Wednesday, 27 September 2017

IP and Food

Gary Townley

Jane Lambert

Tomorrow, between 10:00 and 13:30, Gary Townley, business and events manager at the Intellectual Property Office will talk about IP for the food and drink industry at Northampton Central Library. You can register for the event here.

I don't know what Gary will be talking about but there is a lot of IP connected with food and drink:

As I reported in Thought for Food 26 Sept 2017 NIPC London Gary has already spent the last two days at the Takeaway & Restaurant Innovation 2017 Expo.

IP in food production, preparation, marketing and distribution is a subject of which I do have had a lot of experience having been in some important cases and having advised and represented some rising stars in the industry. If you are involved in that sector I should be glad to talk to you. Call +44 (0)20 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact form.

Friday, 1 September 2017

First Enterprise to manage Midlands Engine Small Business Loans in the East Midlands

Jane Lambert

On 29 Aug 2017, I reported the launch of the Midlands Engine Investment Fund and the publication of Spotlight: The Midlands Engine Investment FundOn Wednesday, fund managers for small business lending were appointed in the East and West Midlands. First Enterprise Business Agency was appointed for the East Midlands and BCRS Business Loans for the West.

A small business loan is one between £25,000 and £150,000.  Loans of between £100,000 and £1.5 million are available through the Midlands Engine Debt Finance Scheme which is managed by Maven Debt Finance.  Initial enquiries as to eligibility for a small business loan can be made through the enquiries form on the BCRS website.

As I said in my report on the launch of the fund:
"Anyone seeking any kind of funding under the MEIF or any other scheme will be expected to have planned, protected and leveraged its investment in branding, design, technology and creative output and that's where I come in. If you don't already have an IP strategy give me a call on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact form.

I can help you identify your intellectual assets and suggest the best ways of protecting them having regard to your business objectives and available resources. If you already have a patent or trade mark attorney, solicitor or other professional advisers I can work with them. If not, I can put you in touch with some of my contacts and help you choose and instruct the ones you like best. I can incidentally also put you in touch with many other professionals such as product design consultants and IP insurers and introduce you to your nearest Business and IP Centre or Patent Information Unit where you can get more advice and assistance either free of charge or at a very modest cost."
Further information on IP strategy can be obtained on my What is Intellectual Property Strategy? resource page and further information on the Midlands Engine on my Midlands Engine resource page.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

British Business Bank launches the First Tranche of the Midlands Engine Investment Fund

The Midlands
Licence Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Source Wikipedia

Jane Lambert

The Midlands Engine Investment Fund ("MEIF") is a joint initiative between the government owned British Business Bank and a number of local enterprise partnerships ("LEPs") in the East and West Midlands. The participating LEPs from the East Midlands are the Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire (D2N2) Greater Lincolnshire, Leicester and Leicestershire, and South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnerships. The Bank hopes to make £250 million available to small and medium enterprises ("SME") in the Midlands Engine area through debt finance, small business loans, proof of concept and equity finance funds in amounts ranging from £25,000 to £2 million.

Today the Bank announced the launch of its £150 million debt finance funding scheme which is the first tranche of the £250 million (see the British Business Bank's press release British Business Bank launches first £120 tranche of Midlands Engine Investment Fund 29 Aug 2017). Also today, the Bank published Spotlight: The Midlands Engine Investment Fund which surveys the Midlands Engine area economic and funding landscape.

Anyone seeking any kind of funding under the MEIF or any other scheme will be expected to have planned, protected and leveraged its investment in branding, design, technology and creative output and that's where I come in. If you don't already have an IP strategy give me a call on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact form.

I can help you identify your intellectual assets and suggest the best ways of protecting them having regard to your business objectives and available resources. If you already have a patent or trade mark attorney, solicitor or other professional advisers I can work with them. If not, I can put you in touch with some of my contacts and help you choose and instruct the ones you like best. I can incidentally also put you in touch with many other professionals such as product design consultants and IP insurers and introduce you to your nearest Business and IP Centre or Patent Information Unit where you can get more advice and assistance either free of charge or at a very modest cost.

