14 March 2021

One of the Few Silver Linings - Innovation during the Pandemic

Under a cloud (with a silver lining) (1920)
Punch 22 Sept 1920  Wikipedia Silver Lining

 












Jane Lambert

At the start of the lockdown just under a year ago, I wrote in IP Services During the Emergency on 22 March 2020:

"The suspension of so much business activity to facilitate social distancing does not mean that intellectual property is no longer a priority. On the contrary, it is now more important than ever."

And so it transpired.  The total number of international patent applications through the Patent Cooperation Treaty has increased from 265,381 in 2019 to 275,900 in 2020.  In spite of brexit and all the other dampeners on its economy, the UK was no exception to that trend,   Applications from the UK rose from 5,773 in 2019 to 5,912 in 2020 (see Innovation Perseveres: International Patent Filings via WIPO Continued to Grow in 2020 Despite COVID-19 Pandemic 2 March 2021 WIPO press release).   As The Economist noted in its YouTube video How covid-19 is boosting innovation of 10 March 2021, the last 12 months have been a year of innovation.

In my previous article: I wrote that 

"if we are ever to stop Covid-19 in its tracks it will be through the efforts of universities and biotech and pharmaceutical companies around the world whose."
That was not a widely shared view when I write that sentence.   At the start of this pandemic, pundits warned the public not to expect vaccines to come to the rescue any time soon. They said that it takes years to develop vaccines and even longer to obtain regulatory approval and set up distribution networks.  They were wrong.    New technologies enabled pharmaceutical companies in different parts of the world to develop effective vaccines within a few months of each other.  Most achieved regulatory approval within weeks of their clinical trials.  The UK, the USA and several other countries have been able to roll out those vaccines very quickly.

There have also been advances in diagnostics and therapies that have enabled health services throughout the world to treat far more patients in the second wave than at the peak of the first without buckling.  At the same time, there have been inventions to prevent the spread of infection.  Examples include Thrsus's "Bump" which I covered in Rise and Design Online: A Webinar for Designers in Northeast England on Designing our Way out of Lockdown in NIPC Northeast on 15 June 2020 and DABS's gloves which I mentioned in the same publication in Rise & Design: Wearable Tech Webinar yesterday.

Innovation has not been confined to healthcare. There are businesses founded on new products and services that did not exist a year ago in such fields as distribution, education and entertainment.  The Economist mentioned drones to distribute medicines and other essential supplies, video conferencing to facilitate online learning and professional consultations, home delivery services by Michelin starred restaurants and the letting out of ghost kitchens to self-employed chefs. Here are some more examples that have occurred to me. In May 2019 the Chinese internet courts were so unusual that they merited an article in NIPC Law. Less than a year later the UK Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal and much of the High Court in England and Wales were dispensing justice over the internet.  In retailing, contactless payments have driven cash into retreat.   The Economist estimated that the pandemic had accelerated the use of digital technology by about 5 years. The presenter actually welcomed his audience to 2025.

In IP Services During the Emergency, I wrote:
"And when this emergency is over businesses will have to innovate and create as never before in order to restore our ravaged economy the planning for which has to start now."

There will be lots of opportunities for entrepreneurs as the world emerges from lockdown. Anybody lucky enough to have worked from home on full pay will have saved considerable sums by not commuting, maintaining their wardrobes or spending on leisure activities.  They will be looking for such services as extra tutoring for kids who have missed half a year of schooling, broadband upgrades, home extensions and maintenance after a year of restrictions.  There will, of course, be a return to the office for some but many other businesses will have noticed a reduction of costs and improvements in productivity from home working so the demand for home delivery is likely to stay firm.

The businesses that provide those services will need trade marks for their brands and maybe patents and design registered designs for their products. Inevitably disputes will arise with IPO examiners and other intellectual property owners.   Last year I wrote:

"Anybody who needs advice or assistance with an IP issue can contact me through my "Initial Advice and Signposting Form". I can advise on IP law generally and represent clients in negotiations and disputes but I do not prosecute patent, design or trade mark applications, specialize in tax or company law, develop products or arrange funding. However, I can probably direct clients to other experts such as patent or trade mark attorneys, commercial law firms, specialist accountants and product design consultants who can help with such issues."

