22 July 2014

How can Leeds regain its Lustre?

Leeds Town Hall
Source Wikipedia

"Has Leeds lost its Lustre" asks The Lawyer today with the red rose above the white. Though Leeds remains an important legal centre the answer would appear to be "yes". As Catrin Griffiths wrote in "Outflanked in this War of the Roses" 21 July 2014 The Lawyer:
"Firms don’t readily offer up turnover figures split out by region, but headcount figures can tell you a lot of what’s been going on behind the scenes. The Lawyer’s data shows that the Leeds Big Six – Addleshaw Goddard, DLA Piper, Eversheds, Pinsent Masons, Squire Sanders Patton Boggs (legacy Hammonds) and Walker Morris – have all markedly reduced their headcounts in the past five years. DLA Piper refuses to give official headcount figures, but we understand it has also seen a drop of around 10 per cent in staff numbers. The biggest resizing has been at Eversheds, which has reduced its total staff numbers by a full third."
Asking "Whatever happened to Leeds" in "Out-of-London is the new London" 16 June 2014  The Lawyer Ms Griffiths noted
"Fifteen years ago it was a legal powerhouse that helped spawn DLA Piper, Eversheds, Pinsent Masons, Hammonds (now Squire Sanders) and Addleshaw Goddard. But as Manchester’s star has risen, so Leeds’ has fallen ...."
This article considers why that decline has occurred and what if anything can be done about it.

The law firms that Ms Griffiths mentioned grew quickly in the 1990s in response to a massive increase in works as a result of demutualization of building societies and a surge in consumer credit. The banking crisis put paid to both with the result that Leeds's GVA contracted sharply. According to The Lawyer it fell by nearly 6% between 2008 and 2009 while Manchester's actually grew slightly reflecting its regeneration and encouragement of new industries. The result, as Ms Griffiths concluded, is that:
"The Manchester brand has the advantage of a regenerated city, international airport, leading higher education institutions, future high-speed rail, a creative culture hub, BBC Salford (which for anyone living south of Birmingham means Manchester) and a couple of minor football teams."
In short, Manchester is doing better because it has a bigger population and a more diverse economy.

Manchester could do even better (and Leeds very much better) if their respective economic hinterlands were bigger. In "Creating a Northern Counterweight to London is good for the Nation" 5 April 2014 IP North West I referred to World Bank research that doubling a city's size increases its productivity by 3 to 8% and Evan Davis's contention that "if the population of Manchester could be quadrupled it would be between 6 and 16% richer than it is now."

Source Wikipedia

In fact, Manchester and Leeds and also Sheffield and Liverpool are located in an almost continuous built up area that stretches from Wetherby to the Wirral much in the way that Greater Los Angeles stretches from Ventura to San Bernardino in the East and Mission Viejo in the South. As in the North of England the communities of Southern California are separated by large areas of open countryside many of which are state or regional parks. Just as the Pennines separate the Leeds and Sheffield city regions from Greater Manchester and Merseyside the Santa Monica and San Gabriel mountains separate the towns and cities of the Pacific Coast from those in the San Fernando Valley.

The big difference between Southern California and the North of England is that the former thinks of itself as a cohesive and integrated whole whereas the latter does not. The sense of identity is not the result of local government unification - there are four counties and many municipalities in Greater Los Angeles - or massive infrastructure investment - there is nothing like the HS3 that the Chancellor of the Excehequer proposed a few weeks ago - indeed public transport in Southern California was appalling until a few years ago. It is entirely cultural and the thing that stops those of us in South and West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside from acknowledging that we already live and work in a conurbation of 7 million people and exploiting the economic opportunities of such a market for every type of goods and services (including in particular legal services) is our mindset.

This myopia was brought home to me at the Leeds economic conference at the beginning of this month (see "Power. Performance. Potential. Leeds Economic Conference" 5 July 2014 IP North West). The conference was opened by the Deputy Prime Minister who on this occasion spoke a lot of sense:
"It’s time for us to put aside outdated local rivalries. As we’ve seen with the Local Enterprise Partnerships in Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester, united we’re stronger."
He made the point that "Northern cities like Leeds aren't just competing with other locations in the south, east or west of England" but also have to rank against global cities like Frankfurt, Lyon, Bangalore and Chengdu for incoming investment. Clegg argued that "Leeds, along with Sheffield and Manchester, can and should form part of a northern hub, driving economic investment and growth across the north of England."
"Together, they can offer investors access to flexible, highly-skilled work forces, world-class universities with cutting-edge research expertise, a strong industrial base and clusters of innovative businesses in high-growth sectors such as precision manufacturing, creative and professional services, healthcare, retail and green industries."
Unfortunately, Clegg was followed by the leaders of Leeds and Wakefield city councils and the Chief Executive of York who really should have known better indulging in what can only be described as Manchester bashing:
"I wasn't going to mention Manchester" said one, "They're only better at self-promotion" said another. "We've hot a bigger economy £55 billion as opposed to £51 million" chimed a third to the general acclamation of the crowd."
I had come to that conference expecting to be buoyed up. After all we were there to celebrate the start of the Tour de France, one of the world's biggest sporting events, from the United Kingdom. I left the Carriageworks Theatre feeling thoroughly downbeat. So long as that sort of thinking prevails, Leeds, its business community and its professional services sector including its law firms will continue to wither on the vine. If on the other hand Leeds and in particular its professional services sector acknowledged that they were already part of a massive economic region and helped to develop it they could recover some of the dynamism that they displayed in the 1990s.

