feb 2006 from 14:00 to 16:00. There will be a get together in the Circle Room at 14:00 where light refreshments will be provided, up to 4 free sessions with Chris Hemingway of patent agents Bailey Walsh LLP and up to 6 free patent, trade mark or registered design search slots with Leeds PatLIB librarian Ged Doonan which would normally cost over £40. Those slots are likely to go quickly so if you want to save yourself ome money, call Ged or Stef on 0113 2478266 or email Huddersfield Inventors soon like yesterday.

In addition to Brass from Gumption, chambers will continue to do the free IP workshops through the Business Generator between 11:00 and 13:00 on the last Friday of the month (call Call Jacquie Asquith on (01484) 483080 to book) and we will give Inventor members a 20% discount off our published rates for legal advice and drafting who come to us under the public access rules. Other discounts will be the clinics and searches offered by Leeds PatLib library in Huddersfield from time to time starting with Brass from Gumption on 17 Feb 2006.

26 January 2006

Tips for Inventors - No. 7 Threats Actions

One of the peculiarities of English intellectual property law is the threats action. Only the UK and countries like Australia, Hong Kong, Ireland and New Zealand with very similar legal systems have anything like it. A complaint that someone has encroached upon your patent, design or trade mark monopoly that would be quite unobjectionable in most other types of dispute and indeed in most other countries in similar disputes can get you into a heap of trouble here. For more details see "Threats Action Updates" on m other blog.

24 January 2006

Leeds Inventors Club: You can always say Dai

You lucky inventors of Leeds have a treat next month. My very good friend Dai Davis of Nabarro Nathanson will be speaking on making money from IP. His talk will cover every aspect of commercialization from licensing to manufacturing yourself.

Dai knows what he is talking about. Having read physics at Oxford and computer science at Newcastle Dai built up the IP/IT department of Hepworth & Chadwick (now part of Eversheds) into one of the best in the country. He is a really good speaker and we are lucky to get him.

The evening will be chaired by Chris Hemingway of Bailey Walsh LLP. Chris has also been in the news recently having made the first request for a Patent Office opinion on infirngement in Lenighan v Heritage Bathrooms. As I mentioned in my other blog on 14 Dec 2005, I read the request last month and my view and I thought the issues were fairly clear but Mr Rowlatt, the examiner, was not so sure:

"Given the construction I have placed on claims 1 and 2 as set out above, I conclude that if, in normal use of the Showerbath product, the screen is prevented from being swung outwards over the edge of the bath by the engagement of the sealing strip with the shoulder of the bath then that product infringes claims 1 and 2 of EP(UK) 0801532, but that if the screen can be swung outwards over the edge of the bath then the Showerbath product does not infringe the patent."

Delphic or what!

Finally, I should like to thank everyone who sat on my panel at the Leeds Inventors Group on 18 Jan 2006. We had a very good discussion. Thanks in particular to Clare Adcock representing the CIPA and Ged Doonan of the Business and Patents Library.

“Everything that a Bmedi@ Member needs to know about IP at the Outset”

Last Thursday's seminar "Everything that a Bmedi@ Member needs to know about IP at the Outset” went a long way to proving that you can fit a quart into a pint pot. We had three great presentations from my guest speakers, patent agent Janet Bray, commercial solicitor and former colleague from the patent bar Lucas Bateman and Ian Lewis of Miller Insurance.

My guests' presentations together with my introduction and notes are all up on the Bmedia website:

- My Intro and Notes

- Janet's on TM and Design Registration

- Ian's on IP Insurance, and

- Lucas's on Commercialization.

Credit should also go to master of ceremonies Steve Ding and superwoman Steph Aldred. It was a super evening. The next meeting is on 16 Feb on keeping key people. Should eb good.

17 January 2006

Commission seeks your Views on how to improve the Patent System in Europe

The European Commission has just announced a consultation on ways of improving the European patent system. Well where do we start. The subject matter includes the Community patent but also the EPO's patent litigation project and much, much more.

For the background, see today's post in our IP/it Update blog. Sadly, the computer generated URL link doesn't work but you can get to it by scrolling down to 17 Jan 2006. It is the second of today's posts.

As I say in my post, over the next few weeks I shall be bringing it to the attention of all the groups of which I am a member and I hope for a big response from inventors and others from the UK.

15 January 2006

New Leeds PatLib Library Website

Congratulations to Gedd and Stef on their super new website for the Business and Patents Collection at Leeds Library. They have got a super shot of the Central Library on the home page. I couldn't recognize it. It looks more like a swanky hotel on the Boulevard des Anglais than a public library off the Headrow.

Stef was telling me about the fantsatic new services the library is offering. In addition to patent filing watches they are about to start trade mark watches at a very reasonable rate. Folk pay only a small premium over the copying charges.

The library will be hosting a brainstorming session of the Leeds Inventors Club on Wednesday. Further details are on our other blog (see Leeds Inventors Club 18 Jan 2006).

Also, anyone in the area will be very welcome at Bmedi@ on Thursday at the Bradford Business and Innovation Centre. For details see our post for 13 Jan 2006 or check out the Huddersfield Intellectual Property "Events" Page.

Patents: Good Luck to Contra Vision

I see from the Patent Office diary that our very good friends at Contra Vision are about to start a 3 day hearing in front of Peter Black tomorrow in respect of British patent GB2165292. Since Contra Vision are sponsors of Ideas 21 and were prime movers in setting up the Second Tuesday Club I and others owe them a debt of gratitude for their hospitality.

It is not clear what the hearing tomorrow is about. Contra Vision say that GB 2 165 292 and family member patents in 21 countries expired in July 2005 in their Patent Schedule but this is not the first time they have crossed swords with Clear Focus Imaging Inc. (see the decisions of Sean Dennehey of 3 March 2000, 7 Nov 2000 and 10 April 2003 and Peter Hayward of 13 April 2000). My guess is that tomorrow's case is not entirely unconnected with a declaration of non-infringement application which has already been the subject of one battle over pleadings (see Mr Black's judgment of 25 Oct 2005).

Whatever this case is about we hope this matter is speedily resolved to Roland's satisfaction and we send our best wishes to Dee and Eve.

02 January 2006

New Blog: UK Inventor

Gary Holloway, a frequent contributor to IPR Talk over the last few months, has launched his own blog called "UK Inventor". It has some very interesting short posts:
- UK’s PCT patent share increases massively
- Britain continues exceptional patent performance
- Britain excels in motivating inventors
to name just three. I have already subscribed to the blog's atom feed and I intend to link to it ASAP.

The other news that has been brought to my attention today by Mike Overy of Wessex Round Table of Inventors is the Round Table's newsletter "Inventique". I had a look through some of the recent issues and there are some good articles. He has also invited me to contribute to it and I shall be honoured to do so.

Finally, Happy New Year, bonne annee, feliz ano nuevo and Gutes Jahr to one and all in the UK and around the world.