13 December 2017

"Bradford the Best City in the Country to start a Business"

Bradford City Park
Author Jonfarman

Jane Lambert

According to The Business Desk, Bradford Telegraph & Argus and Yorkshire Post, Bradford is the best city in the UK to start a business. I have not yet found the source of those reports even though I have been googling away all morning but they all quote a Barclays’ SME Growth Factors Index. Apparently the index compares the strength of 12 key growth factors such as business rate relief, infrastructure, broadband speed and labour productivity and Bradford comes out top on road connectivity, job vacancies, commercial rents and business rate relief.

Now the first thing to say is congratulations to Bradford and its people. The city has many strengths such as a fine university, the Alhambra theatre, St George's Hall now undergoing refurbishment, the Science and Media Museum, Salts Mill, Cartwright Hall and some strong businesses in manufacturing, financial services and retailing. It is the first UNESCO city of film and its city centre has recently been rejuvenated by the City Park shown above and the new Broadway shopping centre.

However, the very factors that placed Bradford on top, namely  job vacancies, low rents and rate supports, also suggest that there are a lot of people looking for work as well as a lot of empty premises waiting for tenants. As for Bradford's road connectivity, it may get high marks for the M606's starting close to the city centre but anyone from the south of the city struggling to catch a flight at Yeadon will have been less than impressed with the ring road. It is much easier for folk in my corner of Kirklees to reach Ringway, Doncaster or even Speke by road even though Yeadon is closest as the crow flies. I would add that there is also a direct rail link from Huddersfield to the airports at Manchester and Liverpool but there is not even a rail link to Leeds or Bradford from what is officially called the Leeds Bradford International Airport.

Also, many of the most successful startups nowadays are knowledge intensive and knowledge requires protection, careful nurturing and strategic commercialisation.  The folk who are best help with that are intellectual property specialists, that is to say attorneys, specialist lawyers and business advisers. According to the Office for National Statistics there were 528,155 inhabitants in Bradford but there appear to be no firms of patent attorneys in the city. When I entered the address of Bradford University into the CIPA "Find a Patent Attorney" form I found none within 10 or even 15 miles of the city centre. The nearest was in Halifax followed by a few more in Leeds.  Considering that Bradford even has a street near Lister's Mill called "Patent Street" that is surprising.

Now I can help with IP and indeed I have helped many businesses in the city over the last 20 years. I can help those with an idea for a new product of process (see Service for Inventors) and those establishing themselves in the market place (see Services relating to Branding) as well as established businesses and investors. Should anyone in Bradford or elsewhere wish to discuss any of those issues call me on 020 7404 5252 or send me a message through my contact form.

1 November 2017

Initial Advice and Signposting

Crown copyright
Open Government Licence V1.0

Jane Lambert

On 9 Oct 2017, I wrote about How to Access Specialist IP Services in Yorkshire for FreeShortly after that article appeared I received a message through my contact form that began with the words:
"Hi Jane, I noticed some information that you posted on http://ipyorkshire.blogspot.co.uk/.I am looking for some advice and feel like I am trying to find my way in the dark."
I have every sympathy with that person. There is no shortage of intellectual property advisors in Yorkshire or anywhere else. The problem is knowing whom to approach and where to start.

That's where I can help. In my many years of practice at the intellectual property bar (most of which have been spent in the North of England) I have come across most of the patent and trade mark attorneys in Yorkshire as well as many of the solicitors who specialize in IP work. I also know many of the other professionals who can help you such as product development consultants and specialist IP insurance brokers. Having run patent clinics at one time or another in Barnsley, Bradford, Halifax, Huddersfield. Leeds, Rotherham and Sheffield and the Leeds and Sheffield inventors' clubs I have worked closely with the Business and Intellectual Property Centres at LeedsSheffield and Hull Central Libraries. They provide all sorts of useful services such as patent searching, lots of useful courses on such matters as basic intellectual property rights and business planning and most if not all of the technical and marketing resources that you are likely to need.I can introduce you to those services and resources.