For more information on the Midlands Engine, visit my Midlands Engine resource page.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Midlands Engine Trade Missions

Jane Lambert

Earlier today I blogged about Northern Powerhouse branded trade missions in IP Northwest and IP Yorkshire. I wondered whether there was anything similar for the Midlands Engine. It turns out that there is a Midlands Engine campaign page and that six trips have been arranged.

The destinations are as follows:
Places on all those missions can be booked through the DIT's Midlands Engine campaign page.

If you go on any of those missions, take care not to disclose anything that you might wish to patent, register as a design or otherwise keep under wraps except in confidence (see Duty of Confidence). Remember that there is a year's grace period for design registration (see Registered Designs and Registered Community Designs).  Don't forget the international exhibition exception provided by s.2 (4) (c) of the Patents Act 1977.

Make sure that any non-disclosure or confidentiality agreement is to be construed and enforced in accordance with English law. We are harmonizing our trade secret law with the laws of the other EU member states by implementing the Trade Secrets Directive but we are not there yet (see The Trade Secrets Directive 7 July 2016 NIPC Law).

You must also be aware of the ease with which it is possible for IPR owners to get without notice injunctions just before international exhibitions in some countries (see the penultimate paragraph of Pre-Action Correspondence: What to do if you get a Stroppy Letter ....... or worse 4 Aug 2017 NIPC Law). You should also take a look at the arbitration schemes that exist in Italy and Switzerland (see my article Resolving IP Disputes at Trade Fairs 1 June 2017).

Should anybody wish to discuss any of these matters, call me on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message on my contact form.

Further Reading

The Midlands Engine

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Nottingham's FinTech Accelerator

Source Wikipedia

In a speech on the Financial Conduct Authority's regional FinTech engagement which he delivered at the Leeds Digital Festival on 27 April 2017, Christopher Woolard, Executive Director of Strategy and Competition at the FCA said that although most of the initial development work on fintech up to now had taken place in London there was real potential beyond London for a further wave of innovation. He singled out the Leeds-Manchester and the Edinburgh-Glasgow corridors as emerging hubs but failed to mention Nottingham which was the location for one of the first if not the first fintech accelerator outside the capital.

On 17 May 2016, the British subsidiary of the US consumer finance company, Capital One, in collaboration with L Marks Ltd, announced the Capital One Growth Labs. That was a 10-week accelerator programme for up to 6 early-stage start-up and high-growth companies. The successful companies were offered direct access to Capital One's software engineering department at its Nottingham head office. That provided an opportunity to refine and test their products as well as to receive close mentor support from experts from the company and the wider tech industry. While they were in Nottingham they were also offered a series of workshops and talks on branding, business development, law and marketing, At the end of the programme they were to be offered opportunities to present their products and bid for investment.

Applications were sought in the following categories:
  • Unstructured data insight
  • Security and fraud prevention
  • Money management tools
  • Enabling healthy financial habits
  • Agent technologies
  • Open category.
The open category was available to any startup with a potential offering to Capital One such as payment solutions, tracking, new lines of business or a physical/digital bridge. 

Applications in writing were requested by 12 June 2016. Capital One and L Marks invited 19 businesses to Nottingham to pitch for the 6 places to a panel of Capital One's senior managers and outside experts on 6 July 2016. 

In an announcement dated 19 July 2016, Capital One said that it had chosen the following 5 companies to take part in the accelerator:
  • Credit Kudos of London which had developed a method of credit scoring based on the customer's financial history presented by Credit Kudos's co-founder, Freddy Kelly, n Simple Fair and Accessible Credit which appeared on Capital One's website on 25 Aug 2016;
  • Multisense, a Dutch company which had developed a mobile authentication system using face, voice and fingerprint recognition;
  • Pariti Technologies Ltd., another London business which had developed a mobile app to enable users to control their income and expenditure by connecting to all their bank and credit card accounts (see How Pariti works);
  • Warwick Analytics, a spin-off from the Univesity of Warwick's computer science department, which had developed automated predictive analytics that can remove the 80% of time data scientists need to organise and process data prior to analysis; and
  • WealRo, a mobile app that uses AI technology and machine learning to help users to budget where savings can be made.
I have not yet found any information about what happened on the programme, whether any of the companies found investment or whether Capital One bought any of those products or invested in any of those businesses. I can report that I have visited all the finalists' websites and they all seem to be thriving. I have not found any evidence that indicates that the accelerator has been repeated or that a second cohort will be chosen. There are however other financial institutions in Nottingham and I see that the Nottingham Building Society is investing heavily in fintech (see The Nottingham announces Major Investment in New Digital Technology in Fintech Finance).

