26 July 2015

Business University Collaboration - the Yorkshire Innovation Fund

Yesterday the Yorkshire Innovation Fund started to follow me on twitter so I thought that the least I could do was to check it out. It describes itself on its home page as "a way of funding new ideas within your business" and explains:
"Many new ideas require a blend of skills and expertise to get them off the ground and working with a local university can often help by providing access to expertise, specialist equipment or facilities or new talent to develop your idea. YIF funds this access."
In other words, it puts up the money to pay for R & D and other work carried out by one of its partner universities which seem to include most of the universities in Yorkshire with the notable exception of the University of Sheffield.

Available Funding
According to the Is my company in an eligible sector? page of its website
"The Yorkshire Innovation Fund is available to Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in the Yorkshire region from the following areas:
  • Advanced manufacturing, engineering & materials
  • Bio-renewables (feedstocks, raw materials and ingredients)
  • Healthcare technologies
  • Low carbon energy (e.g. wind, nuclear, carbon capture & storage, bio-fuel)
  • Bioscience
  • Creative and digital 
  • Chemicals
  • Financial and business services
  • Food and drink
  • Sport (South Yorkshire SMEs only)"
On the What types of project has YIF supported? page the website mentions small innovation projects up to £10,000, research and development projects up to £31,000 and strategic intervention for which no figure is given. Detailed case studies of projects that the Fund has supported in the past can be downloaded from the Projects YIF has funded page on its website.

Funding for New Projects
This would seem to be a good port of call for many of the entrepreneurs and inventors I have seen in my IP clinics and the Leeds and Sheffield inventors clubs over the years except for this warning that appears on the home page:
"YIF is currently unable to commence any new projects with regional SMEs and is exploring new funding opportunities to support collaborative projects in the future."
We must hope that this is only a temporary hiccup and that the Fund will refill its coffers soon. It must be remembered that this is only one funding option among many and that I discussed some of the other options in Business Funding in Leeds City Region on 1 June 2015.

Issues to consider when Negotiating with a University
If a business does commission a university to do some work for it, its management should give some thought as to
  • the ownership and rights to use the results of the project
  • the financial and other contributions made by the commercial sponsor
  • the university’s use of the results for academic purposes.
It may come as a shock to readers that a not insignificant part of my work as a member of the IP bar is taken up with negotiating those issues with, and occasionally on behalf of, universities and resolving disputes over those issues once the work has been completed.

The Lambert Agreements
At the beginning of the present millennium Mr Gordon Brown who was then the Chancellor of the Exchequer commissioned Sir Richard Lambert (as he now is) to review collaboration between businesses and universities. In his Final Report which was published in December 2003 Sir Richard identified concern over those issues as one of the impediments to such collaboration. To allay those concerns the Chancellor asked Sir Richard to hold further meetings with stakeholders to develop model contracts for such collaboration and I actually participated in one of those sessions, The result has been a number of model agreements which are explained in The Lambert Toolkit. The Intellectual Property Office has helpfully provided a Decision Guide to help negotiators choose the right contract.

Need for Caution
Although it is a lot easier than it was dealings between universities and businesses are still tricky largely because academics and businessmen have different interests and come from different cultures. Universities have become pretty savvy of late and they have access to good and experienced legal and accounting advice. Entrepreneurs are often at a distinct disadvantage (especially in the early days of their business careers) and they need all the professional help they can get.

Should any reader want to discuss this article or requires advice on business-university collaboration or funding in general, he or she should call me on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or contact me through this form.

1 June 2015

Business Funding in Leeds City Region

Jane Lambert

"Where do I get funding for my business now that the banks have stopped lending?" This is the most frequent question that I have been asked since 2007 at my IP clinics, inventors clubs and talks and seminars for business start-ups even though as an IP lawyer I claim no expertise in business funding. Now at least I have a  website to which I can refer enquiries in the Leeds City Region at any rate.

Leeds City Region LEP
The Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, which is a collaboration between local authorities and business leaders and academics within commuting distance of Leeds City Centre to promote economic and social development within that region, has gathered together a web page listing all the funding options that are available to businesses in that region  The title of that web page is Business funding options and you will find it at http://business.leedscityregion.gov.uk/support/funding/

Types of Funding 
Funding for businesses falls into two categories:
  • long term investment in plant, buildings and other fixed assets; and
  • short term funding to purchase stock or meet other immediate priorities.
As a general rule long term investment takes the form of investment in exchange for a share in the business while short term funding takes the form of loans.  If you don't know the difference between investment and lending then your first port of call should be "Business Finance Explained" on the gov.uk website. Once you are clear in your mind as to what you need for your business and what is on offer then take another look at the Business Funding Options web page.

