17 May 2017

How to Access Useful Cost-Effective IP Services in Yorkshire

Percy Shaw's Cats' Eyes - Possibly Yorkshire's most
famous invention
Author ELIOT2000
Source Wikipedia 

Jane Lambert

Our national prosperity depends on the competitiveness of British industry and that, in turn, depends on the propensity of our businesses to create and innovate.  Start ups and other small and medium enterprises ("SME") are among the most creative and innovative businesses in our economy.  They need to protect their investment in branding, creativity, design and innovation with intellectual property rights just as much as any other business but they do not appear to do so.  According to the European Patent Office, only 5,142 European patent applications originated from the UK in 2016 which is only 163 more than in 2007. In that time we have slipped from 7th place in the number of European patent applications to 9th having been overtaken by China and South Korea in our own backyard.

Soon after it entered office, the Coalition government commissioned Prof. Ian Hargreaves to review how the intellectual property framework supports growth and innovation and, in particular, "the cost and complexity to SMEs of accessing IP services to help them to protect and exploit IP". Hargreaves found 3 issues that impede SME in obtaining the support they needed:
  • the complexity of available offerings; 
  • a lack of broad-based, strategic business advice; and 
  • the substantial costs involved in IP management.
He recommended that:
"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."
Although the government accepted that and all Hargreaves's recommendations, not much has been done to implement it.  Arguably access to IP services is worse now than it was when Hargreaves delivered his report because Yorkshire Forward and Business Link Yorkshire which signposted entrepreneurs and other business owners to the appropriate services and often funded them was abolished shortly after Hargreaves delivered his report.

The gap left by Business Links and Yorkshire Forward has been partly filled by the PatLib Centres at the Leeds, Sheffield and Hull Central Libraries which have been re-branded as Business and IP Centres in association with the British Library and funded by Arts Council England.  According to the British Library website:
"The British Library Business & IP Centre National Network provides entrepreneurs and SMEs across the UK with free access to databases, market research, journals, directories and reports worth thousands of pounds. There is a programme of free and low-cost events and workshops on a range of topics including business planning, marketing and intellectual property."
The British Library also hosts Linkedin and Facebook groups which carry useful articles and discussion.

So what does an entrepreneur, inventor, business angel do now if he or she wants to access the sort of cost-effective integrated business advice that Prof Hargreaves recommended?  Well here are my tips.

Tip #1.   Find out as much as you can about IP generally before you seek professional advice.
A good starting point is the IPO section of the Government website.  Particularly useful pages are:
I also recommend the IPO's IP Basics animations such as What is Intellectual Property? which you will find on the IPO's YouTube channel. If you want to learn more about protecting your intellectual assets outside the UK, a good place to start is the Protecting your UK intellectual property abroad page on the IPO website. The IP BASICS: Should I protect my Intellectual Property overseas? video is also worth watching. You will also find useful information on the European Patent Officee, EU Intellectual Property Office and World Intellectual Property Office websites. Each of those sites will introduce you to other resources. You can get a very thorough grounding in IP law from those and other materials.

Tip #2   Attend a Workshop or Seminar
Each of the Business and IP Centres in Yorkshire holds workshops and other events on IP law. I give one at Barnsley Business and Innovation Centre ("BBIC") in conjunction with BarnsleyBiz Surgeries on the second Tuesday of every month between 17:45 and 18:30. The IPO also holds regular events which you will find on the IPO events calendar.

Tip #3  Attend an IP Clinic
These are free consultations with a patent or trade mark attorney or a special st lawyer that would otherwise cost you quite a lot of money. The Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys holds clinics once a month at Leeds and Sheffield Central Libraries (see the IP Clinics page of the CIPA website) and I hold one on the second Tuesday of every month at Barnsley BIC between 16:00 and 17:45. If you want a 30 minute consultation with me call George on 020 7404 5252.

Tip #4  Get a Search before consulting an IP Professional
You can only get or keep a patent if your invention is new and not obvious having regard to what what is already known. You can find out what has been invented before and what was known by searching the prior art. That is essentially a search of the register of British, European and other patents.  Similarly, you can only register a trade mark or keep a trade mark registration if the same or similar mark has not been registered for the same or similar goods or services. You can find out whether such a mark has been registered by searching the British, EU and WIPO registers. Finally, you may lose any design registration that you may obtain if the similar designs have been registered before. Leeds and Sheffield Business and IP Centres will carry out searches for you for a very reasonable fee. Call 0113 378 6010 for further details.