I have experienced strong demand for those services, especially over the last few weeks.   I will continue those services after lockdown.  Anybody wishing to discuss this article or book an appointment for a free 30-minute advice and initial signposting session can call me during normal UK office hours on 020 7404 5252 or send me a message through my contact form at other times.

26 February 2021

Kalifa Review fails to mention Patents for FinTech Inventions

By James Gillray   Public Domain

 










Jane Lambert

This morning the government published the Kalifa Review of UK Fintech.  As I learnt my intellectual property law while working on the legal issues of chip and pin cards and finding ways to protect banking brands before service marks could be registered for VISA International in the 1980s and have followed the sector ever since FinTech is an area of law in which I feel entitled to claim expertise.

The report is 108 pages long in a magazine-style format.  It makes findings that I would expect such as Brexit, covid and competition being threats to the UK's competitive position as well as recommendations that FinTech company founders should be allowed to retain shares with enhanced voting rights after flotation that I found surprising.

One issue that I have found to be problematic in practice but which Kalifa did not mention at all was the exclusion of "a scheme, rule or method for performing a mental act, playing a game or doing business, or a program for a computer" as such from patentability by s.1 (2) (c) of the Patents Act 1977. Because of uncertainty as to whether a patent will be granted and if granted whether revocation proceedings. inventors ten to rely on trade secrecy which discourages collaboration and innovation.

Although the performance of the UK FinTech industry compared favourably to those of other European countries there were no direct comparisons with the performance of the sector in countries outside Europe. There were, however, oblique references such as the greater percentage of initial public offerings on exchanges in the USA which suggested that the US FinTech industry was significantly more successful than the UK's. One anecdotal reason for the greater success of the US industry is the absence of any equivalent to s.1 (2) in the US Patent Act.   Even without that exclusion, the Americans see quite capable of rejecting applications for patents that are not recognizable as inventions (see Bilski v. Kappos, 561 U.S. 593 (2010)).

This is no mere griping.  Many of the most exciting developments in the technology have come from small businesses which are often one-man bands.  In the early days, founders rely heavily on investment from angels or private equity investors and they nearly always insist on some paperwork from the Intellectual Property Office before they open their cheque books. 

Despite these observations and reservations, the Kalifa report is well worth reading.   Anyone wishing to discuss it with me may call me on +44 (0)20 7404 5252 or send me a message through my contact form.

20 December 2020

Patent Cooperation Treaty

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Two of the problems of applying for a patent are:
  • Patent protection is territorial: that is to say, a patent enables an owner to prevent others from making, using, offering for sale, selling, or importing his or her invention in the country, group of countries or territory for which the patent is granted and not beyond; and
  • In order to get a patent, an applicant has to disclose the invention in a manner sufficiently clear and complete for the invention to be carried out by a person with the relevant skill and knowledge.
Thus, if an inventor gets a patent for the United Kingdom but nowhere else, there is nothing to stop an entrepreneur in India, China, Continental Europe or even the Republic of Ireland from making and selling your product everywhere in the world except the UK.

The only way to prevent that from happening was to seek patents in all the markets in which the applicant intends to market his or her invention as well as every country in which a competing product can be made.  As a patent will be granted only for an invention that is new, that used to mean simultaneous applications to every patent office from which a patent was required. 

Life became a lot easier for applicants in 1883 when the UK and other leading countries established the 
Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property ("Paris Convention").  Art 4A (1) and art 4C (1) of the Convention gave a person who had duly filed an application for a patent in any of the contracting countries 12 months priority over anyone else who might file a patent for the same invention.  So long as an application was made within a year of the first application in the first country applications in all other countries were backdated to the first filing.

As more and more countries industrialized the task of filing multiple applications even over the period of a year became increasingly burdensome. The solution was the Paris Cooperation Treaty ("PCT") which made it possible to seek patent one' protection for an invention simultaneously in every country that is a party to the PCT by filing an "international" patent application with the applicant's home intellectual property office or, ins some cases, with the World Intellectual Property Organization ("WIPO").