Types of Funding Available
The website offers information on:
  • Grants: essentially gifts of money that do not have to be repaid;
  • Investments: funding in exchange for shares in a limited company or possibly a partnership; and
  • Loans: funding that has to be repaid usually with interest.

One source of grant funding is The Business Growth Programme which provides grant funding to businesses based in Leeds City Region or planning to invest here. You will find further details on the LEP Business Growth Programme page of the LEP's website. There are details of other grants on the LEP website. There is also a very good website called j4bGrants which publishes a regular newsletter to which you can subscribe.

This could come from a business angel (a wealthy individual who wishes to invest in a new venture) or an institution that believes that your business will grow very quickly and sees an opportunity to make a substantial profit in two or three years time through a flotation on the stock market or a business sale. The LEP website links to Envestors which manages the Yorkshire Association of Business Angels (a group of business angels based in Yorkshire) and to Finance Yorkshire which provides a range of funding products.

Traditionally short term lending has been provided by the clearing banks and the LEP has arrangements with a number of banks that have received funding from the Regional Growth Fund to support local business. The Business Funding Options web page mentions those arrangements and links to a number of lending schemes. It also links to  the Business Enterprise Fund which is a community development finance institution which can sometimes offer loans to businesses that would not qualify for bank lending.

The website is directed to businesses that are in, or are contemplating moving to, the Leeds City Region only. Check the coloured map above to see whether you are in or out of that region. This article may still be useful to you even if you are outside this region because other regions make similar provision for businesses in that area.

Legal Advice
Whatever form of funding you seek even if it is a grant you will enter legal relations with, and may well incur legal obligations towards, your funder. Before assuming those obligations you should seek proper advice from an experienced business lawyer. Remember that there are likely to be many issues such as tax, intellectual property and enforcement.  

Further Information
if you want to discuss this article, call me on 020 7404 5252 during business hours or send me a message through my contacfot rm.

Post Script

Kin F. Kam wrote on Linkedin: "If you have an innovative product underdevelopment, or in the hope of developing it, there is also #InnovateUK 's innovation voucher scheme. It's worth £5K. I got mine confirmed last week."

Many thanks for that comment and good luck with the business

7 March 2015

Bradford International Film Summit 2015

Berween 4 and 6 March 2015 Bradford hosted an international film summit consisting of seminars, screenings and other events on film and TV production and education.  According to the summit website, the aims of the summit are:
  • "To attract increased film and TV production to Yorkshire
  • To capitalise on the business opportunities in film related industries and services
  • To create collaboration opportunities through international networks
  • To further develop education and skills programmes and share best practice
  • To inspire communities to enjoy and experience more film."
As my colleagues Thomas DillonAthelstane Aamodt and I have a particular interest in film, TV and games I attended the last day of the summit on behalf of chambers.  

I spent most of the day at the Film Hub North Roadshow at the National Media Museum listening to talks on Film Hub North's advice and experience sharing scheme, the Leeds International Film Festival, the Rotterdam International Film Festival, investment and other sources of funding and watching a number of films including Louise Osmond's Dark Horse.  Although I was there to listen rather than advise I was consulted on some of legal issues that confront independent film makers.

If anyone would like to discuss this post or legal issues relating to film making generally he or she is welcome to call me on  01484 599090 or 020 7404 5252 during normal office hours or message me through my contact form.

Further Reading

5 March 2015

Protecting and exploiting your IP assets in South America with a special focus on Brazil

MERCOSUR is an abbreviation for Mercado Común del Sur or Common Market of the South. It is a free trade zone in South America established by the Treaty of Asunción on 26 March 1991 between the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. The founding members have been joined by Venezuela and Bolivia is in the process of acceding to the treaty. Most of the other countries of South America are associate members.

With a combined population of over 295 million in a land area of nearly 15 million square kilometres MERCOSUR is an important trading partner for the UK and other EU member states. To assist small and medium enterprises that wish to do business with the region the European Commission funds the MERCOSUR IPR SME Helpdesk. Like the other SME IPR Helpdesks this is a joint venture between universities and intellectual property offices in Europe and South America.

