24 December 2013

GrowthAccelerator: the Next Best Thing to Business Link

Until November 2011 there was an integrated business advisory service known as Business Link. It maintained a comprehensive website and a network of local business advisers who advised and assisted up to 10,000 businesses a week between them. Those services were generally of very high quality and were free at the point of use.  Funding for those services was provided by the regional development agencies. When those agencies closed in 2011 the local Business Link network closed with them. The Business Link website survived a little longer but is now absorbed into the gov.uk.

Whether or not the end of Business Link was good bad, there can be no doubt that the service is missed. In the United States the Small Business Administration provides a service that looks very much like that used to be provided by Business Link and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have maintain comprehensive business advice websites. In England there is a range of successor services such as the British Library's Business and IP Centre and its partners in Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester. Newcastle and Sheffield (see "Enterprise and Libraries: a New National Network of Business & IP Support" 6 March 2013) and the mentorsme.co.uk (see "'Oh Me. Oh My. I hope the Little Mentor Comes By' - The Banks New Mentoring Network" 22 July 2011).

Possibly the service that comes closest to Business Link is the GrowthAccelerator which I learned about at a presentation after the The Sci-Tech Daresbury Business Breakfast Networking Event on the 22 Nov 2013. GrowthAccelerator describes itself as
"a unique service led by some of the country's most successful growth specialists where you’ll find new connections, new routes to investment and the new ideas and strategy you’ll need for your business to achieve its full potential."
It is a partnership  between Grant Thornton, PERA, Oxford Innovation and The Winning Pitch which claims to have helped over 10,000 businesses since its launch in 2012. It operates by identifying priorities for growth, developing a growth plan and providing coaches to help with the execution of the plan. It provides those services for a fixed fee.

I chatted with several of the presenters after the talk at Daresbury and mentioned the similarity to Business Link. I was not surprised to learn that several of them had been Business Link advisers.  Like Business Link the GrowthAccelerator signposts businesses to other services and opens doors. It holds clinics, seminars and other events on all sorts of topics such as accessing finance and marketing. Business owners who want to learn more can request a free consultation through the company's website.

If you want to discuss this article or any other related topic give me a call during business hours on 020 7404 5252 or fill out my contact form. You can also reach me on Facebook, G+, Linkedin, twitter and Xing, Merry Christmas.

30 November 2013

So You've Invented a Mousetrap ....

House Mouse                                                                            Source Wikipedia

 ...... And you're waiting for the world's mousetrap manufacturers to beat a path to your door. Hate to mention it to you old chap but you may be in for a very long wait. You may have the best, cheapest, coolest mousetrap ever but that is not necessarily what the murine disposal industry is looking for.

What they are probably looking for are increased profits and your invention may not actually deliver that to them. In fact, it may reduce their profits - at least in the short term - as your product may require new tooling and a lot of marketing.  If customers are satisfied with an existing product it is not be in a manufacturer's interests to change it unless he is forced to do so to retain market share.

if you have invented a product that is likely to render everything else on the market obsolete then you may have to make (or have it made) and market it yourself as James Dyson did with his bagless cleaner. Despite its obvious advantages, no British manufacturer would take a licence for Dyson's invention because it would have undermined the market in replacement bags which was very profitable to the industry.

If for whatever reason self-manufacture and marketing is not an option, licensing your invention is not an easy option.  You have to sell not only your invention to your intended licensee but also the advantages of taking a licence from you as a business proposition.  And you can expect a "yes" only if the advantages of doing business with you clearly exceed all other available uses of the licensee's resources.  You are likely to do that only if you produce what is in effect a business plan for the licensing proposition backed up with the same sort of market research and financial forecasts that you would produce for your own start-up business.

If you do get a "yes" you have to negotiate and draft your licence agreement very carefully. Remember that the loyalties of your licensee's management lie not to you but to their shareholders who may often be themselves.  It is in their shareholders' interests to drive the hardest possible bargain with you and, if possible, cut you out altogether. You therefore need good professional advice from lawyers, patent attorneys and others in negotiating and drafting the licence agreement.  Make sure, for instance, that your intellectual property covers not just the technology but also (so far as possible) the business opportunity. Also negotiate clauses ensuring minimum royalties, regular information about costs, production, sales and marketing, cost-effective and speedy dispute resolution.  It is a sad fact of life that good professional advice does not come cheap.

