Monthly Archives: October 2008

Patent myths

Many of the clients I meet who have invented something new have a basic misunderstanding of the power of a patent.

They believe that once they go through the time consuming (and potentialy expensive) UK patent process. Their intellectual property is fully and automatically protected. I have to explain to them that the UKIPO (previously the Patent Office) does not act as an IP police force, they just decide who gets a patent.

In their latest IP Insight article (link) Simon Crossley, technology partner at Eversheds LLP law firm in Cambridge, explains the steps inventors need to employ to protect the commercial content of their ideas.

One of the key activities is to watch the market for infringements.

“You might as well forget about your IP, if you ignore what everyone else is doing in your market and let the unscrupulous trample on your rights. In the same way as you watch your competitors’ marketing strategy and product development, you should think about whether anyone is misusing your rights, swiping your inventions or lifting your software.

If they are sticking your brand on a product, that is easy to point out. In a complex piece of technology, it can be harder to prove that your IP is being abused. But without proof, you are not going to get any sort of remedy.”

Web 2.0 Made Easy

I greatly enjoyed our Web 2.0 Made Easy event this evening. We had a full house with over 60 enthusiastic visitors, all wanting to learn more about this important topic for small businesses.

The presenter Jude Habib from Sound Delivery said she wanted the event to be informal, and that was certainly what she got, with a stream of questions varying from ‘what is a blog’ to ‘how do you get sponsorship for your podcast’.

There were so many questions that Jude barely made it through her excellent slides before closing time at the Library. There was some pretty intensive networking going on as the audience was on their way out of the building.

There was a great deal of demand to run another event covering the topic, and a lot of interest in the all day event An Introduction to Social Media for Business on 14 November.

I thought this slide was an excellent way of reviewing wether you (or your organisation) are ready to engage with social media technologies.

It is important to be aware of the democratic nature of Web 2.0, including the ability of your customers to post negative comments.

Children run riot at the British Library

Today was definitely children’s day at the British Library with literally hundreds coming in (with their parents) to the Big Picture Party. The day was to celebrate the value of the picture book in encouraging family learning, reading, creativity and enjoyment.

I am sure having well-loved children’s illustrator Quentin Blake in attendance was a big factor. He gave a talk on the importance of illustration and picture books. He also referred to his plans to create the UK’s first centre dedicated to illustration, the House of Illustration, due to open in late 2011.

I was on an all day course getting to know the Business & IP Centre partners, but managed to pop out for a few minutes at lunchtime to see the throngs of happy children.

Not all of the adults were so happy, and apparently there were quite a few complaints from our more traditional (and elderly) visitors who think the ‘silence is golden rule’ should be applied to all parts of the British Library. I suspect they would also be fans of the 15th Century proverb ‘children should be seen but not heard’.

An encounter with an urban fox outside the British Library

Not the actual fox I saw - I couldn't get my cameraphone out quickly enough

Not the actual fox I saw that night

After my recent blogs about the variety of wildlife in my home location, varying from deer in my garden to the Beast of Balcombe, you can imagine my surprise by my latest encounter in the heart of London.

I was rushing to catch my train at around 8.45pm after a late meeting with a Business & IP Clinic client. I had just left the staff exit of the British Library and was heading north along a busy Middlesex Street towards St Pancras station. Suddenly I was face to face with a large wild animal. After a second or two I realised it was a fox, and although it initially appeared to be as surprised as me (we were less than 10 feet apart), it soon recovered its composure. I last saw it slipping down into our disabled entrance and then swiftly out of sight.

I had a brief conversation with a fellow commuter behind me who had also seen the fox, but had to rush on for fear fo missing my train.

I shall certainly keep my eyes peeled for more wildlife sightings in future when I am venturing out after dark in London.

A credit crunch silver lining?

I got the day off to a depressing start on Monday by listening to a recent Radio 4 In Business podcast on the credit crunch.

It consisted of a live discussion with the following experts:

  • Keith Clarke, Chief Executive, Atkins Engineering
  • Jon Moulton, Founder, Alchemy Partners
  • Julie Meyer, Chief Executive, Ariadne Capital
  • Bob McKee, Chief Economist, Independent Strategy
  • George Cooper, Author, The Origin of Financial Crises and Fund Manager, Alignment Investors
  • John Kay, Economic Commentator

Although John Kay was the least pessimistic in terms of how bad we can expect the economy to get, the only person who had anything positive to contribute was Julie Meyer, the co-founder of First Tuesday, who spoke at our Desperately seeking finance event in April. She felt that the economic downturn would lead to an increase in small business startups, particularly one person companies. Certainly my 16 years working in the City of London leads me to believe that many of the recent (and expected) redundant staff will welcome the opportunity to explore more satisfying and valuable career opportunities, even if they are less materially rewarding.

The Future is not what it used to be

Went to a fascinating Sir Kenneth Cork Management Lecture last night at the Octagon (part of Queen Mary, University of London in the Mile End Road).