The Helpdesk offers a range of services including SME clinics and workshops. It is not every day that a clinic or workshop is held in the United Kingdom and it is even less common for one to be held in Yorkshire but on 6 March 2015 at 13:00 there will be a workshop in Hull on Protecting and exploiting your IP assets in South America with a special focus on Brazil. The workshop will take place at the World Trade Centre Hull & Humber, 48 Queen Street, Hull, HU1 1UU. Admission is free but it is necessary to register through Eventbrite in advance. I am grateful to Dr Alison Orr of Inngot Ltd., who will be speaking at the event, for drawing it to my attention.

Dr Orr will be speaking on Using your IP to Take off Internationally: Protecting and Exploiting Your Assets in International Collaborations. She will be followed by Alexandra Fezer of Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum who will discuss the Helpdesk and its services. Hicham Abghay also of Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum will speak on Latin American business co-operation. Hiago Busch of Baylos Abogados will give the main talk on Intellectual Property Rights in Latin America with a special focus on Brazil. That will cover 
  • General Overview of IP in the MERCOSUR region and Chile 
  • IP Protection Rules: Patents, Trademarks, Copyrights 
  • IP Exploitation: Licensing, IP Valuation, Start-ups creation 
  • IP Enforcement: Counterfeiting, IP Rights registration.
Latin America is an area in which we are particularly interested with the upcoming Olympic Games next year as sports law is one of our specialisms. If you are going to the workshop (or even of you are not) you should find our overview on the law of Brazil helpful,  If you want further information give me a call on 01484 599090 or use my contact form.

3 February 2015

Hull Central Library joins PatLib

Photo Wikipedia

PatLib is a European network of some 320 patent information centres where members of the public can obtain information about patents and other intellectual property rights. There are 15 of those centres in the United Kingdom including three in Yorkshire. I write about the network in PatLib Libraries in the UK 28 Jan 2015 Inventors Club.

Hull Central Library is the latest to join the PatLib network. Its reference library holds an enormous collection of resources for business in print and on-line including an Enterprise Hub where workshops and seminars take place. The full range of services include:
  • information on Intellectual Property (IP), copies of Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and European Patent Office (EPO) literature
  • enquiry service
  • assisted searching by appointment only
  • fee based document supply
  • referrals to other advice/service providers
  • free public access to internet, IP information resources, business and company databases, market research databases
  • patent clinics offering free appointments with IP advisrrs by appointment
  • workshops and Seminars.
Information on  those services can be obtained from the reference library on (0)14 8222 3344.

These additional services have arrived at an opportune time. In her report for The Business Desk Humber LEP continues to drive growth for region of 30 Jan 2015 Ellie Newton-Syms wrote about the strong recovery of the Humber estuary based largely on investments in the energy industry. With falling oil prices this will be a challenging time even for the renewable sector and businesses will need to be agile to ride the challenge. Having access to the latest technical literature and expert advice has never been more important.

If anyone wants to discuss this article or IP generally call me on 01484 599090 or use my contact form.

24 January 2015

Sheffield Business and IP Centre Launch

Sheffield Central Library
Photo Wikipedia

In Enterprise and Libraries: a New National Network of Business & IP Support 6 Match 2013 Inventors Club I wrote about the launch in Portcullis House of a new network of PatLib libraries in the North and Midlands in association with the British Library. I reported in Business and IP Centre National Network 14 Oct 2013 that Leeds and Sheffield Central Libraries were part of that network and mentioned some of the activities of those libraries.

On Thursday I attended the official launch of the Sheffield Business and IP Centre. As this network is freceives funding from the Department for Communities and Local Government we had expected an appearance from The Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP but we learned the evening before that he was unable to make it. There were nevertheless speeches from quite a lot of other dignitaries including Laraine Manley, Executive Director of Sheffield City Council, Councillor Mazhar Iqbal, Roly Keating of the British Library and Brian Ashley of the Arts Council of England.

There was also a talk by Guy Jeremiah of Ohyo on his invention which turns out to be a collapsible water bottle coupled with a website and app for finding water fountains and other sources of water.  The default page shows a few fountains within walking distance of Endell Street in Central London but none at all for central Sheffield when I keyed in the postal code for Sheffield Central Library and the wevsite could not find Holmfirth at all on the map when I keyed in the postal code for my home address even though there is quite a famous one in our town which has features more than one in episodes of Last of the Summer Wine.