Having set up and chaired inventors' clubs in Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield, having run IP clinics throughout the North and having practised intellectual property law for many years I am very aware of the problems of licensing and how to avoid or mitigate them from the perspectives of both licensors and licensees.  If you want to discuss this article or any other issue relating to your invention or licensing give me a call during business hours on 020 7404 5252 or fill out my contact form.   You can also reach me on Facebook, G+, Linkedin, twitter and Xing,  Enjoy your weekend.

13 October 2013

Another Look at Crowd Funding

Roger Tipple at Sheffield Inventors' Group 7 Oct 2013

The speaker at Sheffield Inventors Group on 7 Oct 2013 was Roger Tipple of Tipple Associates. Roger is Sheffield Central Library's innovator in residence and the title of his talk was "Getting your Product to Market". One of the topics he discussed was funding and one of his suggestions for raising seed capital was crowd funding.

Crowd funding is appealing for funds from the public over the Internet.  As it has become harder to raise investment or borrow from conventional investors and lenders and indeed harder for investors to invest and lenders to lend a new type of financial institution has evolved that puts entrepreneurs and investors and lenders in touch with each other.  One of those institutions is Bloom VC which I discussed in "Crowd Funding: No Waffle" on 12 May 2011.  Since I wrote that article Bloom claims in its "About" page to have raised a total of £269,000 for such businesses as "Bonnie Bling" (a bespoke jewellery company) and "The Ecosse Candle Company" (which makes candles).

Nesta (the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts) has published "An Introduction to Crowdfunding" and "Working the Crowd, a short guide to crowdfunding and how it can work for you". It has also set up a website called CrowdingIn at http://www.crowdingin.com which has a searchable database of crowdfunding institutions or platforms in the UK.

There are a number of obvious legal difficulties with crowdfunding such as s.755 of the Companies Act 2006 which prohibits private companies offering securities to the public and s.19 of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 which requires most financial services to be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority ("FCA"). In its note on Crowdfunding of 4 June 2013 the FCA expressed the view that:
"most crowdfunding should be targeted at sophisticated investors who know how to value a startup business, understand the risks involved and that investors could lose all of their money."
It warned that
"investors in a crowdfund have little or no protection if the business or project fails, and that they will probably lose all their investment if it does."
The FCA also expressed concern that
"some firms involved in crowdfunding may be handling client money without our permission or authorisation, and therefore may not have adequate protection in place for investors."
However, some crowdfunding platforms have sought and been granted such authorization from the FCA, The Business Secretary appears to be encouraging crowdfunding (see Michael McDowell "CBI and Vince Cable encourage businesses to look to crowdfunding" 22 May 2013 The MoneyLab Blog). Finally there is now a UK Crowd Funding Association.

As always, send me a message through my contact form or call me on 020 7404 5252 during normal office hours if you want to discuss this article. You can also tweet me, write on my wall or send me a message through G+, Linkedin or Xing.

12 October 2013

Politicians wrangle at Inventors' Expense

The 18th Annual Independent Inventors Conference should have taken place this weekend at the US Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO"). Sadly, it won't because it has been cancelled. It is a victim of the wrangling between US politicians over the implementation of  Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

It would have been a very interesting conference.  Highlights would have included talks by:
  • Teresa Stanek Rea, Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Acting Director of the USPTO;
  • Peggy Focarino, Commissioner for Patents, USPTO;
  • Lori Greiner, inventor, entrepreneur and TV personality on the US equivalent of "Dragons' Den"; and
  • Woody Norris, another well known popular inventor.
There would also have been presentations, workshops, and one to one advisory sessions with senior USPTO officials and others who would have provided information and answered questions about patents and trade marks. The USPTO intends to reschedule this conference as and when circumstances allow I sincerely hope that it can.

As I noted in "US Patent and Trade Mark Office helps Independent Inventors" 11 Sept 2005 which was one of my first posts to this blog the USPTO does a lot for independent inventors and small and medium enterprises in the USA. Its website has a whole section devoted to inventors with useful information on patenting, trade mark registration and local information services.  The IPO could certainly learn a lot from the USPTO.