The event was organised by the London Branch of the Chartered Management Institute and featured Brian Baldock currently Chairman of Mencap.

In his wide-ranging talk Brian covered the changes to technology, society, communications, business and finance which have brought us to our present state. He explored how once cutting edge Business Models are now universally outdated; why corporate re-engineering, re-organisation and cost-reduction processes are all time and effort wasted; why organisation structures and processes are generally not fit for purpose.

His role model companies were Google who are focussed on creating services their customers want, and Walmart who constantly reduce the price of products for their customers.

Amongst a long list of suggestions for what business needs to do to become competitive in the future were the following highlights:

  • Eliminate committees
  • Replace trainers with coaches
  • Create a culture of ‘restless dissatisfaction’
  • Become customer and consumer obsessed
  • Think the unthinkable
  • Recruit mavericks

The Secret of Success: How to be a Start-Up Star

I am grateful to my colleague Julie Boadilla for this report.

I thought this event was a very productive session. Having done a bit of networking on the night of the event, I noticed that most of the attendees were undergraduate students. There were four presenters who explained how they set up their businesses and gave tips on how to become successful, they also outlined how they overcame challenges and obstacles they encountered.

The first speaker was Adam Goodyer who’s business  Concert Live produces live CD’s of music concerts within 15 minutes of the end of the event, so fans can re-live the concert experience. He decided that rather than rely on patents to protect his invention he would compete by being better than his competitors. Despite no previous music industry experience, the company is going from strength to strength, and last year generated revenue of over £1million. His tip was to always be aware of the little things. He didn’t arrange for local banking facilities in the early days and so ended up in the uncomfortable situation of having to take a bin bag with £65,000 in cash to his local branch.

Tricia Weener is co-founder of Intelligent Marketing, a creative marketing agency that achieved a £2million turnover last year, and represents clients such as Honda, Woolworth’s and Guinness. Tricia and her co-founder won this year’s Women in Business category at the Startup Awards. She recommended not to be afraid of employing people who are better at you.

Rhodri Ferrier of Bulldog Grooming Products left samples of his natural moisturiser for each person in the audience. The company was named “Sainsbury’s Small Branded Supplier of the Year 2007/08”.

We also had Dan Cobley, who is marketing director, UK Ireland and Benelux for Google.

I thought it was interesting and informative in a way that they explained what they did right and wrong. Also they were honest and admitted that they made mistakes along the way.

The 45 minute questions and answer session was equally good and overall I greatly enjoyed the event.
Julie Boadilla

South of England wild with big cats

I’m not sure if BBC South have been reading my blog recently, but this evening they had a feature news story on big cats spotted in the South of the country.

They had a couple of scratchy videos which could have been a lynx, plus lots of citizens who had seen these beast close up – even brushing past in one case.

As you can see from the graphic copied from the BBC website there have been plenty of spottings. I still can’t quite make my mind up on this. Some of the stories are worryingly similar to the kind of alien or crop circle ones I have heard over the years.

‘Beast of Balcombe’ spotted in my backyard

Definitely not the Beast of Balcombe

Definitely not the Beast of Balcombe

Although I feel very fortunate to live so close to nature in my rural retreat on the edge of Balcombe, I feel somewhat perturbed by the recent spotting of the ‘Beast of Balcombe’ just beyond my back garden.

As you will have seen from my recent post, deer are not unknown in my garden, and in fact are becoming something of a pest in to gardeners in Mid-Sussex. When I first moved into my current house we also used to have rabbits wandering freely in the garden. But that all stopped when our aged cat was replaced by two young and active farm cats. Now we just get recently deceased remains brought in through the cat flap for final consumption on the kitchen floor.

However this ‘big’ cat appears to be a puma from the recent sighting (and sounding) from a reliable source in the village. I shall certainly be on the lookout for the ‘beast’, and if I manage to snap a photo you will be first to know.

Fans of big cat sightings in the south of England can keep up do date with a blog dedicated to this topic.

Business & IP Centre minor media star

We are very proud of Jeremy O’Hare our minor media star in the Business & IP Centre team. His first appearance was last summer on the BBC’s Working Lunch show.

They came in to the Centre to film a ten minute slot on our wonderful and unique free sources of information and interviewed a couple of our ‘success stories’. As well as finding out how they had used our information, the journalists wanted to interview a member of our reference team. Jeremy volunteered and did an excellent job, suppressing his understandable nerves to give a clear but enthusiastic summary of our service.

In fact Jeremy’s appearance was so successful the rest of the team had to deal with several weeks of answering phone enquirers who specifically asked for Jeremy to assist them with their business information needs.

Since then he has played a staring role in our award winning interactive annual report.

Last week we received a call from the Working Lunch show saying they wanted to come in and get three British Library staff to review the latest batch of E-readers. They wanted to know if the ‘professionals’ thought we were ready to usher in the era of digital books. You can watch for yourself to see what their views were.

Once again Jeremy was pressed into action and once again acquitted himself excellently.

Who knows where this media career will lead!