After the speeches there was an opportunity for networking over drinks and canapés.  I met Kalim Yaseen, a patent examiner who had given an excellent presentation  to the Sheffield Inventors Club on 6 Feb 2012 (see Straight from the Horse's Mouth:"Filing a UK patent application - process and procedures" 31 Jan 2012) and Roger Tipple who had spoken about Getting your Product to Market on 7 Oct 2013. I met Joyce Gray who runs the Sheffield centre and many of her colleagues. Joyce was struggling under a massive bouquet of flowers from the British Library which she richly deserved. I met three good friends from Leeds Central Library, Ged Donnan, Stef Stephenson and Andrea as well as a number of other old acquaintances from the Intellectual Property Office. I also made the acquaintance of Isabel Oswell, Head of Business & Research Audiences at The British Library and Dave Gimson, regional project manager of the British Library.

Surprisingly and somewhat disappointingly there were very few local inventors or entrepreneurs apart from Mr Jeremiah. Joyce Gray told me that she had invited some of the members of the Sheffield Inventors Club but if any turned up I did not recognize them. The one entrepreneur whom I did recognize was Mel Wong who has danced on national TV and has probably performed more grands battements than anyone else on the planet and is now setting up her own dance business. In his speech Roly Keating emphasized the importance of the creative sector for Sheffield and British Industry as a whole. I am sure that Mel will contribute to that sector considerably.

The Business and IP Centre is a great initiative and one that I welcomed and always supported but unless it collaborates with other networks it will never meet its potential. I was dismayed to learn that many of our guests from London were unaware of other groups such as Ideas Northwest or the Wessex Round Table of Inventors though Isabel heard of Richard Gallafent and Linda Oakley of Ideas 21. Nobody was aware that Ideas 21 once held meetings in Manchester. Nobody knew of the Liverpool Inventors Club or my IP clinics at Barnsley and Middlesex University. If public money is to be used to best advantage there has to be a lot more co-ordination and communication.

If anyone wants to talk about the Business and IP Centre launch or IP generally they should call me on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or use my contact form.

22 January 2015

Register your Registrable Rights at once

Over the last few days I have been advising a client who has been threatened with proceedings for Community trade mark infringement. Nothing unusual about that except that my client was the first to use the mark that he is now alleged to have infringed. In fact, he had been using the mark for quite a while before the other side applied to register the mark. It's just that he never thought of registering it for himself. And why should he because advertising and sales give the right to prevent others from using a trade mark, don't they? Why pay lawyers or attorneys to register something that is already yours.

In a sense that is right because nobody can pass off their goods or their services off as yours. As Mr Justice Arnold said in Enterprise Holdings, Inc v Europcar Group UK Ltd and Another  [2015] EWHC 17 (Ch) the elements of an action for passing off are as follows:
"(1) the claimant's goods or services have acquired a goodwill in the market and are known by some distinguishing name, mark or other indication;
(2) the defendant has used, or threatens to use, a name, mark or other indication which has led, or is likely to lead, the public to believe that goods or services offered by the defendant are goods or services of the claimant, or connected with it, and thus to a misrepresentation by the defendant (whether or not intentional); and
(3) the claimant has suffered, or is likely to suffer, damage as a result of the erroneous belief engendered by the defendant's misrepresentation"
(see my case note  Car Wars: Enterprise and Europcar 21 Jan 2015 NIPC Law).

A right to bring an action for passing off is an "earlier right" within the meaning of art 53 (2) of the Community Trade Mark Regulation (Council Regulation (EC) No 207/2009 of 26 February 2009 on the Community trade mark OJ 24.3.2009 L78/1). My client could have opposed the registration under art 8 (4) of the Regulation and he could still apply for the invalidation of the registration under art 53 (2). But an action for passing off requires evidence of use such as sales figures and advertising spend and lots of samples of packaging and advertising just to satisfy the first element and you have to prove misrepresentation and confusion as well.

So much easier just to register the mark which you can do on-line from just £170. You can apply to register before you start trading and you are allowed up to 5 years from the date of application to register the mark before you need to use it. That means that you can prevent others from using the mark even before you have started to use it yourself which you could never do if you relied solely on passing off. Also, if you have applied for a mark in the UK or any of the other countries in the EU it is much easier to oppose or invalidate a subsequent Community trade mark.

This is not the first time that I have had to advise in a  case such as this. The last time it happened the client decided to re-brand as it was cheaper, easier and more certain than bringing cancellation proceedings in OHIM. And it is not just trade marks where this sort of thing can happen. It also happens with designs. In fact it is easier with registered or registered Community designs because there is no examination of prior art. So remember. If you have a brand or product design register the distinguishing sign or design first. Just like Spencer and Diana Hannah did with "Herdy" (see Case study Intellectual Property: Herdy 21 Jan 2015 IPO website).

If you want to talk about this article or trade marks or registered designs in general give me a ring on 01484 599090 during office hours or use my contact form.