The conference is, of course, the flagship event and it would be good to hold a similar event here. Such a conference need not be run by the IPO. It could be organized by universities, law firms, patent agencies, the PatLib libraries pr even by inventors.  If anyone here would like to be involved in such a conference please get in touch. You can send me a message through my contact form or call me on 020 7404 5252 during normal office hours. Also you can also tweet, write on my wall or send me a message through G+, Linkedin or Xing.

17 September 2013

Inventors' Diary

Two events likely to be of interest to inventors and their investors are:

For more information on both events, seem my article "Forthcoming Events: Angel News VCT and EIS Investor Forum and Anne Fairpo to speak to AIPPI UK on the Patent Box" 16 Sept 2013 Patent Box blog.

04 September 2013

Anne Fairpo: Tax Planning for the Patent Box

In my article on the Patent Box Roadshow of the 4 My 2013 I described the "patent box" as a "valuable tax concession to encourage invention in the UK." It came into force on 1 April 2013 and I set out the basics in
"The Patent Box - Legislation, consultation, debates and Anne Fairpo on tax planning" 18 Aug 2013 IPNW. Because of the importance of the concession we have set up a specialist blog on the Patent Box and R & D Credits which pools chambers' resources on the topic. You will find among other things all the roadshow slides and handouts on that site.

On 13 Sept 2013 we are looking at the patent box in greater detail with a presentation by Anne Fairpo, an authority on IP and taxation, entitled "Tax Planning for the Patent Box".  Anne will speak at Liverpool in London at 4 Royal Mint Court, London EC4N 4H3.  She will be supported by patent attorney Barbara Cookson and Michael Sandys, head of IPof the law firm Broudie Jackson Canter.  The session will start at 12:00 and finish at 14:30.

The event is free but as we have space for only 15 people so if you want to come you have to book in advance. You can do this through Eventbrite at https://fairpo-on-the-patent-box.eventbrite.co.uk/.

03 August 2013

The Inventors' Handbook

Source   European Patent Office, Inventors' Handbook

Regular readers will have found a new panel to the left entitled "European Patent Office Guidance to Inventors" which contains links to the home page of "The Inventors' Handbook" and several of its chapters.

I don't know how many times I have visited the European Patent Office ("EPO") website during my career but I shouldn't be surprised if it is very much less than the number of hot dinners I have consumed in my lifetime. Yet it is only this morning that I stumbled on this handbook which contains some of the best advice available to inventors.  Had more inventors visited this useful little site there would have been more successful inventors and flourishing firms and far fewer business failures, broken marriages and nervous breakdowns.

The home page of the site summarizes everything the independent inventor needs to know about confidentiality, market research, working with others, business planning, raising funds, patenting and alternative IP protection and dealing with companies. I will take the last of those topics by way of example since unsuccessful negotiations with potential licensees and joint venture partners provides a large part of my work as an IP lawyer.

Probably the most misleading advice that has ever been given to inventors is: "build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door".  It is absolute nonsense.  The phrase is attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson but he was much too bright to have said such a thing.  What he actually said was
"If a man has good corn or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the woods."
Moreover, mousetraps were not invented until after Emerson's death.  

Much better advice comes from the EPO:
"If you want a licensing agreement with a company, you must:
  • Find the right companies to approach.
  • Approach them in the right way.
Finding suitable companies to approach may be harder than you think, because big, well-known companies are often the least likely to want to deal with inventors."
The page adds that  many inventors also make the mistake of approaching companies too soon, very few big companies genuinely welcome ideas and suggestions from outside their industry, smaller companies may be more receptive but there may be disadvantages in dealing with them too. Subsequent pages advise on how to make the first contact and conduct meetings.  Finally, there is some useful guidance on dealing with companies, negotiating licence agreements and reaching agreement.  Finally, in flat contradiction to the mousetrap misquotation, the EPO warns that companies "will never look at your invention and say: ‘This is so good that we must do it, no matter what it costs us!"

Much better for you to listen to this Emmerson:

If you want to discuss this article or anything to do with inventions you can call me on 020 7404 5252 during normal business hours or fill in my contact form.  Have a good weekend folks.  If you are going to a party tonight I hope it's as good as Emmerson's.