One problem with developing a sense of identity for the region is that it does not have a name. Again, perhaps, we can look to LA for inspiration. An alternative name for Greater Los Angeles is "The Southland". How about "Northland" for South and West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside?

20 July 2014

Well at least a Yorkshireman invented Cats' Eyes

Source Wikipedia

The former Manchester Guardian listed Percy Wood of Halifax as one of the top 50 Yorkshire folk of all time. He invented the reflective road market known as cats' eyes in 1933. Apparently, he got the idea after seeing a real cat's eyes while negotiating the still hazardous road from Clayton Heights to Halifax. Reflectors based on Shaw's invention are found all over the world.

However, there have not been so many inventions from our county recently. According to the Intellectual Property Office's Facts and Figures for 2012 and 2013, some 984 British patent applications were filed from Yorkshire and the Humber in 2013 compared to 1,025 in 2012.  In the same year there were 2,822 applications from South East England, 2,588 from London, 1,802 from the East of England, 1,368 from the South West, 1,259 from the North West and 1,180 from the West Midlands. However, Yorkshire was ahead of Scotland (900), the East Midlands (742), Wales (539), North East England (314) and Northern Ireland (237). Yorkshire was also 7th in the number of grants: 171 compared to 437 from South East England, 346 from London, 340 from South West England, 337 from Eastern England, 204 from North West England and 192 from the West Midlands.

There were 2,744 trade mark applications from Yorkshire in 2013 compared to 12,699 from London, 6.197 from South East England, 4,222 from North West England, 3,407 from South West England, 3,227 from the East of England and 2,885 from the West Midlands. With 2,305 registrations in 2013, Yorkshire trails London (10,583), South East England (5,258), North West (3,521), South West (2,951), Eastern England (2,651) and the West Midlands (2,329).

With 78 registered design applications and 59 registrations in 2013 Yorkshire was last but one from the bottom. Only Northern Ireland had fewer applications (19) and registrations (16).  The top three regions for designs were London (1,153 applications and 720 registrations), South East England (1,066 applications and 883 registrations) the North East (548 applications and 484 registrations). North West England had 471 applications and 397 registrations.

We can assist artists, designers, inventors, entrepreneurs and investors in Yorkshire and the Humber with our IP clinics at Barnsley BIC, talks and publications all of which are free of charge. For our chargeable services see "IP Services from Barristers" 6 Apr 2013 4-5 IP. If anyone wants to discuss his article or any patent, trade mark, design or other intellectual property matter he or she should call us on 01484 599090 or get in touch through my contact form. You can also tweet me, write on my wall or send me a message through G+, Linkedin or Xing.

2 July 2014

The Tour de France and ambush marketing

Holmfirth - the Tour de France passes through my home town

The Tour de France is of particular interest to me this year because the route passes a few hundred yards from my front door. Crash barriers have already been erected along Chapel Hill in Huddersfield and the route is festooned with yellow, green, white and polka dot flags. As everyone in this county knows, the Tour is setting off from Leeds and two of the stages are taking place in Yorkshire with a third in the East of England. There has been an arts festival since the 27 March 2014 and an international business festival in Leeds this week.

Like all major sporting events the Tour is dependent on sponsorship but sponsorship is vulnerable to ambush marketing. To protect the sponsors of the London Olympics from ambush marketing new intellectual property rights were created, namely Olympic association right by the Olympic Symbol etc. (Protection) Act 1995 and London Olympic association right by the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006. HM government was obliged to enact this legislation by the host city contract which it signed with the International Olympic Committee. Such feather bedding for the Olympic sponsors was criticized by many at the time including me (see "Olympics Association Right and London Olympics Association Right" 31 July 2012 NIPC law).

There has been nothing like those association rights for the Tour with the result that there has been a blossoming of yellow bicycles, assorted coloured flags and tea rooms and pubs throughout the county have broken out in measles (or is it polka dots). No doubt this decoration has been with the permission of the tour organizers but could anything be done about it if it was not? La Société du Tour de France has registered a number of Community and UK trade marks for the words "Le Tour de France" and some of the Tour's symbols for a large number of classes but it does not seem to have registered the colours of any of the maillots or indeed the polka dots. There is the the law of passing off, of course, but I would not like to argue that yellow, green or red spots is associated with the Tour and none other. In any case, by the time an application for an injunction came before the courts the cyclists would be well on their way to Champs-Élysées.

So tant pis as our friends across the channel would say, but does it matter?  I would reply "ce n'est pas grave",