Category Archives: IP issues

Fun and games with removals firm names

Bearded Bros RemovalsOn my travels around Sussex I recently found myself looking at the back of a van with this very distinctive image staring back at me. On further inspection I discovered it wasn’t the reincarnation of ZZ Top, but Bearded Bros Removals of Brighton. As you can see from this screen shot below, they are acually quite a friendly bunch.

Bearded Bro's Removals I Man

This started me thinking about removals companies and how some of them attract customers using unusual and memorable names.

When I moved house last year we used Rhino Removals. Who happily did lived up to their reputation rather than their name, and were nice and gentle with packing up and moving our household. I’m not sure the artwork they use on the side of their vans is helpful from this point of view.Rhino removalsI did a little bit of research using the Business & IP Centre company databases and came up with list of fun names for removals firms. I was glad to see there was an Aardvark Removals there, which must date back to the days of alphebitical printed listings. Having two A’s at the front of your name ensures you are the first in the list,

My favourites two are Movers Not Shakers and Exodus Removals & Transport. But I’m also a fan of United States based The Sultans Of Schlep!

Which company would you choose?

  • A Nice Man With A Van
  • A1 Moves Ltd
  • Absolute Removals Limited
  • Ants Removals Limited
  • Anytime Removals Limited
  • Aussie Man & Van Limited
  • Big Van Removals Limited
  • Busy Bees Removals Limited
  • Chariots Of Chelsea Limited
  • Clockwork Removals
  • Exodus Removals & Transport Limited
  • Fantastic Removals Ltd
  • Fast Removal Services Ltd
  • Flexible Movers Ltd
  • Friendly Movers Limited
  • Full House Removals And Transport Limited
  • Gladiator Removals Ltd
  • Humpit Removals
  • Jumbo Vans Ltd
  • Just Moving Ltd
  • Kiwi Movers Ltd
  • Max Storage Limited
  • Move It Mate Removal Services Limited
  • Movers Not Shakers Ltd
  • Movingto Ltd
  • Neat Removals Ltd
  • No Fuss Removals Limited
  • Polish Movers Limited
  • Prime Time Man And Van Limited
  • Real Man And Van Limited
  • Reliable Removals Limited
  • Son Of A Gun Limited
  • South Park Removal Service Limited
  • Stork Removals And Storage Limited
  • The Green Man And Van Ltd
  • Van Girls Ltd
  • Vantastic Removals Limited
  • Vertigo Transport Ltd
  • We Move All Limited
  • Wehustle Enterprises Limited
  • Wise Move Limited

 

Lego jumps into the virtual world of Minecraft with a splash

lego_worlds_manI have written before about Lego’s remarkable comeback story, and how more recently they have adopted a crowdsourcing approach to developing new product ranges – Lego gets into bed with Dr Who. They have also spread their brand into the digital space over the years including Lego movies and television shows, and successful computer games such as Lego Batman which has been officially recognised as the best-selling superhero videogame of all time.

However, despite a previous attempt with  Lego Universe in 2010 (which only lasted a couple of years), they have allowed Minecraft to become the monopoly player in the digital building block market place. Started by Markus Persson in 2009 it has grown to a user base of 70 million, and in September of 2014 was taken over by Microsoft in a $2.5 billion deal.

But now It turns out that Lego has not been idle during the spectacular growth of Minecraft and recently ‘soft-launched’ Lego Worlds on Steam for beta testing.

Lego Worlds is an open-world construction and exploration game in which every single element is constructed from digital Lego components. Players can change the existing worlds, or construct their own. Each landscape contains Lego vehicles, mini-figures and creatures (including the essential dragon), and are all based on real-life play-sets.

My step-son is a Lego fanatic in all of its incarnations, as well as being a keen Minecraft player. So after seeing a rave review from the influential Nerd Cubed on his YouTube channel, he was keen to buy a copy for the relatively modest cost of £11.99.

Once the download was complete he was in seventh heaven exploring the vast Lego worlds available on the system. I was amazed by the superb quality of the graphics, with the tiniest details of the real-world Lego pieces recreated on the screen. In addition to being able to travel around the virtual worlds either on foot or by climbing on board available transport such as motorbikes and horses, it was possible to recreate entire models using a ‘magic’ wand. So a helicopter or house could be conjured up within seconds and put to use.