The inclusion of law in the programme of talks and workshops for the Capital One accelerator, As I said in my FinTech introduction and overview,  I see three potential legal issues with any fintech project:
  • data protection and privacy particularly with the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation next May;
  • intellectual property; and
  • regulatory issues.
Data protection and privacy will be particularly important for all companies' products, particularly Credit Kudon which collects data on and evaluates data subjects' credit scores. As for regulation, I refer each of the British companies to the FCA's regulatory sandbox if an in so as they are not already aware of it.

Should anyone need amplification or clarification of any point in this article, call me on +44 (0)20 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact form.

Further Reading

03 Aug 2017
Jane Lambert
03 Aug 2017
Jane Lambert
27 Apr 2017
Jane Lambert

Friday, 23 June 2017

Brantano - IP and Insolvency

Red Court Shoe
Author Almighty1
Reproduction licensed by the author
Source Wikipedia

Jane Lambert

An interesting headline in the East Midlands section of The Business Desk website that caught my eye was Brantano IP assets up for sale 22 June 2017. The article stated that:
"Administrators of Brantano, the stricken Leicestershire shoe firm, are selling off the firm’s brand and intellectual property assets via Metis Partners."
Metis Partners describes itself as "a multi-disciplinary IP firm with a proven track record in the assessment, exploitation, monetisation, valuation and sale of intellectual property assets (“IP assets”)". Part of its business is the sale of intellectual property rights of troubled businesses.  The firm keeps a blog called "The Musings of Metis" with some interesting articles on this topic including Insolvency and the Hidden Brand Benefit 23 Aug 2013 and the Hidden Treasure of IP After Insolvency  28 June 2016 by Michelle Korman and Negotiation 31 Jan 2015 by Morven Fraser.

I found the following announcement on Meris' website:
"Tony Barrell and Mike Jervis of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, the Joint Administrators of Brantano Retail Limited (in Administration) (“Brantano” or the “Company”), have appointed Metis Partners to support the marketing and sale of the intellectual property (“IP”) assets relating to the Company."
These include:

  • "Goodwill Rights in the Brantano Corporate and Product Brands
  • Rights in the Registered Trade Marks and Unregistered Trade Marks
  • Rights in Unregistered Designs
  • Website Content & Domain Name
  • Software Behind the E-commerce Website."
Anybody thinking of acquiring any of those assets must submit his or her bid by 12:00 on 30 June 2017 which does not leave much time for carrying out searches, risk analyses and asset valuations.  If a bid is to be anything more than guesswork a prospective purchaser will need professional advice on the accounting, legal and marketing issues.  If a bid is accepted, specialist legal and other professional advice will also be required in the negotiation and drafting of the assignments and other agreements.

Anyone requiring amplification or clarification of any of those points should call me on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact form.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Why Every Business Owner in the East Midlands Needs to Know Something about IP

IP can make more trouble than the Lincoln imp (see The Legend Visit Lincoln)
Author Hongking
Source Wikipedia

Reproduction licensed by the author

Jane Lambert

For the last twenty years I and countless others have been telling business owners in this region the positive case for learning about intellectual property ("IP"). There is a very powerful one. It can help businesses to establish themselves in a market by shielding them from competition. That is because the bundle of laws that we refer to as IP grants those who devise new products or processes monopolies of their inventions known as patents and a right to those who compose music or create games to prevent others from broadcasting, performing, publishing or otherwise exploiting their work known as copyright.

