Thursday 24 August 2023

East End Startup Initiative

Mile End Park
Author KBthomson Licence CC BY-SA Source Wikimedia Commons


Jane Lambert

Unless an inventor is employed in a capacity in which he or she might reasonably be expected to devise inventions or he or she has a special obligation to further the interests of his or her employer's undertaking it is up to the inventor to exploit an invention.   One way is to set up in business to make (or procure its manufacture) and sell the invention.   The other is to license someone else to make and sell it.  Persuading another entity to make and market something that it has not invented often requires the same sort of market research and business planning that an entrepreneur needs to carry out before he or she sets him or herself up in business.

Setting up in business requires skills and knowledge that most persons in that position do not possess and that is particularly true of those who are no longer in the first flush of youth.  I was therefore particularly intrigued to read in this month's Tower Hamlets Council Business Support newsletter of a "Start-up School for Seniors".  The article referred to "a fully sponsored, eight-week eLearning course is specifically designed for aspiring entrepreneurs in Tower Hamlets."  The course starts on 7 Sept 2023 and is given by Suzanne Noble who is described as an entrepreneur and Mark Elliott who is referred to as a business coach.  The news item continues:

"Not only will you gain valuable knowledge and skills, but you'll also have the opportunity to apply for a £5000 grant once you complete the programme."

The website for the course is 

Now I have not attended the course but I have sniffed around the Start Up School for Seniors' website and found the sort of content that I would expect on a basic business skills training programme.  On the "Essential 8 Week Group Base" course, for example, attendees are offered teaching on business planning,  marketing and branding, money matters, legal stuff and all change pivoting.   Some of the resources are stored on a Google drive called "The Library of Good Things" which is accessible to the public.  I have read some of those materials and they are exactly what I would expect to find,

To give you some idea of the content, here is the summary on "Legal Stuff":

"We’ll discuss some of the things business owners worry about, sometimes unnecessarily. Different legal entities, protecting your intellectual property, trademarks and copyright, buying a website, public liability, and health and safety – all will become clear."

I wouldn't quibble with any of that.

The Start Up School's courses seem to be available to anyone though the incentives mentioned in the newsletter may be limited to residents of Tower Hamlets.   If any of my readers takes this course I should be very interested to learn how they get on. 

Although this is the first start-up school for seniors that I have found so far it should not be forgotten that there are other ways of acquiring the skills offered by the website.  The British Library's Business and IP Centre and many of its affiliated regional libraries offer talks and short courses on market research, business planning, intellectual property and the like either free of charge or for a small fee.  More detailed training in many of these topics is available in the nation's night schools which are about to enrol students. 

Anyone wishing to discuss this article may call me on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact form.    

Saturday 22 July 2023

Welsh Innovation Week

Although London hosts one of the world's great tech clusters it has no monopoly of innovation and enterprise.  The University of |Bangor with a growing reputation for the quality of its research opened the Menai Science Park ("M-SParc") in 2018.  M-SParc attracted some remarkable businesses which have developed products and services which have achieved wide recognition (see Emily Roberts M-SParc sweeps up at National Awards 23 June 2023).

M-SParc is coming to London between 9 and 14 Sept 2023 (see Welsh Innovation 'OnTour),  It will hold events in the House of Lords, the Welsh government's office in London and the Foue Agency's premises in conjunction with Global Welsh on digital innovation, inward investment, business support, renewable energy and many other topics.  In addition, just as it develops the mathematical and scientific skills of school and college students in Northwest Wakes it will offer a coding workshop for London kids at the London Wesch Centre and a programme on energy for the pupils of the London Welsh School.

I have set out full details of the programme in M-SParc is coming to London for my corresponding blog NIPC Wales.   All the events are free and most can be accessed by completing the simple form on Welsh Innovation 'OnTour.   The only exceptions seem to be the exhibition and conference in the House of Lords which is now fully subscribed and the Global Welsh event which requires a separate registration form.  I have registered for the "Digital Wales" event on Tuesday 12 Aug 2023 and I will assist in any way I can.