This virtual Lego world contained the by now traditional elements seen in Minecraft of the ability to mine and build, whilst having to fight off scary monsters in the shape of Lego skeletons. But it had the added attraction of the full set of models carried over from the real-world available to build and adapt.

The beta test is due to continue until early 2016, and it will be fascinating to see how successful this game will become once fully launched into the market.

How to name your brand and get it trademarked

the-name-of-the-beastI’ve just finished reading a great book with an even greater title. The Name of the Beast by professional ‘namer’ Neil Taylor, is a guide to the ‘Perilous process of naming, brands, products and companies’.

You can tell Neil is slightly scarred from his years as a senior naming consultant at Interbrand where he discovered (much like for graphic designers), everyone is an expert. And some are very cynical about the role of professional namers such as Neil.

According to Andrew Mueller in Guardian newspaper;
“There are people, enviable yet contemptible, who make good livings inventing names for companies.

In fact, if you’re a CEO about to shovel a five-figure fee at some twit called Nathan to come up with a name like Twerq or Zamp Plus or X-Zite!, get in touch – for half the money, I’ll do you something at least as good, and certainly no more foolish.”

And people often have strong emotional bonds to brands they have grown up with, and are now being ‘messed about with’. Neil give a classic example of name failure, when Royal Mail changed to Consignia in 2000. He prints three pages of hostile comments from the time, which culminated in an embarrassing ‘volt-face’ just 15 months later.

For me, the most useful part of the book is chapter 3 where he covers the different approaches to naming.

Descriptive names
Ronseal tinBy using the Ronseal approach, ‘they do exactly what they say on the tin’. Obvious examples would be pretty much anything that starts with British (think Airways, Gas, Petroleum, Telecom etc). Sadly these names are often too good to be true, and cause problems when you go international, or change what you do over time.

Neil uses one of my favourite examples, The Carphone Warehouse. This name accurately described the brick sized phones sold in warehouse outlets when they were starting out. But today they sell sleek smartphones is smart high-street shops. I wonder if the chairman Charles Dunstone called a meeting one day to come up with a new name. But someone pointed out they had left it too late, and anyway the business was doing just fine with the original name. The positive brand values had been absorbed into the name, and risked being thrown away with a new name.

MeerkatSo although descriptive names save you having to explain what the company does, they have almost all already been taken, and even if not, can risk being too descriptive to allow you to register a trademark. For instance, Compare the Market and We Buy Any Car have been refused a trademark, but Compare the Meerkat and Webuyanycar.com were allowed.

Image-based names
Moving on from literally descriptive names, image-based names work by association using metaphors. Neil gives the examples of Visa (the shopping equivalent of a passport) and Viagra (think life and Niagra). If successful this approach can give a brand a personality which can appeal to customers.

Abstract names
Some of the most powerful brands on the planet use abstract and in some cases, made up words. Apple is currently the most profitable business in history. George Eastman used Kodak because he thought k’s were cool, so why not have one at the beginning and end of his brand name? Citroen did something similar until relatively recently when they ‘owned’ the letter X. Starting out with CX, BX and XM and then moving onto more creative names such as Xsara and Xantia.

The best thing about a made up name is that it can’t already be registered as a trademark to someone else, although you do still have to be careful it isn’t similar to a word that is in use.

Names of provenance
These are abstract names, but derive from a place or person. In fact, nearly half of the world’s top 100 brands use family names. Examples would be McDonald’s, Ford, Cadbury, Kellogg’s and Dyson.

Names that break the rules
Smeg fridgeAfter spending many pages explaining the options for naming and going into detail about how to brain-storm for names, Neil give some examples of names that break the rules.

For example, I can’t believe it’s not butter, is about as far away from a short and simple brand name as you can get, even though it does sort of explain what the product is. He uses the example of U2 who have a ‘rubbish’ name but global success, whereas Half Man – Half Biscuit have brilliant one, but are long forgotten except by a few faithful fans. Or how about Smeg fridges? Surely no one would by a brand whose name is associated with “a substance that collects inside male genitalia”.  But thanks to their bright colours and trendy retro design they have become very popular indeed.