Tip #5  Consult a Regulated Professional
There are a lot of people who offer advice and assistance on IP but not all are reliable. In particular, there are businesses or individuals who promise the earth, charge a hefty fee and then supply information which is either wrong or available from other service providers free of charge or for a much lower fee or fail to deliver altogether. You should be on the lookout for them and avoid them like the plague. 

There are, however, other advisers who follow a code of conduct enforced by a professional regulator which requires them among other things to insure against the consequences of negligent advice. These are patent and trade mark attorneys and specialist counsel and solicitors. 

Although there is considerable overlap in the work that members of each of those professions carry out, there are differences in training and experience that equip members of one profession to perform a particular task better than any of the others. For instance, patent attorneys have natural science, engineering or technology qualifications as well as legal ones and are trained to draft patent specifications in a way that  is clear enough and complete enough for the invention to be performed by a person skilled in the art and claims that afford the widest possible monopoly while remaining valid. Similarly, barristers are trained as advocates which equips them to present cases to judges and hearing officers. They are therefore well placed to advise on difficult points of law and draft complex legal instruments which they are often instructed to do by members of the other professions. All the judges of the Patents Court, Intellectual Property Enterprise Court and the rest of the Chancery Division practised at the Bar before their elevation to the bench (see Jane Lambert IP Services from Barristers 6 April 2013).

Patent attorneys are members of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys whose website has a searchable databases of patent agencies. Trade maek attorneys belong to the Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys who also have a Find an Expert feature. Most barristers who specalize in IP law belong to the IP Bar Association  Many but by no means all law firms that specialize in IP are members of the Intellectual Property Lawyers Association.

Tip #6  Ensure Adequate Funding for Litigation
Enforcing or defending IP rights can be expensive even in IPEC and the IPO. Because of the length and uncertainties of litigation very few cases are undertaken on a "no win no fee" retainer, particularly as success fees and after-the-event insurance premiums are no longer recoverable under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (see Jane Lambert Intellectual Property Litigation - The Funding Options 10 April 2013 NIPC Law), It is therefore prudent for businesses to consider before-the-event insurance when they apply for patents, trade marks or registered designs or when they create a copyrught work or original design. For information on IP insurance, see IP Insurance, CIPA's paper 1 May 2016.

For fiurther information, call me during office hours on 020 7404 5252 or send me a message through my contact form.

5 May 2017

How can I protect my Idea for a New Service?

Author TeaLaiumens
Source Wikipedia 
Creative Commons Licence

Jane Lambert

Intellectual property law developed in the 19th century when the first industrial revolution was in full swing. An invention was necessarily a new product or a process for making products. Until the Trade Marks (Amendment) Act 1984 it was not possible to register trade marks for services in the United Kingdom. I remember accompanying the late Hugh Laddie to the Patent Office in 1984 when I was legal adviser to VISA International for Europe, the Middle East and Africa on an appeal against an examiner's refusal to grant VISA a trade mark for printed matter on the grounds that it was a roundabout way of obtaining a service mark for travellers' cheques.

The economic picture has changed a lot since then. Services now account for nearly 80% of GDP in advanced countries like the UK, France and the USA. But the law does not cater for innovation in services even though a new financial service using blockchain technology such as a new virtual currency can be every bit as ingenious as a new drug or communications device. One of the reasons why the law lags behind technology is that the leading industrial countries agreed to protect the intellectual assets of each other's nationals on a reciprocal basis in the Paris and Berne Convention of 1882 and 1886 because reciprocity requires such legal protection in all participating states to be approximately the same.

So when a client comes to me with an idea for an innovative new service his or her options are limited. It may be possible to patent a product or process used in delivering a new service such as a drone or even in some circumstances a software implemented invention but it is not possible in any country to patent a service as such. Even in countries like the United States where there is no equivalent to the statutory exclusions in s.1 (2) of our Patents Act 1977 the protection of methods of doing business has rolled back since the decision of the Supreme Court in Bilski v. Kappos, 561 U.S. 593 (2010).

Generally I advise a client to keep his or her idea to him or herself until he or she is ready to launch. If the client needs to talk to a contractor, collaborator he or she should do so in confidence. Every disclosure in confidence should be acknowledged in writing by the confident, recorded by the confider, closely monitored and strictly enforced. After the launch the idea will be in the open for anyone to see and, of course, imitate. Nevertheless, the innovator may still derive some advantage from being the first to market the service. Any reputation or goodwill accruing to his or her business can now be protected by registering the brand under which it is supplied as a trade mark.  All forms, manuals and other stationery used in the business will be literary works in which copyright will subsist automatically, If properly coordinated and supplied under a brand, the client may have a business format that can be franchised.