Here is how I replied to the enquiry I mentioned above:
"The main free resources that exist in Yorkshire are the Business and IP Centres in Leeds, Sheffield and Hull, the IP clinics operated by the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys in various parts of the country including Leeds and Sheffield and my clinics at Barnsley Business and Innovation Centre which take place on the second Tuesday of every month between 16:30 and 18:00 (see Supporting Enterprise, Innovation and Creativity in South Yorkshire 7 Sept 2017 IP Yorkshire)."
I also gave some initial advice on IP strategy:
"The best way to identify the IP protection you need is to consider your business plan and ask yourself the following questions:
  • What are likely to be my main sources of revenue during the period of the business plan?
  • What are the main threats to those revenue streams? These are likely to be commercial like competing products or changing tastes and fashions but there may be legal threats like plagiarism.
  • What are the main countermeasures that I can take against those threats? Most of those will be commercial such as reducing prices or developing new product ranges or markets but there may be some legal measures such as a patent for a vital new product or a design registration.
  • Remember that there is often a choice of legal countermeasures. A new product, for example, can be kept under wraps for a while and disclosed in confidence only to those who need to see it or you can publish it to the world in exchange for a patent.
  • Make sure you can fund an infringement claim or revocation action. That usually requires specialist IP insurance but there are other options."
I then addressed the specific issue and invited the enquirer to make an appointment to attend my next pro bono clinic in Barnsley on 14 Nov if he still had questions.

The first step is to fill in this form:

Now I don't know the answer to every intellectual property question but I can help with a lot of them (see "My Services in Yorkshire"). However, if I can't resolve a problem by myself the chances are that I know someone who can.

I will not charge for this initial advice or signposting though there may be a charge if you want to instruct me for any of my other services. There may also be a charge from any of the other professional service providers to whom I may refer you. If there is, I and all the other service providers will agree the charge or charging basis before starting work.

If you want to discuss this article call me on +44 (0)20 7404 5252 or send me a message through my contact page.

9 October 2017

How to Access Specialist IP Services in Yorkshire for Free

Jane Lambert

Whether you are running your own business or just thinking of doing so, you need to know about intellectual property. There are two reasons for that.

First, the law on IP is very complex and there are a lot of urban myths and misinformation on what is and what is not permissible. Consequently, it is all too easy inadvertently to infringe someone else's IP. If you do, the consequences could be dire.  Some IP infringements are criminal offences the penalties for which have recently been increased, the costs of civil litigation are crippling and the remedies draconian

The other reason you should know about IP is that you will have spent a lot of time building a business or developing a product or service and you don't want other people to reap the benefit without your consent.

However, it takes a long time to qualify as a patent or trade mark attorney or specialist lawyer which is why high quality advice and representation do not come cheap.  Happily, there are ways you can save money.

I give up to 12 hours of my time every month to creatives, entrepreneurs, inventors or others who need specialist advice but can't afford my usual fees.  You can access my service simply by sending me a message on my contact form.

I can usually deal with most enquiries by email or telephone but there are some that require a referral to another professional advisor such as a patent or trade mark attorney, product design consultant, specialist insurance broker or a public library that is a member of the UK PatLib network.

If it appears to me that a client has an invention that might be patented or a design or trade mark that could be registered, I usually refer him or to one of the IP clinics operated by members of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (if there is one near the client's home or workplace) or to a local attorney who has agreed to offer the client up to 30 minutes of his or her time for free.

I also hold clinics in London and the North but I try not to replicate services that are available elsewhere.  As a barrister, I advise patent and trade mark attorneys on difficult points of law, draft complex legal instruments and represent clients in the Business and Property Courts and the Intellectual Property Office (see IP Services from Barristers 6 April 2013 NIPC News and What do Start-up Entrepreneurs need to look for in a Good IP Lawyer? 23 Aug 2017 NIPC News). The sort of matters that I reserve to myself in my own clinics includes IP Strategy, complex licensing and other transactions and dispute resolution.

Most of my clinics in Yorkshire take place at the Barnsley Business and Innovation Centre at Innovation Way in Wilthorpe on the second Tuesday of every month.

29 September 2017

Bradford Footwear Distributor's Intellectual Property Sale

Author Mtaylor848
Licence Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 unported
Source Wikipedia 

Jane Lambert

In Brantano - IP and Insolvency 23 June 2017 NIPC East Midlands, I reported that the administrators of Brantano Retail Limited (in Administration) had appointed Metis Partners to market that company's intellectual property rights. I now have to report that Metis Partners have been appointed to market another footwear retailer's IPR, namely those of the Bradford based W Barratt & Co Limited (see Barratts IP Sale 27 Sep 2017 Metis Partners' website).

According to Metis Partners, the assets on sale include:
  • "Goodwill rights in the Barratts brand
  • International trade mark portfolio
  • Customer database of circa 1m
  • Branded website
  • Domain name portfolio
  • Organisational knowledge."
Enquiries and offers should be addressed to Ruby Chan of Metis Partners before 12:00 on 19 Oct 2017. That is not a long time for carrying out searches, risk analysis 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. 

I wanted to find out what had happened in the Brantano sale but I see that it is still listed in the "Current IP Asset Sale" column rather than the "IP Sold" one.