20 July 2013

Patent Box Roadshow in London

On 4 May 2013 I referred to the patent box roadshow that is trundling round the country (see "Patent Box Roadshows").. The patent box is an important tax concession that which came into force on 1 April 2013 in order to encourage innovation in this country.

On 12 July 2013 the roadshow came to the Liverpool embassy in London and I reported the event in our IP London blog (see "London Patent Box Workshop" 16 July 2013 IP London). There were three speakers, Howard Veares, tax director at BDO, Michael Sandys, head of commercial at Broudie Jackson Canter and me. You can download copies of our slides and handouts from here.

One of the strengths of our chambers is that we are not only strong in IP (see "We can now field a cricket team" 19 July 2013) but also in tax as we share space and facilities with Atlas Tax Chambers. One of the members of that set is Anne Fairpo who is an authority in IP and taxation.  Atlas and the IP Group work closely together.

I have put together the resources of our two groups on the patent box plus some links to some other useful sites in a new blog on the Patent Box. The London event was so successful that we are holding another at the Liverpool embassy on 13 Sep. This time Anne Fairpo will be the star speaker.   Tickets are likely to go like hot cakes so if you want to attend give us a call on 020 7404 5252 or complete our contact form.

09 July 2013

Identifying your USP - the Overlap between Design and Invention

Pat Ross is managing director of Genie Creative, a brand and marketing consultancy in Sheffield. 

On Monday 8 July 2013 he introduced Sheffield Inventors Group to the Unique Selling Point ("USP") which he defined as "a pre-defined difference (uniqueness)".that "sets you apart from your competitors and tells your customers what is special about you." He added "it is a key reason why those customers do business with you rather your competitors."

He then suggested a "few established and fairly simple ways" by which a business owner might find his or her USP:
  • Using his or her own personality
  • Exploring the intersection of ideas
  • Narrowing the target audience, and
  • Narrowing the topic.
He then presented his work for Bradfield Brewery as a case study.

Exploring the intersection of ideas is of course something that inventors do all the time. The example that Pat gave was the design of an office block in Harare that kept cool without air conditioning. The architect adapted the technique used by termites used to keep their mounds at an ambient temperature,   There are other overlaps between USPs and invention such as "narrowing the target audience" which is equivalent to "identifying the technical need" and "narrowing the topic" which is akin to developing the solution.

After the talk two of the Group's members presented their inventions to Pat and asked his advice on marketime them.  Pat gave other practical advice such as UK Steel Enterprise as a source of funding for innovation in South Yorkshire.  Pat invites inventors to contact him. An initial interview with him is free and his charges for subsequent work are flexible and affordable,  His number is 0114 234 8423 and his email is  pat@geniecreative.org.uk.

05 June 2013

European Inventor Award 2013

Every year the European Patent Office grants awards to outstanding inventors in the following categories:

  • Industry
  • Small and Medium Enterprises
  • Research
  • Non-European Countries
  • Lifetime Achievement
  • Popular Prize.
Members of the public are invited to nominate inventors as are the EPO's 4,000 patent examiners (see the FAQ and eligibility rules and conditions). Entries for all the categories except the "Popular Prize" are judged by a distinguished, international jury which includes Peter Marsh of the Financial Times and Erno Rubik, the  inventor of Rubik's cube.  The awards are presented at an annual ceremony which takes place in a different European city every year.

This year's award ceremony took place in Amsterdam on 28 May in the presence of HRH Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands. The winners were:
  • Industry: Claus Hämmerle and Klaus Brüstle of Austria for a damper system that facilitates the smooth closing of furniture doors, drawers and wall cabinets;
  • Small and Medium Enterprises: Pål Nyrén of Sweden for a far faster, less complicated and less time-consuming method to sequence DNA strands that uses the photo-reactive properties of chemicals and DNA enzymes to identify DNA sequences;
  • Research: Patrick Couvreur, Barbara Stella, Véronique Rosilio and Luigi Cattel of France and Italy for coated inside minuscule capsules of anti-cancer drugs which can be transported straight to diseased cells in the human body, where they take action without harming healthy tissue along the way;
  • Non-European Countries: Ajay V. Bhatt, Bala Sudarshan Cadambi, Jeff Morriss, Shaun Knoll and Shelagh Callahan of the USA for one of the most ubiquitous computer advances since the computer processor, the universal serial bus (USB) which has greatly simplified a previous maze of competing plug designs, allowing effortless plug-and-play functionality and simultaneous connection of many devices;
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Martin Schadt of Switzerland for LCD technology; and
  • Popular Prize: José Luis López Gómez of Spain for a series of inventions relating to an ‘independent guided' wheel design rather than a standard axle which greatly improves safety and comfort.
The 2014 award ceremony will take place in Berlin and details of the awards ceremonies and winners in previous years winners can be found here.