I am glad to see that Neil spends a bit of time talking about trade marks, even if it is in a rather short chapter titled The long arm of the law. He points out how trade marks trump company or domain names, which means they need to be checked first. The famous cases of Apple Corps vs Apple Computer is covered, and Budweiser US vs Budweiser Czech lager beers.

He explains how a name can exist in different classes of business activity using Polo as an example – a VW car, a mint with a hole, and expensive clothing. As long as the consumer is not confused about what and who they are buying from, there is no problem.

Neil is definitely not a fan of trade mark lawyers, but does admit they can help you work out the risk of choosing a particular name. It all comes down to predicting how the owners of similar names with react. How likely are they to send you a ‘cease and desist’ letter from their lawyers?

cillit-bangSo you don’t have to like a name, or understand what it means for it to be successful. As long as it is legal, available and memorable you should be ok. If Cillit Bang can become a household name, surely anything goes.

Lego gets into bed with Dr Who

300px-LEGO_logo.svgI have long been impressed at how Europe’s biggest toy company Lego (who’s name is derived from leg godt, Danish for “play well”), managed to pull themselves back from the brink of bankruptcy back in 2003.

One of the keys in returning to profitability was listening to what their customers wanted from the company, and so re-focusing on their core products. They also began to exploit the opportunities of licensing deals with famous brands. This explains why, when you enter a typical Lego store, your eyes are assaulted by models from Star Wars films, scenes from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Harry Potter characters, and good old-fashioned  superheroes such as Batman and Superman (in their various guises).

More recently Lego have cooperated with the internet phenomenon Minecraft to enable their customers to create ‘real-world’ creations. Surely this must be the ultimate expression of turning a virtual world competitor into a physical world partner.

LegoMinecraft

Lego have continued to develop their approach of listening to their customers by introducing  a crowdsourcing community LEGO® Ideas. This an online place where Lego fans can submit their own ideas for new products, and vote for other members’ ideas. Those getting more than 10,000 votes have a chance of being selected to be made into real Lego products. To date, nine products have been released via the platform, with three more to launch in 2015.

1781839-doctor-who-watermark

One of those will be a “Doctor Who”-themed project. The Lego Review Board has chosen the “Doctor Who and Companions” project by Lego Ideas member AndrewClark2. Andy Clark is an artist at a gaming company by day, and a Lego builder by night.

Lego Doctor Who

Doctor Who began in 1963 on BBC Television, and it is the world’s longest running sci-fi drama. Since then the show has entertained generations of British children. But since its revival in 2005 this quintessentially British show has become something of a global phenomenon. So the new ‘Dr Who’ line will be sure to find a wide audience.

 

50 Shades of Grey – the shopping experience

50ShadesofGreyCoverArtWalt Disney was possibly the first to introduce merchandising to the world of feature films in the early part of the 20th Century, and the company has certainly fully exploited the spin-off potential of their films up to the present day (Disneyland and World spring to mind).

But it was the original Star Wars films from the 1970’s that made cultural history. And in doing so also turned the director George Lucas into a billionaire. In fact he made more money from the sale of action figures, lightsabers, key chains, games, books, pajamas, etc. (thanks to 20th Century Fox giving him the rights) than from the films themselves.

So now we come up to date with the release of the long anticipated film adaptation of E.L. James best-selling erotic romance novel. Which I blogged about back in 2012- The law of unintended consequences and e-books – Fifty Shades of Grey.

Regardless of how well the film is received, it seems likely the spin-off products will sell strongly, however tacky they might be. And according to the Guardian newspaper, they are pretty tacky.

50 Shades of Earl Grey

A less tacky spin-off from the film

fifty shades of grey the official pleasure collectionAnd of course one should not be surprised to find sex toys high on the list of merchandising for the film. Even the Amazon website has a page created especially for these products, with several five star reviews already posted. There is even a Pinterest page for the Official Collection with a quote from the author: “This range is what I always imagined while I was writing Fifty Shades of Grey, I’m so excited that the toys I described in the books have come to life and can now be enjoyed around the world.” E L James

fifty shades of grey the official pleasure collection overview

A sample of the kind of products available

 

 

My new favourite trademark… Magicman

MagicmanLOGOWhilst enjoying my ‘mindful commute’ on my Brompton (as recommended by the Evening Standard – How to have a mindful commute), I spotted a van with my new favourite trademark – Magicman.