Anyone wishing to discuss this article or IP valuation and sales generally should call me on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact form.

13 September 2017

Hear about IP Rights in China from the Horse's Mouth

Author: Unknown US serviceman or woman
Licence  Dedicated to the public courtesy of US Government

Jane Lambert

There is an awful lot of rubbish spoken about IP rights in China so here are some facts:-
  • In 2015 some 2.9 million patents were applied for throughout the world (an increase of 8% over the 2.7 million applications the previous year). Of those 2.9 million, China accounted for 1.1 million (an increase of 18.7% over the 928,177 sought the previous year). The USA was number two in both 2014 and 2015 with 587,802 and 589,410 respectively and Japan came third with 325,989 in 2014 and 318,721 in 2015.  How many patents did we seek during those years?  A mere 23,040 in 2014. I have been unable to find figures for Britsh patent applications in 2015 (sources page 7 World Intellectual Property Indicators 2016 published by the WIPO and Building the Evidence Base on the Performance of the UK Patent System published by the IPO).
  • According to the WIPO China is also number 1 on trade mark, industrial design and utility model applications (ibid).
  • According to Gabriela Kennedy, a partner of the international law firm Mayer Brown JSM, China enforces the intellectual property rights that have been granted by SIPO (its national intellectual property office).  She writes in the current issue of her firm's IP and TMT Quarterly Review that 
"As of 2016, 224 Intermediate People’s Courts and 167 Basic People’s Courts have been designated as having jurisdiction over the hearing of IP-related matters. Between 1985 to 2016, the People’s Courts accepted 792,851 civil IP cases and concluded 766,101 cases. Between 1998 to 2016, the People’s Courts accepted 77,116 criminal IP cases and concluded 76,174 cases."
So much for the urban myth that China does not invent or create anything but instead copies other countries' technology and other intellectual assets.

China is already an important trading partner. Under its One Belt One Road programme (which I mentioned briefly in my article on the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in NIPC Brexit), it plans to invest trillions of pounds into new roads, railways, ports and other infrastructure projects between now and 2049. Some of that money could be invested in new technologies such as a 4,000 km/h train hovering above the tracks (see Steve Hanley China Proposes 4000 km/h Flying Train As Part Of Its One Belt, One Road Plan 11 Sept 2017 CleanTechnica).  As magnetic levitation and graphene were invented in the UK, there is no reason why businesses in this country could not get a share of the research work to develop, manufacture and install that train) as well as supply a range of other goods and services.

But British businesses will only be able to do that if their inventions, designs and brands are protected adequately in China. As few British business people and their professional advisors speak Mandarin that is not easy to do.  Happily, we do have a senior diplomat in our embassy in Beijing who does speak that language and is well connected with officials and advisors in the Peoples' Republic who can help.

That diplomat is Mr Tom Duke. He will be in Leeds between 09:30 and 12:00 and Barnsley between 14:30 and 16:30 to address business owners, creatives, designers. entrepreneurs, innovators and investors on how to protect and make money from their brands, designs, technology and works of art and literature in China.  His meeting at Leeds will take place at Northern Ballet at Quarry Hill, Leeds LS2 7PA and the meeting in Barnsley at Barnsley Business and Innovation Centre, Innovation Way, Barnsley, S75 1JL You can find full details in Meet our IP Attaché to China 21 July 2017.

There are still one or two spaces in Leeds and a few more in Barnsley but you will have to move fast.  Call 020 7404 5252 or email my clerk Steve Marshall without delay if you want to book your place. We look forward to seeing you there.

7 September 2017

Supporting Enterprise, Innovation and Creativity in South Yorkshire

South Yorkshire
Author Nifanion
Licence Creative Common Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Jane Lambert

You only have to look at the map to see the importance of the metropolitan county of South Yorkshire. Close to the Leeds-Bradford and Greater Manchester conurbations, not far from the North Sea and Atlantic ports with its own growing international airport, good rail and road links to London, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool and Newcastle, one of the world's great research universities as well as many other fine universities, schools and colleges, excellent theatres and concert halls and famous sporting venues, there is no better place to found or expand a business than Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham or Sheffield.

To support those businesses Barnsley Business Innovation Centre holds regular intellectual property clinics with patent counsel. "What's so special about them?" I hear you say. "There are regular patent clinics with patent attorneys at Leeds and Sheffield." True! And they are excellent. But the sessions at Barnsley are with counsel. It is counsel who advise attorneys and solicitors on difficult points of law, draft complex legal instruments and, where necessary, represent them before judges and hearing officers in the IPO. It is from their ranks that the judges of the Patents Court, Chancery Division and Intellectual Property Enterprise Court are drawn (see my article IP Services from Barristers 6 April 2013 revised 16 May 2017 NIPC News).