Anyone wishing to discuss this article maycall me on 020 7404 5252 or send me a message through my contact page,

Wednesday 27 July 2022

London Business Hub's Investment Ready Programme

Central London from Primrose Hill


Jane Lambert

The London Business Hub is the business support network for Greater London.  It is one of 38 local growth hubs that have been established across England.  It is delivered by the London Enterprise Action Programme which is the capital's local enterprise partnership.

The Hub offers a wide range of services including assistiance with drawing up business plans, accessing funding, intellectual property and growth and scaling up.  Its latest initiative and the reason for this article is the Hub's Investment Ready Programme which starts on 22 Sept 2022.  This is a programme delivered by Funding London which is sponsored by the British Business Bank.

According to the London Business Hub, attendees will be offered a range of group and one-to-one sessions on developing their business and seeking investment lasting up to 4 hours a week over 6 weeks. To qualify, businesses must have a minimum viable product and a strong business proposition as well as a number of other criteria. There have already been two of these programmes and testimonials from the previous cohorts appear on the programme's website. Applications for the third cohort should be lodged by 31 Aug 2022.  

Any business that is seeking investment whether through this programme or not should have regard to the legal protection of its corporate name and logo and those of its products and services.  If it has developed a new product or process it should consider how to prevent its competitors from making that product or using that service.   If the business is a joint venture there should be an agreement in writing to govern their relationship.   That is particularly important when they receive funding.  Terms for the supply of their goods or services to customers should be drawn up as well as terms for the procurement of goods and services from their suppliers.

Advice on those matters is available through the Hub and I can help too.   For well over 20 years I have been running a pro bono IP and tech law clinic in the North of England but it can be accessed by businesses in the rest of the country including London.    Anyone requiring up to 30 minutes of my time on any of those matters is welcome to  contact me through my "Initial Advice and Signposting Form".

Wednesday 28 April 2021

IP strategy for FinTech Start-ups and SMEs - and Other Matters


Jane Lambert

On Monday the Intellectual Property Awareness Network ("IPAN") celebrated World Intellectual Property Day with a seminar entitled IP strategy for FinTech start-ups and SMEs. I was one of the speakers and I shared the platform with Alessandro Hatami, Fernando Da Cruz Vasconcellos, Xuan-Thao Nguyen and Janice Denoncourt. Amanda Solloway MP, UK Minister of State for Energy and Intellectual Property sent a recorded video message as did the Dean of Nottingham Law School. Well over 100 people attended the event and I noticed some very well-known names on the attendees' list.

I have been following the law of what is now called FinTech even longer than I have been practising intellectual property law.  Indeed, as I said in Celebrating World IP Day, (26 April 2021 NIPC News), it was FinTech that led me to intellectual property.   The reason for my interest is that I was legal adviser to VISA International for Europe, the Middle East and Africa in the early 1980s I discussed that time n my profile:

"Banks were developing electronic funds transfer systems which gave rise to many new legal issues on such matters as authentication, competition, privacy, software development transactions, telecommunications regulation and trans-border data flow. I wrote a number of articles and other publications including "Electronic Funds Transfer: the Emerging Legal Issues" for the Law Society Gazette in 1984 and contributed sections on computer contracts, data protection and electronic banking to Atkin and the Encyclopedia of Forms and Precedents. I also addressed The International Bar Association in Vienna in 1984 and the International Chamber of Commerce conference on electronic banking in Madrid in 1986."

In 1985 I answered an advertisement in Inner Temple for tenants for chancery chambers in my birthplace Manchester.  I was offered a tenancy and returned to independent private practice at the English bar.  However, I continued to write about FinTech and, occasionally, I was instructed in FinTech cases.

Prof Denoncourt invited me to contribute to Monday's webinar after I  had published a case note on Judge Melissa Clarke's judgment in Communisis Plc v The Tall Group of Companies Ltd and others [2020] EWHC 3089 (IPEC) (Fintech Patents - Communisis Plc v The TALL Group of Companies Ltd. 22 Nov 2020).  That was an action for the infringement of a patent for a method of generating a payment/credit instrument and a counterclaim for revocation on the grounds that the invention was not patentable and lacked an inventive step.  The learned judge held that the patent was invalid on both grounds and that the defendant's product did not infringe.  The reason I wrote about Communisis is that it was about FinTech and disputes over such patents are relatively uncommon, at least in the United Kingdom.