I had a quick search on the UK IPO trademark database and was relieved to see it was registered to Magic Man Limited under class 37;
Maintenance, repair and restoration and resurfacing of all (i) surfaces, cladding and facades (in each case both internal and external) including but not limited to ceramic tile, stone, stone resin, marble, granite, wood, laminate, uPVC, plastic including but not limited to thermosetting plastic, glass and powder-coated surfaces and (ii) fittings including but not limited to bathroom and kitchen worktops, sanitaryware, floors and doors; glass scratch removal; plumbing; general commercial and domestic repairs.

Magicman and van

Surprisingly there is only one other use of Magic Man on the database. It is owned by Dieck & Co. Erfrischungsgetränke OHG, and is used for;
Class 32 – Beers; mineral and aerated waters and other non-alcoholic drinks; energy drinks, fruit drinks and fruit juices; syrups and other preparations for making beverages.
Class 33 – Alcoholic beverages (except beers); alcoholic mixed beverages and alcoholic energy drinks.

Even more of a surprise was only finding one reference to ‘magician’ on the database, which is now dead, but was owned by Branston’s Limited, and used between 1948 and 1997.

Magicman has plenty of examples on their website of their ‘magic touch’ to “repair, renew and restore”.

window_repairhard_surface_doors

 

 

Farewell Boris Bikes – hello to the Brompton folding-bike experience

Brompton logo smallDuring my daily commute from Eastbourne to St Pancras and all the way back, I have been doing some ‘commuter observing’. And I have noticed most ‘hard-core’ travellers have two specialised devices in their possession. The first is a computer screen of some kind, to help distract from the long train journey by delivering various forms of entertainment.

This can vary from reading ebooks on a Kindle or similar, to watching the latest instalment of Game of Thrones on an iPad or Andriod tablet. Occasionally I have even spotted commuters actually doing work on the train.

Now that I have settled on my somewhat garish clementine orange Yoga Pro ‘laptop’, it is time to move on to the second of these devices.

And that takes us from new technology to an invention nearly 200 years old – the velocipede, more recently known as the bicycle.
Brompton Logos B&W on top

But for the serious commuter just any old bike won’t do. Or more specifically, won’t be allowed by the train operating companies. Having endured standing room only on trains for many years, I am sympathetic with banning of full-sized bicycles during the rush-hour times. Although, perhaps bringing back the guard’s van would be a way of accommodating conventional two-wheelers.

In the meantime, the only solution is a folding-bike, and this explains why they are such a common sight on my morning and evening journeys. With the rapid increase in cycling in London over the past few years has come an increasing choice of bikes, and folding-bikes in particular.

Using my information search skills I conducted thorough research into the subject, and came up with a shortlist of two manufacturers. Both had excellent reviews, and both cost just under £1,000. The first was of course the Brompton, which is by far-and-away the market leader. And a proud ‘made-in-Britain’ product exported around the world.

So being perverse I decided to go for the alternative brand. I found a shop near Eastbourne which stocked both makes, and explained my wishes to the salesman over the phone. He assured me that I would come out of the shop with a Brompton rather than the brand I wanted. And it turned out he was right. After a short discussion, the superiority its ingenious folding system and 25 percent smaller size when folded, won me over to the Brompton.Brompton folding bike

But why I hear you asking, have you abandoned the wonderful Barclays Bike Hire Scheme you blogged about in 2010? The answer – sadly, is that the Boris Bike service (which should really be called ‘Ken Bike’ in recognition of Boris’ predecessor Ken Livingston’s decision to implement the project) is not reliable enough for my needs.

A combination of glitchy technology and lack of bikes has always been something of a problem. But  since moving to Eastbourne, at least fifty percent of my attempts to hire a bike have failed. And doubling the annual subscription to £90 has only added insult to injury. The unreliability of the Barclay’s scheme added significantly to the stress of my morning journey. And as the secret to successful long distance commuting is to remove as many variables as possible, it had to be replaced with something more reliable.

Today is only day-one of my folding bike commute, so it is too early to say how effective this serious investment in improving my commuting experience will  turn out to be.

 

Personalised car number plates. Fun – Flash – or just plain Naff

Last November the father of autonumerology, Noel Woodall died at the age of 82. Noel is credited with creating the market for personalised car number plates in the UK, worth more than £2bn to the Treasury since 1989.