What you get from a barrister is independence because they don't prosecute patent, trade mark or design applications and years of experience of the things that can go wrong since they are only consulted when a case is out of the ordinary and that is why they are relatively expensive. A 30-minute conference in London would cost many hundreds of pounds. What Barnsley BIC offers every month is a similar 30-minute slot in Barnsley with specialist counsel for nothing.

On the second Tuesday of every month, I am to be found at Barnsley between 16:00 and 18:00 and I shall see anybody who books in advance. The sort of questions I get are
  • "I hope to set up a business in Barnsley in the next few weeks but I am not sure of the best way of protecting my brand, product or service?"
  • "How can I find out whether this invention is patentable and if so how do I apply for a patent?"
  • "I have just received this nasty letter from Sioux, Grabbit & Run. What should I do about it?" or
  • "A company in China has offered to manufacture my product but how do I protect my business there?."
If you have any question on IP I shall be at the BIC on Tuesday 12 Sept, 10 Oct, 14 Nov or 12 Dec 2017 between 16:00 and 18:00. If you want to save yourself several hundred pounds in legal fees, you need only fill in this form or call Steve Marshall on 020 7404 5252 to reserve your slot.

As the last question "A company in China has offered to manufacture my product but how do I protect my business there?" arises frequently, we have been lucky enough to persuade Mr Tom Duke, our IP attaché in China to talk to our local entrepreneurs, inventors, creatives and their investors. Tom will give you a great start to protecting and licensing your brands, designs, technology and creative works in China so that you can invest in, export to, import from or otherwise make loads and loads of money in that increasingly important market. He will be at Barnsley BIC on 19 Sept 2017 at 14:30. 

Now if that time happens to clash with a round of golf, dental appointment or anything else that you can do another day or get a colleague to cover, ponder this. You can do all those things some other time but if you want Tom's contacts and information you will have to go to China for it and that's a lot further than Wilthorpe. So call Steve on 020 7404 5252 to book your place. You will find further information in Meet our IP Attaché 21 July 2017. You could save or earn yourself a whole heap of renminbi if you turn up.

If you want to discuss this article or IP in China, England or anywhere else, call me on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact form.

5 September 2017

Tech North Angel Network

Blake's Angel of the Revelation
Source Wikipedia

Jane Lambert

A business angel is a wealthy individual who has often acquired wealth through running and sometimes selling his or her own business and invests in a new or growing company. Usually, the connections and experience that an angel brings to the business in which he or she invests are at least as valuable as his or her investment.  They can make all the difference between success and failure for that business.

They are therefore very useful people to know but they are not always easy to reach. Although many angels follow emerging technologies and keep in close touch with entrepreneurs and inventors, they cannot know everything that goes on in an industry.  To facilitate contact between angels willing to invest and entrepreneurs seeking investment, networks are formed.

Tech North, "a government-backed initiative charged with accelerating the growth of the digital business sector in the North of England," has just announced the launch of new angel network for the North of England (see James Bedford Introducing the Tech North Angel Network 30 Aug 2017 Tech North website).

According to Bedford:
"The aim is to build a strong, open network of tech investors that is easy to access and open to pan-Northern collaboration. We are working with a variety of partners on this, including UKBAAGP BullhoundAngel AcademeDow Schofield WattsAll Bright and others."
Bedford stresses that "the ‘open’ aspect is important."  He explains:
"Private angel networks have their place, but it can be very hard for startups to access them. That’s if they know about them at all. Great deals could be left on the table because the right entrepreneurs never meet the right angels."
The network begins with a series of workshops for new investors the first of which take place in Manchester and Wilmslow on 7 and 13 Sept 2017. There will be workshops in Leeds for new investors on 2 Oct 2017 and more experienced ones on 18 Oct 2017. Other events will be announced later.

It is very important that investors should understand intellectual property strategy when contemplating an investment and that they should understand whether a business's technology or other intellectual assets are properly protected and adequately leveraged.  As a starter, I suggest they read my IP Primer for Business Angels and Private Equity Investors 29 Aug 2016 NIPC News. No business is too small to have an IP strategy and if a company does not have one I would be slow to invest in it.

If there is sufficient interest in IP strategy with Techn North or its partners I shall run a workshop on IP strategy for business angels and entrepreneurs in Manchester, Liverpool or both.

Should anyone wish to discuss this article, IP strategy or IP and angel or private equity investment, call me on 020 7404 5252 or send me a message through my contact form.