25 May 2013

Inventors Clubs

*Jane Lambert

Most inventors' clubs consist of individuals who are not employed in R & D but who have invented something and are not sure what they can do with it. Although such persons come from all sorts of backgrounds and are of both sexes and all ages, it is my experience that most are male, over 50 years of age and without advanced degrees or professional qualifications. Before we go any further, let me say emphatically that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Many such individuals have acquired skills and experience that are at least as useful as anything I have learned in my professional career or at university.

Why Join an Inventors' Club
The persons I have just described usually want to make money from their inventions but they lack the skills, experience and connections to do so. They often have excellent ideas but that is never enough. The quotation wrongly attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson that if a man can build a better mousetrap than his neighbour the world will beat a path to his door is just not true. Sadly they spend their life savings on patents that are never worked or worse on invention promotion schemes that promise much but deliver little (see the warnings from the US Federal Trade Commission on Invention Promotion Firms and our own Office of Fair Trading).

A good inventors' club will help avoid those costly mistakes by providing a forum for such individuals to share their experience, hear talks by experts and make connections with potential investors and professional advisers. Some clubs go further. Ideas North West of Blackburn,  for example, has set up an inventors' training course at Myerscough College which I discussed in "How to become a Successful Inventor" 21 May 2013 IP North West and has set up its own invention promotion company, Ideas North West Limited.  As a result several of Idea North West's members appear to have marketed their inventions successfully (see its Case Studies page).

Where to Find an Inventors' Club
There are inventors' clubs in many but by no means all parts of the UK. These are the ones of which I am aware:

There may well be others and some of those on the list may be defunct. 

If you don't live near any of the above towns or cities check with your nearest Patent Information Centre to see whether they run an inventors' club or know of one nearby

If you live near an inventors' club get in touch with the organizer and try one of their meetings.  

If you don't live near an inventors club you could join our Inventors' Club on Linkedin or one of the other organizations such as Ideas 21 (not to be confused with Ideas North West which I discussed above or IP21 a firm of patent agents) which look after inventors nationally. 

Or, and this would be the ideal solution, you could set up your own inventors' club and I will help you if you wish.

How to set up your Own Inventors Club
In order to set up an inventors' club you need members, a venue and speakers.   Here is how to set about getting them.

  1. Hold your first meeting.  You will need at least 6 weeks to organize the event.
  2. Invite a big name speaker but one who will also pay his or her own expenses. There are plenty of so called "motivational speakers" about - some of whom are inventors - but they are likely to charge. Find someone with an interest in being seen at your meeting such as your MP, a member of the Intellectual Property Office's outreach team or even yours truly if you can't find anybody better. Lawrence Smith Higgins of the IPO is a particularly good speaker. Call the IPO on 0300 300 2000 and ask to speak to the marketing department.
  3. Ask your local college, public library, firm of patent attorneys or solicitors or some other organization whether they are willing to host the first meeting at their premises free of charge and to advertise it to their contacts. 
  4. Once you have a speaker and venue for the first meeting, advertise it on the internet.  Set up a free blogging account with Blogger or Wordpress and subscribe to Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and Xing. If you have a mailing list you can advertise the meeting on Eventbrite.
  5. Let me know the place, date and time of your meetings and I shall publicise them. I will also circulate details of your events to all my contacts in your area.
  6. Nab anybody who shows willing for a steering committee to draft a constitution and fix the second and subsequent meetings.
If you would like me to speak, need a suggestion for or an introduction to some other speaker, want any help in drafting or reviewing a constitution or wish to discuss any other matter feel free to get n touch with me on 020 7474 5252 during normal office hours or fill in my contact form..