Noel WoodallHis interest in what grew into a multi-million pound business began in 1960 when he noticed a car driving past with the plate BB 4. He discovered it belonged to a local Blackpool Bookmaker. Thinking other people might also be interested in memorable number plates, he started the first cherished number plate business in the country.

As this was in a time before the Internet, Noel went on a research mission to his local public library, and was surprised not to find a single book on the subject. So, being the entrepreneurial type he put an advert in the RAF’s Air Mail magazine, asking for information about distinctive number plates. He received so much information in response, he decided to compile and publish it in a small book entitled Car Number Galaxy – Celebrities. It cost him £250 to produce, which was 6 months’ wages at that time.

He went on to publish more than 20 books, including Veterans, More Celebrities, Cartoons and a series called Car Numbers, written with Brian Heaton and described by its publishers as “one of the longest running, and most popular publications about vehicle registrations”.

Car Number Galaxy 1963

As for me, I grew up with a strong prejudice against preening drivers who paraded around the streets with vanity plates adorning their shiny cars, like some kind of automotive bling jewellery. I couldn’t think of a more idiotic way to waste money than to ‘invest’ in an ‘IAM GR8’ plate.

So, I was glad to read that even people involved in the industry recognise its controversial nature. Piers England an auctioneer from the DVLA’s auction company admitted, “We call them marmite products – you either love them or hate them.” To quote one contributor to an online discussion “When I see a vanity plate, I think only one thing: ID 10T”.

List of the 10 most expensive plates sold by the DVLA

  1. 1 D – £352,000
  2. 51 NGH – £254,000
  3. 1 RH – £247,000
  4. K1 NGS – £231,000
  5. 1 O – £210,000
  6. 1 A – £200,000
  7. 1 OO – £197,000
  8. 2 O –  £142,000
  9. 6 B – £130,000
  10. 1 HRH – £113,000

So how then can I even start to justify my recent purchase of N11 1NFO for my humble Skoda Octavia? The answer is a combination of my failing memory and local car park rules. Until recently there was an opportunity to end a shopping trip in town with a good deed by handing over my parking ticket to a new arrival. The grateful recipient could then benefit from whatever time remained.

The local council became aware of this ‘good Samaritan’ behaviour and decided they were losing valuable income. The solution was to introduce shiny new ‘intelligent’ ticket machines which required your car registration number in addition to payment. This was printed on the ticket to prevent it being transferred to another car. So no more ‘random acts of kindness’ in the council owned car parks thank you very much.

As well as being frustrated by this meanness of spirit, this change led to a challenge for me. Sadly I have never managed to memorise any of the number plates of any of the various cars and motorbikes I have owned since passing my driving test back in 1976. So I would either have to park with my bumper in view of the ticket machine or keep a note of my number to hand. A third and unexpected solution was to buy a new plate with a memorable number.

After much internet research and even more soul-searching I was finally ready to go ahead and join this group I had enjoyed despising for so many years. The change in my thinking came about when I realised a personalised plate was just about the only way to express personality and even humour on a product that is standardised and factory produced. If you own a Ford Mondeo it looks just a like any other Ford Mondeo apart from a limited range of colours. Although I did see a chrome-plated car the other day which was so bright it actually hurt my eyes.

chrome-mercedes

But just having an initial or two, combined with a number seemed to be a wasted opportunity. And I began to take notice of properly memorable numbers I came across in my travels. Whilst cycling through the East End of London on a ‘Boris bike’ I spotted SK1NT on the back of a brand new Rolls Royce. A nice example of four wheeled irony. I also saw a rather surprising DARR0N on an Audie A4 queuing to get out of Legoland.

Mazda car MX55-NOB

My challenge was to see if I could find a memorable plate amongst those listed at the DVLA  starting price of £250. Needless to say, there wasn’t anything close to ‘librarian’ at that price. I compromised on a combination of my initials and info (my chosen profession), with an additional redundant ‘I’ stuck in the middle.