In Fintech Startups – is IP important? 12 Oct 2016 The FinTech Times. Manisha Patent noted:

"It’s worth observing the “unicorns” of the fintech world when considering IP. Of the top 35 unicorns, less than 25% have filed for one or more patents. This means that the average fintech is far from IP-intensive and more centered on commodified software technology than the mythology one would want to believe."

That was the case when I was at VISA during the 1980s and it remains the case now.  As I observed in Kalifa Review fails to mention Patents for FinTech Inventions on 26 Feb 2021 in NIPC Invention, the Kalifa Review of UK Fintech hardly mentioned intellectual property at all and it did not discuss the difficulties of patenting FinTech inventions.

I discussed some of those difficulties in How far (if at all) is it possible to protect Innovation in Financial Technology? in IP Yorkshire as long ago as 12 Aug 2014 and more recently in Protecting FinTech Invention on 27 April 2017 in NIPC Law.   In the first of those articles I wrote:

"The problem is that s.1 (2) of the Patents Act 1977 declares that
'the following (among other things) are not inventions for the purposes of this Act, that is to say, anything which consists of -
(a) a discovery, scientific theory or mathematical method;
(b) a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work or any other aesthetic creation whatsoever;
(c) a scheme, rule or method for performing a mental act, playing a game or doing business, or a program for a computer;
(d) the presentation of information......'
Much of the technology used in the financial services industry are computer programs and their output consists of methods of doing business and the presentation of information."

In the second article, I added:
"Most FinTech innovation will be software implemented. Software is difficult to patent in England and indeed the rest of Europe because of the exclusion of computer programs "as such" by s.1 (2) (c) of the Patents Act 1977 and art 52 (2) (c) of the European Patent Convention. Moreover, patents are expensive to get and maintain and even more expensive to enforce. There must be full disclosure as to how they work. A 20-year term is likely to exceed many times the economic value of the technology."

One of the grounds on which the claim in  Communisis failed is that the invention was not patentable as a mathematical method and program for a computer.  Communisis is therefore an object lesson as to why patents are not usually a good way of protecting FinTech innovation.

There are alternative ways of protecting such innovation.   Flowcharts, specifications, screen output, source and object code, manuals and the contents of databases can be protected from unlicensed reproduction by copyright.  The disclosure and use of sensitive technical or commercial invitation can be prevented by the law of confidence or the new Trade Secrets Directive (Directive (EU) 2016/943 of 8 June 2016 on the protection of undisclosed know-how and business information (trade secrets) against their unlawful acquisition, use and disclosure (OJ 15.6.2016 L 157/1). Goodwill accruing to a brand can be protected by the registration of the brand name or logo as a trade mark. Finally, there is first-mover advantage.   

My colleagues' presentations were excellent.   One important takeaway for me was the lead that China has taken over the rest of the world in FinTech. That was stressed by Prof  Xuan-Thao Nguyen in her presentation but also mentioned by Alessandro Hatami in his. Prof  Xuan-Thao reminded the audience that China applies for some 1.4 million patents every year and has now supplanted the USA as the main user of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (see China Increases its Lead in International Patent Applications 11 March 2921 NIPC News).  She also mentioned the speed with which the Chinese courts can dispose of infringement and invalidity actions. China has effectively eliminated cash for most transactions.  Even beggars accept electronic payments there (see Beggars in China go cashless, but there's more than what meets the eye 2 July 2018 Business Today).

Our moderator on Monday was John Ogier who is Chair of IPAN.  He was previously Registrar of the Guernsey Intellectual Property Office. Guernsey has some curious intellectual property laws.  It is one of the few jurisdictions in the world to protect image rights (see Jane Lambert Guernsey's Image Rights Legislation 2 Jan 2013 NIPC Law and Kate Storey Guest Post - Kate Storey: Guernsey's Image Rights  8 Jan 2013 NIPC Law).  The article by Kate Storey is particularly interesting as she helped to draft the legislation when she was with Collas Crill.   Guernsey also has its own patent law even though it has no facilities of its own for examinations and searches.  The patents of any country that is listed in Sched. 2 to The Registered Patents and Biotechnological Inventions (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Ordinance, 2009 can be registered without any examination in Guernsey.   As I said tn Guernsey's Patent Law 18 Jan 2011 NIPC Law, China, India, New Zealand, Russia and the USAQ are listed as well as the EPC countries but not Australia or South Korea.