*Jane Lambert is a barrister practising intellectual property and technology law from 4-5 Gray's Inn  Square in London. She set up and chairs the Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield Inventors Groups and runs the Lnkedin Inventors' Club and this blog

04 May 2013

Patent Box Roadshows

The patent box is a valuable tax concession to encourage invention in the UK. It came into force on 1 April 2013 and we are holding a series of workshops on the new incentive with our good friends at BDO and Jackson & Canter.

The first of those events took place in Liverpool on 29 April 2013 and you can download the presentations that were given at that workshop from "The Patent Box Workshop: Liverpool Inventors Club" 3 May 2013 IP Northwest.

The next event will be at Leeds Central Library on 8 May 2013 at 18:00 where the main speaker will be BDO tax partner Dan Brookes (see "Leeds Inventors Group: Patent Box and R & D Credits" 4 May 2013 IP Yorkshire).

Further events are planned for London at the Liverpool Embassy in the Royal Mint on 12 July 2013 and others are planned for Manchester and other parts of the country. If you want to attend any of those events  please call me on +44 020 7404 5252 or send me an an email through my contact page. You can also follow me on Facebook,Linkedin, twitter or Xing,

07 April 2013

The New IPO Mediation Service

The Intellectual Property Office has recently re-launched its mediation service with fees related to the value of the dispute and the duration of the mediation.  An hour's mediation before a specialist mediator in Newport for a claim of £10,000 or less is £55.  The IPO also provides telephone mediation and will travel outside London or Newport.

For further information see my article "The IPO's New Improved Mediation Service - will it make a difference?" in my NIPC Law blog,

05 April 2013

Sheffield Inventors Group News

As the first Monday of this month fell on Easter Monday the April meeting of the Sheffield Inventors Group will take place on 8 April 2013 at 18:00 in the Jackson Room of Sheffield Central Library. The speaker will be Richard Hall of pd-m International Ltd.

Richard has spoken to the Group before and is well known as a product design and manufacturing consultant.  Samples of his company's work can be seen on the "Our Work" page of its website. Its clients range from private inventors, SMEs, manufacturers, universities and investors and its design portfolio covers medical, healthcare, consumer, industrial, lighting and nursery.equipment.

The title of Richard's talk is 'Production Development to Production - Avoiding the Pitfalls' which he promises to be a networking opportunity.

The other news from Sheffield is that the Group welcomes Susanne Knight as its new organizer. 

If you would like more information about the event or the group call or email Susanne on 0114 273 4727.

06 March 2013

Enterprise and Libraries: a New National Network of Business & IP Support

The Business and IP Centre of the British Library has offered advice and information to entrepreneurs and inventors in London and Home Counties since 2006. In addition to the publications and databases that would be expected of a library, the Centre offers business planning, intellectual property, market research and networking services which it delivers through clinics, seminars, workshops and on-line.   On-line services include the Centre's newsletter and the British Library UK Entrepreneur Network on Linkedin. Some of those services are offered by British Library staff and others by the Centre's partners.   

In my article "Local Enterprise Partnerships begin to take Shape" 21 Oct 2010 I wrote:
"One of the first casualties of the abolition of the RDAs are likely to be local and regional Business Link services. In an interview with Jason Hesse on the Real Business website, Mark Prisk, the Business Minister, announced:
'We’re going to wind down the Regional Development Agencies, and as part of those, we’ll be winding down the regional Business Link contracts.'  
These will be replaced by a state funded on-line service - presumably the existing Business Link website possibly under the Solutions for Business brand - and greater use of existing service providers such as chambers of commerce and local authorities. The proposal for a new business information service to be provided by thee British Library, NESTA, Newcastle City Council and Northumbria University is probably something like the model Mr. Prisk had in mind (see "Mark Prisk announces new business advisory service" on theReal Business website)."
The Business and IP Centre for Newcastle was subsequently launched and I blogged about it in "BIPC Newcastle"  on 21 Jan 2012.