The WIPO made the video that appears at the beginning of this article on 17 Dev 2020.  More useful introductory information is available from PCT FAQ on the WIPO website,   There are now 153 countries that are party to the PCT.  They include China, the USA, Japan, India, Germany and France.   Big countries that are not yet party to the PCT include Argentina, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Venezuela.   The UK Intellectual Property Office has published a useful booklet entitled Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) for Private Applicants which was last updated on 1 July 2020.  I reviewed a previous edition of the booklet in 
Applying for Patent Protection through the Patent Co-operation Treaty without a Patent Attorney on 1 Nov 2016.

Anyone wishing to discuss this article or the PCT generally may call me on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact form.

18 September 2020

European Patent Office's "Inventors against Coronavirus"

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At the start of the coronavirus crisis, I published  IP Services During the Emergency.   In it, I wrote:
"The suspension of so much business activity to facilitate social distancing does not mean that intellectual property is no longer a priority. On the contrary, it is now more important than ever."

The European Patent Office has magnified that point with a series of videos called Inventors against Coronavirus.   It features inventors whose work has already facilitated the world response to the pandemic.  Each of those inventors is a winner or finalist of the EPO's European Inventor Award.

The inventors include Rino Rappuoli whose reverse vaccinology 2.0 enables pathogens' genomes to be studied by teams working on vaccines instead of samples of the pathogen itself.  Not only is that safer for the researchers but it is faster and more effective.   Dr Rappuoli's work is featured in the above YouTube video which has just appeared in the EPO's YouTube channel.

Other inventors featured include Helen Lee whose point of care diagnostic device which was originally developed for HIV can deliver test results in 20 minutes, Thomas Tuschi who has pioneered treatments for COVID-19 and José Ángel Ávila Rodríguez whose work on communications technology has facilitated contact tracing and infection mapping.

As I said in my article 

"It will not be just inventors, product designers and engineers who will contribute to this effort. Software developers who will track the spread of infection and the deployment of resources. Artists and communicators will be needed to convey public health information to the public."

Over the last few months, I have advised and assisted on many of those issues as I anticipated when I wrote those words.

Anyone wanting to discuss this article can call me on 020 7494 5252 or message me through my contact page. If you want a chat I shall be glad to call you back by phone, Zoom or Skype.

28 August 2020

Bristol Innovators Group

Jane Lambert

I have recently come across the Bristol Innovators Group which joined Twitter in October 2019. It appears to have held its first meeting at the University's Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on 4 Nov 2019:
I have been unable to find a website but its Twitter stream provides a lot of information about its activities:
It has grown rapidly since its formation and now claims over 500 members.   Its "Purpose/Vision" infographic shows exactly how entrepreneurs, inventors, makers and others should collaborate.  I said very much the same thing in An Inventors Group for Northwest Wales on 25 Aug 2020 NIPC Wales.

The Group seems to have managed to continue its activities over lockdown and has planned a full programme of events for autumn:
  • 9 Sep Monthly virtual meetup
  • 25 Sep BIG (Bristol Innovators Group) virtual chat on a topical issue
  • 7 Oct Monthly virtual meetup
  • BIG Pitch
  • 11 Nov Monthly virtual meetup
  • Birthday meetup in the park with marshmallows and hot chocolate
  • 9 Dec Monthly virtual meetup
  • BIG Festivities
The BIG can be contacted at bristolinnovatorsgrouo@gmail.com.   I think the Bristol Innovators Group is a great idea and I wish them every success. Should they ever need a speaker on IP law or any other topic within my expertise that may be of interest to them, I shall be glad to meet them either over the Internet or in person once COVID-19 is eliminated.

Further Information

28 Aug 2020
Jane Lambert
NIPC Severn

12 April 2020

InnovateUK to fund Innovative Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic

AuthorInnovatedigital Licence CC BY-SA 4.0










Jane Lambert

It is often said that the world will never be the same after the coronavirus pandemic. If that is true,. old ways of doing things may have to be abandoned and new solutions developed   To help businesses to develop such solutions, InnovateUK has announced a £20 million fund to invest in solutions to tackle new or emerging societal or industry needs in the wake of the pandemic.