The evening finished with a Q & A.   I was asked what could be done to reduce the cost of enforcement.  I said that a lot had already been done with the adoption of Lord Justice Arnold's proposals in 2010. These limited trials to 2 days, recoverable costs to £50,000 for trial and £25,000 for an account on inquiry and damages to £500,000. I added that for most IP claims under £10,000 that could be tried in one day there was a small claims track. CPR Part 27.14 limited recoverable coss to a few hundred pounds. I recommended greater use of alternative dispute resolution such as ICANN's UDRP for domain name disputes, the IPO's opinion service for disputes over the infringement and validity of patents and the Company Names and the Company Names Tribunal. 

I reminded the audience that intellectual property law did not exist solely for the benefit of intellectual asset owners. The purpose of IP laws was to strike a fair balance between rights holders, consumers and competitors.  The high cost of litigation kept patents, trade marks and designs on the register which should not be there. 

Finally, I observed that the Unified Patent Court Agreement that Mr Boris Johnson himself had ratified in his capacity as Foreign Secretary on World IP Day 2018 would have reduced the cost of patent litigation considerably but that ratification had been reserved by none other than our fellow panellist Amanda Solloway MP on 20 July 2020. I had been looking forward to asking the Minister for the reason for that volte-face (see Jane Lambert Has the Volte-Face on the Unified Patent Court Agreement been worth it? 25 April 2021 NIPC Brexit). Sadly, the Minister was not there to justify herself.

Anyone wishing to discuss this article or any of the topics discussed in it should call me on +44 (0)20 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact form.

Tuesday 17 December 2019

Useful Seminars at the British Library

British Library
Author: Jack1956  Copyright waived by the owner

Jane Lambert

If you own, manage or invest in a startup or other small business, you should check out the Business and Intellectual Property Centre at the British Library at 86 Euston Road. If you don't know the area it is almost next door to St Pancras station and a short walk from King's Criss and Euston.  It has a massive collection of business publications with access to even more online.  It is open to anyone with a reader's card which can be obtained upon showing evidence of identity and residence.  The Library also has Linkedin and Facebook groups.

If you are new to the Centre you could do worse than attend the free workshop on 13 Jan 2020 entitled Introduction to using the  Business and IP Centre.  The seminar starts at 10:30 and continues to 13:00. atter which there will be a chance to meet the speakers, staff another attendees informally over refreshments  On the same day, there is an introduction to intellectual property entitled Can I protect a business idea starting at 14:00 and ending at 17:00 which is also free.   If you miss either of those talks they are repeated on 27 Jan (see Introduction to using the Business & IP Centre and Can I protect a business idea 27 Jan 2020).

After you have attended these introductory lectures you mat want to try some of the others.  Seminars that I would attend if I lived nearer London include
Having founded and chaired the inventors' clubs at Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield, I am delighted to see that the British Library will launch an Inventos Club on 27 Jan 2019 between 18:00 and 20:49 and I will support that in any way I can,

Anyone wishing to discuss this article or any of the issues mentioned in it should call me on 020 7404 5252 or send me a message through my contact page,

Wednesday 2 January 2019

Branding - Catching Them Young

Court Room at the Bangkok KidZania
Author ProjectManhattan
Licence Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

On Friday, the son of my former ward celebrated his 8th birthday. For a birthday treat his parents and I took him to the London KidZania which describes itself as "An Indoor City Run by Kids." Located in the Westfield shopping centre in Shepherds Bush it consists of 75,000 square feet of replica child size shops and offices on two floors where children aged between 4 and 14 can try their hands at all sorts of occupations.