In “Digital Opportunity A Review of Intellectual Property and Growth” Prof. Hargreaves recommended:
"9.     Small firm access to IP advice. The IPO should draw up plans to improve accessibility of the IP system to smaller companies who will benefit from it. This should involve access to lower cost providers of integrated IP legal and commercial advice."
The IPO drew up those plans in From ideas to growth: Helping SMEs get value from their intellectual property which I blogged in "IPO's Plan to support SME" on 31 May 2012.   One of the IPO's suggestions was "extending the model used at the Business and IP Centre in London to six regional patent libraries."

By a press release dated 19 Nov 2013 the British Library announced that it had signed an agreement with the Intellectual Property Office and six major UK city libraries  to establish a national network of services for small businesses and entrepreneurs across the country, modelled on the services offered by the British Library’s Business & IP Centre.  The six participating libraries are Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield City Libraries four of which host inventors groups that I have helped to set up.

On 11 Feb 2013 Penny Mordaunt MP sponsored a reception at Portcullis House to launch this network to be known as Enterprise and Libraries: A new national network of business & IP support.  The event included speeches from staff of the British Library, entrepreneurs who had used the Centre and representatives of local libraries. I was unable to attend the meeting but I am glad to say that I was represented by Jason McCartney, my Member of Parliament, and by Ian Wishart a patent agent who is also a director of Cobra Special Risks Ltd.

Over the last few years I have worked very closely with Chris Brown in Manchester, Ged Doonan and Stef Stephenson in Leeds, Ruth Grodner in Liverpool and Nicola Avella of Sheffield to support entrepreneurs and inventors in those cities.   Now that I am practising primarily from 4-5 Gray's Inn Square (see "Moving to London" NIPC website 5 March 2013) I hope to make a similar contribution to the Business and IP Centre in London.   If you want to want to discuss this article, call me on +44 020 7404 5252 or send me an an email through my contact page. You can also follow me on Facebook, Linkedin, twitter or Xing,

06 January 2013

UKBI Conference

UK Business Incubation ("UKBI") claims to be "the UK’s and increasingly international principal and successful authority on business incubation, business incubation development and best practice."    Since 1998 it has
"helped governments and development agencies to build a thriving business incubation infrastructure that will make increasingly significant contributions to local, regional, national and international economic growth, as thousands of incubated clients grow and move out of their business incubation environments and achieve sustainable commercial success in their own right."
Further information about the UKBI, its resources and news of its latest activities and of incubation generally can be found on its website.

Every year it holds an annual conference and this year it took place at the University of Lincoln Faculty of Business and Law between the 20 and 22 Nov 2012.  One of the events at the conference was a workshop on Protecting and Exploiting clients IP.   I was invited to speak at that workshop together with Mr. Simon Portman, managing associate of the Cambridge branch of Marks & Clerk solicitors and Mr. Brian More, Director of IP at CUE Ltd.  The session was chaired by Mr. Doug Scott, CEO of TEDCO;

I kicked off the workshop with an introduction to IP which Simon kindly described in an email as  "one of the best introductory summaries of IP" he had seen.  In another email, Doug said:
"As I mentioned at the conference, when I was asked to chair it I thought I was well informed about the topic in hand but partly because the world has moved on rather more than I had thought and partly because there were some interesting details that came up in the presentations and responses, I found it extremely useful."
I was followed by Simon who spoke interestingly and perceptively about licences and assignments and other IP contracts and by Brian whose presentation on IP valuation was concise but authoritative.   My slides together with those of all the other speakers at the conference can be downloaded from the UKBI's page on livedrive,

After the sessions we had a reception and dinner at the chapter house of Lincoln cathedral which can only be described as glorious.   You can get some idea of the setting from the pics on UKBI's Facebook page.   I was lucky enough to sit between two very interesting delegates: Maha Al-Bulushi of the ITA in Oman and Mr. David Gill of St John's Innovation Centre in Cambridge.

I was gratified to meet two old friends, Amanda Lennon whom I have mentioned more than once in this blog and Olivier Tomat of Lyon who used to run the Elsie Whitely Innovation Centre in Halifax.   I also made a lot of new connections from Dome Enterprise Centre of Chichester and Cornwall Innivation, Sangeetha Shinde, managing editor of the Business Incubator magazine and of course Bhavan Desai and Keiron Broadbent if UKBI,

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