In its early days any business will be vulnerable to legal action either to enforce such IP rights as it may own or to defend a claim for their invalidation or revocation.  Even in the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court litigation can be ruinously expensive. Some form of IP insurance is therefore essential if it is to retain its market advantage.

I shall be talking about how to protect a service and other matters at Barnsley Business and Innovation Centre at 12:15 on 9 May 2017. If you want to attend that event you can do so by registering here.

2 May 2017

How can I protect my Business Idea?

Jane Lambert

Probably the question I have been asked most frequently in the IP clinics that I have run around the country is "How can I protect my business idea?"

It is not an easy question to answer because it depends on the nature of the idea and the size and the strength of the business.

For instance, patents provide the most extensive protection for new products or processes but they come at a cost:
  • several thousand pounds in Office fees and attorneys' costs for the UK alone and a great deal more if you want protection in other countries whether under the European Patent Convention or the Patent Cooperation Treaty;
  • Complete disclosure of the invention to enable those with the skills and knowledge to make or work it if the patent isn't granted, or if it is revoked or in countries where you haven't applied for patent protection;
  • periodic renewal fees that increase with the age of the patent in some countries; and
  • the costs of enforcing, or resisting an application to revoke, the patent that can run to many hundreds of thousands of pounds in some common law jurisdictions like the United Kingdom.
If nobody wants to buy or use the invention, all that money is wasted.

So is there a better way of protecting an invention? How about trade secrecy or unregistered design rights? Well, maybe, but then again, maybe not. Also, some of those costs can be insured again.

On Tuesday 9 May I will be talking about all those subjects and more at Barnsley Business and Innovation Centre between 12:15 and 13:15.  The talk is free but space is likely to be limited.

If you want to come you can register by clicking this link.

24 April 2017

Accelerators and Incubators in the Sheffield City Region

Standard YouTube Licence 

Jane Lambert

Following on from my article on accelerators and incubators in the Leeds City Region, I am taking a look at the accelerators, incubators and co-working spaces in the Sheffield City Region that appear in Nesta's directory for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (see Business Incubators and Accelerators Directory 20 April 2017 NIPC News). As I said in my previous article, accelerators and incubators help to launch fledgeling businesses but while accelerators offer structured development and training with opportunities to attract funding for the most attractive businesses, incubators are more like serviced offices with mentoring and other forms of business and technical support included in the package. I found two accelerators from South Yorkshire in the directory, five incubators and one co-working space.

The accelerators from the City Region that are listed in the directory are as follows:


I mentioned Dotforge in my article on Leeds. Its premises in Sheffield are at the Electric Works close to the bus and rail stations and the city campus of Sheffield Hallam University. As I said in my previous article, Dotforge measures a business's social impact as well as its commercial viability. The accelerator offers mentoring and workshops as well as investment.

According to the "About us" page of its website, the "Y" in Y-Accelerator stands for "Yorkshire". It claims to be "the UK’s first Global Manufacturing accelerator programme, built around Sheffield City Region’s worldwide reputation for excellence in advanced manufacturing." The Y-Accelerator programme has been developed by the Rotherham Investment Development Office (RiDO) and TRoom, a South Korean manufacturing and distribution company which was formed for the purpose of developing trade links between East Asia and Europe. Y-Accelerator offers a range of programmes for pre-startups, startups and established companies of varying duration. It cooperates with a number of partners including Sheffield and Rotherham metropolitan district councils, Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam Universities, the local enterprise partnership and a firm of solicitors.

Another firm of solicitors has promoted one of the City Regions's five incubators and Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam also have their own hatcheries as do RiDO and Barnsley Business & Innovation Centres ("BBIC").

Barnsley BIC
RIDO Launchpad
Sheffield Hallam University Hatchery
University of Sheffield Innovation
Wosskow Brown Foundation

I have already discussed BBIC at Wilthorpe in my article on accelerators and incubators in Leeds. The reason I mention it again is that Barnsley finds itself in both Leeds and Sheffield City Regions. As I said in my previous article, I work closely with BBIC and am about to expand my activities with regular lunchtime workshops the first of which will be "How can I protect my business idea?" on 9 May 2017 (see Lunchtime Talk - "How can I protect my Business Idea?" Barnsley BIC 9 May 2017 12-15-13-15 21 April 2017).

