13 June 2020

Demand for my IP Clinic - Flash in the Pan or Straws in the Wind

By Steve Partridge, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Jane Lambert

I have been holding monthly IP clinics in Yorkshire since 2004.  I have therefore experienced the economic downturn which resulted from the banking crisis, the slow recovery, and the 20.4% slump in GDP which the Office for National Statistics announced yesterday (see GDP monthly estimate, UK: April 2020, 12 June 2020 ONS).  I have found attendance at my monthly IP clinic in Barnsley to be a pretty good bellwether of the state of the economy.

This week for the first time in months I had three enquiries.   As I explained in Barnsley IP Clinic 14 April 2020 I have had to offer these clinics online.  That enables me to see clients at a mutually convenient rather than a two-hour session at the Business Village in Wilthorpe.  I also hold a similar clinic at the Menai Science Park in Anglesey which is now online (see Online Support for Businesses in Wales 13 April 2020 NIPC Wales).  However, until this week I had received only one enquiry and that came from North Wales),

What is encouraging about this week's enquiries is that they were all about new business ventures.  Obviously, I can't disclose who they were or anything about their businesses but they were interested in legal protection for their brands and technology. The conversations on branding led to trade marks and the discussion on protecting technology led to patents and alternatives to patents.  I also mentioned trade mark and patent searches and how to obtain them, clinics at the Sheffield and Leeds Business and IP Centres run by CIPA and others, and how and where to find a patent or trade mark attorney.

All three clients were enthusiastic and motivated.  They were aware that they were going into business at a very bad time but they had researched their markets and were sure that their businesses would grow as the economy revives. Now I may be wrong about this but I think they will succeed. I also think there are others like them from the Shetlands to the Scillies.  A flash in the pan?  Perhaps!  But I think they are straws in the wind.  I say that because something very similar happened in about 2011 and 2012. There were dips of inactivity now and then but as the economy picked up so dud attendances at my clinic.

Now for a tip.  At my clinics and inventors' clubs, I am often asked about T & C.  These are about managing risk which is why terms and conditions designed for one business may not necessarily suit another.  They are meant to dovetail with following best practice and public liability and other insurance. 

Just outside Wakefield, there stand the ruins of a medieval castle which was also about managing risk.  There was a moat to keep out wild animals, sturdy vagabonds, and other undesirables.  That was enough to deter most threats to the castle and its inhabitants.  To fight off besieging armies there was a curtain wall from which defenders could fire arrows and pour boiling all or molten lead on their attackers.  If the wall was breached, there was a keep with thick walls where the defenders made their last stand as Macbeth tried to do against Macduff.

Terms and conditions are the last line of defence.  Contract terms cannot be used to exclude certain types of liability.  The first line of defence is best practice.  That equates to the moat.   The second line is insurance. That is like the curtain wall.  Terms and conditions can sometimes be used to regulate risks that cannot be insured against and where best practice fails.   They should, therefore, be drafted with the needs of the business in mind with the insurance policy and manual if best practice to hand.

Anyone wishing to discuss this article or any of the topics mentioned in it should call my clerk on +44(0)7986 948267 or send me a message through my contact page while this emergency continues, I shall gladly respond by phone, Zoom or email.