Children and their accompanying adults pass through immigration where they are issued with wristbands. Activities are paid for with kidZos which is KidZania's private currency though food and drink have to be purchased in sterling.  Activities for adults are limited to queueing with children, watching their role play, consuming refreshments and riding a bus.

Like a lot of children's attractions, KidZania is a transatlantic concept, but from Mexico rather than the United  States.  The first KidZania opened as  La Ciudad de los NiƱos (Kids' City) in Mexico City in 1999.  La Ciudad was rebranded as Kidzania in 2006 when a second children's city was opened in Monterey. The Mexican company KidZania S.A.P.I. de C.V. has registered the word KIDZANIA as an EU trade mark for a wide range of goods and services in classes 6, 16, 20, 21, 25, 41, 42 and 43 with effect from 3 Jan 2003. It also holds many other trade marks and trade mark applications relating to KidZania around the world.

The company has franchised KidZania theme parks in 20 countries, mainly in Latin America (Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica and Mexico) and Asia (India, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates).  So far, there are none in the United States and only three in Europe (Lisbon, London and Moscow) bit that is about to change with planned openings in Chicago, Dallas, New York and Paris.

Activities offered at the London KidZania are branded by Alder Hey Children's NHS Foundation Trust, Aljazeera Media Network, the Bank of England, British Airways, Cadbury, Costa, Dorsett International, Eat Natural, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Global, H & M, Hamptons, Innocent, K-Market, Metro, Middlesex County Cricket Club, Mission Deli, Nintendo, People's Dispensary for Sick Animals, Roland, Snazaroo, The Original Tour and other organizations.  Alder Hey hospital, for example, allows children to role play as baby care nurses, paramedics and even surgeons.  Cadbury instructs them in chocolate making. 

About the only role plays for which no provision was made in London was the law which I would have found strange as a child for I knew that I wanted to be a barrister from a very early age. However, Wikipedia reports that there is a court at the Bangkok KidZania and there are others in other cities. 

The investment of some of those brand owners is impressive.  British Airways, for example, has contributed part of an aircraft fuselage and flight simulation equipment and many members of the KidZania staff wear British Airways uniforms.  Clearly, those brand holders see marketing or other opportunities in KidZania.

Our 8 year old tried his hand at print and TV journalism with Metro and Aljazeera, chocolate making with Cadbury and flight training with British Airways among other activities.  There was quite a lot of queueing for one or other of his parents during which time I relaxed in Costa's coffee shops. I also watched him perform in Aljazeera's TV studio and I have a new keyring with a photo of the little boy in an airline pilot's uniform.

Anyone wishing to discuss this article or the legal protection of branding generally by trade mark registration, the law of passing off, geographical indications or otherwise should call me on 020  7404 5252 during usual office hours or send me a message through my contact page.  I should also like to wish all my readers a very happy New Year.

Monday 15 January 2018

The State of Small Business in London

Jane Lambert

In Mapping Enterprise 14 Jan 2018 NIPC News I reported on the research into small and medium enterprises ("SME") across the UK that Nesta and Sage  have carried out and published in The State of Small Business: Putting UK entrepreneurs on the map their reports and on The State of Small Business website.

With 1,010,075 SME, London is the region with the largest number of small businesses. There are 37.6 startups for every 1,000 of the population which is more than 3 times the national average. However, London also has the biggest proportion of business failures (18.0 per 1,000 compared to 6.8 for the national average).  Detailed information for each local authority appears on the State of Small Business website.

Glancing at selected local authorities the City of London has 17,130 SME employing 156,145 persons of whom 41,521 are in financial services, 40,492 in professional, scientific and technical services, 18,989 in business administration and support and 16,925 in information and communication technologies. Financial services are by far the most productive sector with the greatest productivity. The City has 5 accelerators, 2 incubators and 126 flexible work spaces.  Westminster has 45,850 SME employing 325,857 persons in a wide range of business services.It  15 accelerators, 5 incubators and 257 flexible work spaces. By contrast, Lewisham has only 9,370 SME employing 30,803 and has no accelerators, incubators or flexible works spaces.

Anyone wishing to discuss article or SME generally should call me on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact form.