The irony of this story is that by the time I had deliberated, purchased the number, had the plates made up, sent in the forms, and finally got out my screwdriver and physically replaced them, the council had changed their parking policy. Outraged shoppers had bombarded the local council with complaints and the local newspaper had picked up on the issue. After initially robustly defending their new ‘fairer’ policy, the politicians realised they were on a losing wicket and eventually caved in. So now when I go shopping I no longer need to enter my number plate into the ticket machine, undermining the original reason for personalising my car’s identity.

January 2015 Update:

I recently spotted a black cab outside work with the number CABBIE which was impressive. But I was even more surprised to see the same car featured in Paddington the movie, being driven by Matt Lucas.

A brand as strong as a Hippo

On my drive to work this morning I got stuck behind a big yellow lorry. It was a Hippo Bag truck, and I was struck by how strong their brand is.

HippoBag_logoApart from the bright yellow base colour, the enormous text splashed across the back made it impossible to miss.

It got me thinking about strong brands, and how it doesn’t really matter too much what the name is, as long as it is memorable. In this case Hippo conjures up images of strength which help reinforce the brand. But it is also the most dangerous animal in Africa. Hippos kill more people each year than lions, elephants, leopards, buffaloes and rhinos combined.

I had a quick look on the Intellectual Property Office trademark database and saw that Hippo has been used 333 times in trademarks. Hippobag is registered by two different owners; one by Waste Management Systems Limited for the following classes:

  • Class 22 – Non-metallic bags and sacks for the transport, transfer, handling and storage of materials in bulk.
  • Class 39 – Removal and transport of waste to transfer, disposal, recycling and treatment sites.
  • Class 40 – Recycling and treatment of waste.

But it has also been registered by The Old Tannery Shop, Cambridge under Class 18 – Bags, pouches, holsters, belts, wallets; all for carrying or holding tools, fittings and instruments; but not including any such goods made from hippopotamus skin.

 

 

Rihanna wins rights to her image over Topshop

No, this isn’t about a tabloid newspaper controversy involving the rather racy Barbadian pop star. Instead it is about a recent High Court case where Rihanna took on the high street fashion chain Topshop over the use of unauthorised photos of her on their T-shirts.

The dispute centred on the issue of ‘passing off’, a fascinating aspect of Intellectual Property law due to the way it depends, not on some arcane legal technicality, but on what an ordinary person would think.

During my seven years working in the Business & IP Centre I have learnt that Intellectual Property can be immensely technical and complex, but also has aspects that rely on good old-fashioned common sense.

The test for passing off is quite simple, would an ordinary person think the item they are buying was either produced or authorised by someone other than who they thought it was. Wikipedia defines it as; The law of passing off prevents one person from misrepresenting his/her goods or services as being the goods and services of the claimant, and also prevents one person from holding out his or her goods or services as having some association or connection with the plaintiff when this is not true.

Not surprisingly the most frequent cases of passing off tend to involve household brands. In April Which? magazine conducted a survey that found ‘a fifth of Which? members have bought an own-label product by mistake because it looked so much like a big brand. They found more than 150 own-label products they thought borrowed elements of their packaging from branded competitors. Own-label ‘copycat’ products: can you spot the difference?

One of the most well-known involves the best-selling dandruff shampoo brand Head & Shoulders. They have taken numerous supermarket chains to court for producing own label shampoos which are too similar to the their brand. The supermarkets tend to mimic the shape of the Head & Shoulders bottle, their colours and font styles. Each time the supermarkets lose the case, they go back to their designers and make slight changes to their bottles, leading to another round of court action.

Head&Shoulders_vs_Boots

Next time you are in a supermarket, have a look along the shelves and see if you can see any ‘look alike’ packaging from own label brands. In my experience cereal boxes make for rich pickings. Put yourself in the shoes of the busy shopper (or in my case reluctant shopper) rushing along the aisles with only time to glance at the packages as they zoom past. It is all too easy to grab the ‘wrong’ one and drop it into your basket.

In the case of the T-shirt with Rihanna’s photo, the judge Mr Justice Birss said the “mere sale” of a T-shirt with an image of a celebrity did not automatically amount to passing off. But in this instance he thought that a “substantial number” of buyers were likely to have been deceived into buying it because of a “false belief” Rihanna had authorised it.

He said it was damaging to her “goodwill” and represented a loss of control over her reputation in the “fashion sphere”. It was for Rihanna not Topshop to choose what clothes the public thought were endorsed by her.