Too often my presentations in this vein are met with polite applause and the occasional question or discussion after the talk which probably explains why the UK, the country of Newton, Faraday, Watt and the first industrial revolution has trailed consistently not just Germany and France with similar populations and GDP in the number of European patent applications but even the Netherlands with one third of our population and Switzerland with an eighth.

So now I am going to try a different tack. One of fear. Those same monopolies and exclusive rights that can leverage your company's investment in branding, design, technology and creative output could threaten the very existence of your company and cost you plenty?

"How so?" you ask.
Well those same IP laws can grant monopolies to your competitors and impose restrictions on what you can make or sell and the name or style under which you carry on business that can be infringed quite inadvertently. If you are found to have infringed someone's IP right you could be injuncted (ordered by the court to do or refrain from doing something on pain of imprisonment for disobedience) and made to pay damages (compensation) or account for and surrender any profits that you have made from your wrongdoing and contribute substantially to the other side's legal fees and other costs. Some IP infringements are also criminal offences so in an extreme case you could be prosecuted and even fined or sent to prison if convicted.

"I understand that I could get into trouble if I copied someone's product or brand name," you say, "but all our research work, design and branding is done in-house and we are very careful not to copy anyone else's."
Unfortunately, that may not be enough for a monopoly can be infringed quite unintentionally. You may import a product made quite lawfully in China or some other country which falls within the claims of a patent granted by the Intellectual Property Office in Newport or the European Patent Office in Munich. If you did not know of the patent you should have done because nearly every British and European patent and patent application is published on the Espacenet, Google and other patent databases and all you have to do is look.

Easier said than done, of course, because patent searching is a skill that takes time to learn but there are plenty of people who will help you including Ged Doonan of Leeds Business and IP Centre on 0113 247 8266. You should also keep your ear to the ground and keep abreast of the technical literature.

Patents are not the only monopoly rights of which you should be aware. Businesses that register names and other words or logos as trade marks in relation to specified goods or services have the exclusive right to use their marks in relation to such goods and may sue anyone who used the same or similar sign in relation to the same or similar goods or services. The fact that you not have known of the registration is no defence. You should have made a proper search. If the registration or application would have shown up on a search you have only yourself to blame if you are injuncted and mulcted in damages and costs by the High Court.

There is also a registration system for designs in the UK and across the EU. Registration gives the person who registered the design "the exclusive right to use the design and any design which does not produce on the informed user a different overall impression" in "making, offering, putting on the market, importing, exporting or using of a product in which the design is incorporated or to which it is applied" or "stocking such a product for those purposes." It is up to you to check whether the product that you make or sell falls within someone else's design registration.  Again, the Leeds Business and IP Centre should be able to help.

You should review the patent, trade mark or design registers regularly and preferably use a "watch service" (a service that monitors patent, trade mark and registered design applications and warns of any that may may affect their client). Yet again, Ged may be able to help.

You will probably find that any legal indemnity insurance that you may have taken out specifically excludes intellectual property claims but you can get such cover from specialist brokers such as Sybaris Legal and IP or Safeguard IP.

There may be grounds upon which you can retaliate. Sometimes it is possible to apply for the revocation of a patent or trade mark or seek the invalidation of a trade mark or design registration either in the IPO or to counterclaim for such relief in any infringement proceedings that may be lunched against you. It is also actionable to threaten patent, trade mark or registered design infringement proceedings without justification.

So where to get more information about IP? Well the IP, the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys and the World Intellectual Property Organization has made some useful animations which I discussed in Animated Advice on 18 March 2016 4-5 IP. The only Business and IP Centre in the East Midlands is Northampton Central Library (see Northampton Business and IP Centre 28 July 2015 and there is nothing to stop your consulting the resources in Birmingham, Hull and Sheffield.

If you think that you may have a problem in relation to someone else's IP rights or you simply want to discuss this article, give me a ring during office hours on 020 7404 5252 or message me through my contact form. Over the next few months I hold on-line and person to person seminars on this topic around the region in conjunction with local stakeholders.  If you are interested in coming do let me know.