RiDO offers a bespoke package of support for pre-start and early stage businesses through the Sheffield City Region Launchpad programme which includes regular workshop and one-to-one sessions with a business advisor. Sheffield's two universities provide office, lab space and technical and business support for new businesses.  Sheffield University's is known as USI (University of Sheffield Innovation). Sheffield Hallam's is known as The Hatchery. The Wosskow Brown Foundation was established by the Wossskow Brown law firm to support local business, charities and sports clubs. Its first initiative is the WB 100 which aims to assist 100 businesses, 100 charities or social enterprises and 100 individuals in grassroots sports through a formal programme and ad hoc support as they need it between 2015 and 2019. Its beneficiaries appear on the beneficiaries page of the foundation's website.

Nesta's researchers identified one co-working space, namely the Showroom and Workstation for businesses in the creative and digital sectors at Paternoster Square in Sheffield. The Showroom and Workstation offer a range of business support services and office space for businesses under 18 months old known as Studio 505. Hot desking, virtual office services and office rental services are also available.

Anyone who wants to discuss this article or startup support in general can call me on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact form, Readers may also be interested in my accelerators and incubators resources page on my Inventors Club blog.

22 April 2017

Accelerators and Incubators in the Leeds City Region

Jane Lambert

The Government has recently published the first comprehensive directory of accelerators and incubators in the UK compiled by Nesta researchers (see Business Incubators and Accelerators Directory 20 April 2017 NIPC News). The Directory has identified 4 accelerators in the Leeds City Region and 5 incubators. The difference between accelerators and incubators was summarized neatly byTina Nielsen in Business accelerators: a financial shot in the arm for startups 24 Oct 2013:
"The terms business accelerator and incubator are used interchangeably and the distinction is vague, but broadly speaking accelerators offer funding and incubators mainly mentoring."
Both accelerators and incubators help to launch fledgeling businesses. Accelerators offer structured development and training with opportunities to attract funding for the most attractive businesses. Incubators are more like serviced offices with mentoring and other forms of business and technical support thrown in.

The four accelerators are all in Leeds. Each of them is part of an enterprise that also operates in other parts of the country:

Entrepreneurial Spark
ODI Leeds
The Young Foundation
Dotforge operates in Sheffield and Manchester as well as Leeds. It measures a business's social impact as well as its commercial viability. It offers mentoring and workshops as well as investment. According to its website, it has worked with 31 startups in the three cities. Dotforge claims to be different in that it is "focused on doing good" (see the About page of its website).

The Entrepreneurial Spark claims to be "the world’s largest free business accelerator for early stage and growing ventures." It has 12 hubs around the country in all four nations of the United Kingdom with a 13th about to open in London. The Leeds operation is at 2 Park Cross Street. The Entrepreneurial Spark offers "mentors, ambassadors and supporters, workshops, pitch practice and a full time ‘entrepreneurial enabler'",

ODI Leeds opened in May 2014 shortly after Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Sir Nigel Shadbolt set up the Open Data Institute. The ODI Startup Accelerator is "a year-long, bespoke programme for data-oriented startups". It offers businesses office space at Munro House (which is close to the BBC, Dance Yorkshire, Leeds College of Music, Northern Ballet, Phoenix Dance Theatre and West Yorkshire Playhouse) and various mentoring and other support services for 10% of the issued share capital of the company.

The Young Foundation supports organizations currently under-served by traditional private and public sector funding routes. The Accelerator is a "competitive entry programme for social ventures that are ready to scale, incorporating four months intensive business model development followed by twelve months investment readiness support." The Leeds Accelerator operates in conjunction with the City Council and the Joseph Rowntree Trust. Details of the programme can be downloaded here.

The five incubators in the Leeds City Region are in Barnsley, Bradford, Huddersfield and Leeds. All but one is connected with a university:

3M Buckley Innovation Centre
Barnsley Business and Innovation  Centre
Leeds Innovation Centre
University of Bradford Business Bioscience Incubation Suite
University of Huddersfield Enterprise Scheme

The University of Huddersfield operates the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre and the University of Huddersfield Enterprise Scheme.  The 3M Buckley Innovation Centre is named after Sir George Buckley, a graduate of Huddersfield University, who became CEO of 3MUnited Kingdom Plc. The Centre "facilitates business growth, encourages business to academia collaboration and actively promotes innovation". It caters for all businesses from startups and other small businesses to multinationals and offers "traditional and alternative funding support, national and international markets, skills partners, and access to technology, through a range of commercial, technical and support services." Facilities include hot desks, office space, flexible workshops, laboratories meeting and conference rooms. The University also provides office space, mentoring and other services to undergraduates and recent graduates who wish to set up their own busines.