Projects suggested by InnovateUK include:
  • community support services
  • couriers and delivery (rural and/or city-based)
  • education and culture
  • entertainment (live entertainment, music, etc.)
  • financial services
  • food manufacture and processing
  • healthcare
  • hospitality
  • personal protection equipment
  • remote working
  • retail
  • social care
  • sport and recreation
  • transport
  • wellbeing.
Funding will take the form of a grant of up to 100% of the project costs which should be between £25,000 and £50,000.   Proposals must be submitted online no later than 12:00 on Friday 17 April 2020.

Further details including an application form can be found at Business-led innovation in response to global disruption (de minimise).

If you require any help in relation to intellectual property you can book a slot on my online IP clinic on 14 April between 16:00 and 18:00.  I am also giving a talk on IP for Makers at 17:30 on 15 April to which you would be most welcome.

23 March 2020

IP Services During the Emergency

File:Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.jpg
Author NIAID  Licence CC BY 2.0
















Jane Lambert

The suspension of so much business activity to facilitate social distancing does not mean that intellectual property is no longer a priority. On the contrary, it is now more important than ever.

If we are ever to stop Covid-19 in its tracks it will be through the efforts of universities and biotech and pharmaceutical companies around the world whose research will have to be funded.  Much of that funding will come from the private sector which will require legal protection for the revenue streams from which it will recoup such investment.

The businesses and institutions engaged in research in diagnostics, vaccines and cures will usually understand IP and have access to the best possible advice and representation but that will not necessarily apply to the many businesses, public health authorities and clinicians around the world who distribute those products. They need the best possible advice on patenting, licensing and technology transfer at affordable rates.

Also involved in the effort to stop the spread of the infection will be manufacturers and distributors of personal protective equipment, ventilators, respirators and various medical devices. It is there that there will be scope for small businesses and individuals to invent or design better products or components.  They will need help in putting their ideas and inventions into production.

It will not be just inventors, product designers and engineers who will contribute to this effort. Software developers who will track the spread of infection and the deployment of resources.  Artists and communicators will be needed to convey public health information to the public.

And when this emergency is over businesses will have to innovate and create as never before in order to restore our ravaged economy the planning for which has to start now.

Just at a time when entrepreneurs, inventors and others will require high-quality advice and representation more than ever, social distancing will make it more difficult to obtain.  So this is what I as an experienced IP practitioner will do to help.  Ever since the Public Access Scheme has been in operation I have set up and chaired inventors' clubs, run pro bono clinics in various parts of the UK and given talks at science parks, incubators, FabLabs, Business and IP Centres and other forums throughout the country.  I was due to speak to the inventors, makers and designers of Porthmadog at Ffiws Maker Space on 1 April 2020.  I had an IP clinic at Barnsley Business Village on 14 April 2020.  I was planning a high-level seminar on Green Innovation at the Menai Science Park on 27 April 2020 as Wales's contribution to World IP Day.

Now I can no longer keep these appointments in person but there is nothing to stop me from doing so online and that is precisely what I shall do.  Anybody who needs advice or assistance with an IP issue can contact me through my "Initial Advice and Signposting Form".  I can advise on IP law generally and represent clients in negotiations and disputes but I do not prosecute patent, design or trade mark applications, specialize in tax or company law, develop products or arrange funding.  However, I can probably direct clients to other experts such as patent or trade mark attorneys, commercial law firms, specialist accountants and product design consultants who can help with such issues.

I shall also be offering webinars to business owners, inventors, investors and indeed IP lawyers and attorneys for so long as social distancing has to continue.

Throughout this emergency the British and other intellectual property offices will remain open, most IP professionals will be working from home, the IPO and many courts will conduct hearings by phone or video link.  We may not be so easy to meet but there should be no suspension or diminution in the quality of services.

Anyone wanting to discuss this article can message me through my contact page.  If you want a chat I shall be glad to call you back by phone or Skype.