The University of Bradford supports businesses in bioscience through the Institute of Cancer Therapeutics and digital health through the DHEZ (the Digital Health Enterprise Zone). The University has created a bioscience business incubation suite with offices and laboratories in its ICT building which has so far attracted three companies. Businesses and scientists outside the University are encouraged to join the incubator. The DHEZ offers business support, product design, testing and marketing services and funding.

The Leeds Innovation Centre already provides office space on the University of Leeds campus for businesses that are connected with or work closely with the University. It plans to move to new premises in September 2018 which will offer laboratory space as well as meeting rooms, a lecture theatre, cafĂ© and other facilities.

The Barnsley Business and Innovation Centre ("BBIC") is the only incubator in the list that is not connected with a university. It offers office accommodation and a range of business support services including a monthly pro bono IP clinic between 10:00 and 12:00 on the second Tuesday of every month from me. Those services have recently been extended to businesses outside the Centre with the BarnsleyBiz Surgeries initiative which will include regular talks by me (see Lunchtime Talk - "How can I protect my Business Idea?" Barnsley BIC 9 May 2017 12-15-13-15 21 April 2017).

Should anyone wish to discuss this article or startup support in general, they should not hesitate to call me on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact form, Readers may also be interested in my accelerators and incubators resources page on my Inventors Club blog.

21 April 2017

Lunchtime Talk - "How can I protect my Business Idea?" Barnsley BIC 9 May 2017 12-15-13-15

Standard YouTube Licence

Jane Lambert

I have been holding free 30-minute consultations on intellectual property and related areas of the law at the Barnsley Business and Innovation Centre ("BBIC") between 10:00 and 12:00 on the second Tuesday of every month for the last 10 years and at other venues in the North of England for even longer. During that time, the question that I have been asked most frequently is "How can I protect my business idea?"

It is not an easy question to answer because it depends on the type of product and the nature of your business. A patent may afford the most extensive protection for a new product or process but if the costs of patenting, insuring and policing the are likely to outweigh the income likely to be generated from the invention you would be better off looking at other forms of legal protection.

To help start-ups and other small businesses work out the answer for themselves I shall be giving a talk entitled
How can I protect my Business Idea?
 at Barnsley BIC on 9 May 2017 between 12:15 and 13:15.

I will introduce you to all the tools in the legal toolbox such as patents, trade secrecy, unregistered design rights, trade marks et cetera.

I will tell you the advantages and disadvantages of each type of protection. For example, patents offer the most extensive protection but they are expensive to get, maintain and enforce, they are not always easy to get, they may be revoked after grant and you have to disclose to the world including your competitors how to make or use them.

I will explain how to get each type of IP and how much it will cost.

I will give you some useful tips about insurance, watch services and enforcement.

I will advise you on the different types of IP professional, where to find them, how to instruct them and how much they are likely to cost.

Finally, I will share a methodology for working out an IP strategy.

Space is likely to be limited so call Christine Mason on 01226 249590 or  George Scanlon on 020 7404 5252 to book your place.

The full address of BBIC is

Barnsley Business and Innovation Centre
Innovation Way
S75 1JL

Tel: 01226 249590

You will find full directions on the BBIC contact page. Usually, there is plenty of on-site and street parking. The BBIC is not far from the town centre from where there are good rail links to Huddersfield, Sheffield, Leeds, Wakefield, Doncaster and the rest of the country and well served by local buses.

10 April 2017

CIPA York Meeting

Brighter Days in York?
(c) 2016 Jane Lamber: all rights reserved

Last Thursday I was one of the speakers at the York meeting of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys ("CIPA"). The other speakers were Louise Edwards of Mazars, David Bloom of Safeguard IP and Kalim Yasseen who is a patent examiner with the Intellectual Property Office. CIPA's president, Tony Rollins, chaired the meeting.

I spoke about IP Litigation after Brexit.  Although we Brits tend to be seen as the awkward squad when it comes to the European project there has been one initiative upon which we have been commendably communautaire. That initiative has been a single European patent for all the member states of the European Union with a single court for the resolution of disputes relating to such patents. The reason why we have always supported that initiative is that patent enforcement litigation in the UK is the most expensive in Europe. The cost of enforcement probably has a lot to do with why the UK trails not just Germany and France in the number of European patent applications but also Switzerland with one eighth of our population and the Netherlands with one third. Something that I have been saying for most of the last 10 years (see Why IP Yorkshire 10 Sept 2008),

The Uniform Patent Court, which will probably come into being towards the end of this year or the beginning of next, would have put British industry on a level playing field with its continental competitors. Unfortunately, the chances are that we shall have to leave when we quit the EU. After we go it will be even more important to do something about reducing the cost of IP litigation in the UK. One solution will be to make better use of the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court ("IPEC") and, in particular, its small claims track. Another consequence of Brexit is that we shall be looking for new export markets outside Europe where the IP environment will be quite different. Not all those markets protect intellectual assets adequately and I suggest that the UK's bilateral investment treaties with 117 foreign states might help. I discussed all these items in greater detail in IP Litigation after Brexit 9 April 2017 IP North West).

Louise gave is a Patent Box Update in which she discussed the effects of the Finance Act 2016 and proposed Finance Bill and considered a number of case studies. She covered some of the rules on patent box relief contained in the 2016 Act and gave us some statistics on take-up. There were apparently 55 companies that took advantage of the scheme in North West England but rather more in Yorkshire. She mentioned the base erosion and profit shifting project of the OECD and how it will affect IP and in particular licensing and distribution. Finally, Louse spoke about three cases that were on her desk right now. One concerned an "ideas company" and its licensing activities. Another, a patentee who had found a new use for his (or her) invention. Finally, a "serial inventor" who insisted on holding onto his IP even though it was not at all tax efficient.

Louise illustrated her talk with bear traps, signposts to "opportunities" and gold nuggets of which there were many. She also had a short sighted computer literate bespectacled terrier under the caption "No tax tail wagging me!" A useful reminder that tax schemes with the primary purpose of avoiding tax will not be bought by HMRC or, for that matter, the courts.

David spoke about IP insurance which is a topic very dear to my heart. I have written quite a lot of articles about it over the years, the last being IP Insurance: CIPA's Paper 1 May 2017 NIPC Inventors' Club. In my view, there is no point in spending a lot of money on obtaining a patent unless you are prepared to enforce it. Despite IPEC and the UPC which I mentioned in my paper it still costs an arm and a leg to enforce an IP right in England. IP insurance can help with that and David said that the choice of insurance products was going up and the cost of premiums was going down. At one time, patent agents used to warn their clients not to waste their money on insurance. I am glad to say that I don't think they do that anything like as much nowadays. If I were a patent or trade mark attorney I would make all my clients aware of such things as IP insurance and watch services and point them in the direction of someone who could give them some dispassionate advice and information.

Kalim, whom I had met when he gave a super talk to the Sheffield inventors club entitled "Filing a UK patent application - process and procedures" on 6 Feb 2012, discussed changes to the Patents Rules 2007 some of which were coming into effect that very day (see Changes to Patents Rules on 1 October 2016 and 6 April 2017 1 Sept 2016 IPO website). These included "omnibus claims" - not an application for a patent for a new kind of charabanc but a basic repetition of the description in the specification - and the communication of patent renewal reminders. Some of these new rules such as the examiner's notification of intention to grant seem to me to be very useful and most have actually been in force since October.

Kalim also spoke about changes to the IPO's portion of the .gov.uk website which seems to reinstate some of the useful bits of the old professional pages section of the IPO's old website. One useful feature is password protected access to the examiner's file. Another is the updating of the Manual of Patent Practice.

Finally, Kalim gave us some tips on working with your examiner. He assured us that he and his colleagues were quite approachable and perfectly reasonable but there are some things that get their goats of which we should be aware. Fairly common sense things in my view.

The meeting took place in the Principal Hotel next to the station. It seems to have undergone considerable renovation and refurbishment. It was much smarter than it was when I last visited it. They laid on a hot and cold buffet with soft drinks for lunch, tea and coffee at half time and gallons of prosecco for those who did not have to drive. Patent seekers generously added some Welsh whisky, easter eggs and chocolate bunnies to the festivities and we were well away. As I was precluded from partaking in the whisky, I was tempted to mention Mr Justice Laddie's decision in Matthew Gloag and Son Ltd and Another v Welsh Distillers Ltd and Others: The Runes 27 Feb 1998 but thought better of it.