Friday, 8 April 2011

Greater Manchester LEP: Board Appointments

In my article New North West LEPs Take Shape I explained the functions, history and purpose of local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) and mentioned that a proposal for a Greater Manchester LEP had been accepted. I can now report that it now has a new board.

The chair is Mike Blackburn, BT's regional director for the North-West (see "Mike Blackburn to head up LEP" on the New Economy Website 25 Feb 2011). The other appointees from industry are
• Keith Johnston - Partner and Head of North West Market, Addleshaw Goddard
• Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell - President and Vice Chancellor, University of Manchester
• Neil McArthur - Chairman and Head of Innovation, Talk Talk Technology
• Ken Knott - Chief Executive, Ask Developments Group Limited
• Peter Marks - Group Chief Executive, Co-operative Group
• Alison Tumilty - Deputy Chief Executive and Finance Director, Rathbone Training Ltd
• Roger Milburn - Director, Ove Arup and Partners Ltd
• Scott Fletcher - Chairman, ANS Group.
The local authority members are Lord Peter Smith, Sir Richard Leese, Cllr Howard Sykes and Cllr Bob Bibby (see "LEP Board Appointments" 1 April 2011).

Steven Reece: Top 11 Mistakes

The speaker at Manchester Inventors Group last Tuesday was Steven Reece. Steve is managing director of two companies:
  • Vici Entertainment: "a challenging marketing consultancy" and "a fresh internet business consultancy; and
  • Richinventor: an agency which licenses inventions.
His talk was entitled "Top 11 Mistakes Inventors Make in Selling their Inventions" a summary of which can be downloaded from his website.

Steve's advice was on the whole very sensible though it seemed to be focused on licensing, particularly to the toys and games industry. That is understandable given his background in marketing and his experience at Hasbro but I don't think licensing is always the best option. I would go so far as to say that nearly all the private inventors of my acquaintance who have made livings from their inventions have done so manufacturing, or at least outsourcing the manufacture of. their inventions.

One point that I did put to him in questions and answers was that those negotiating on behalf of licensees owe their first loyalty to their shareholders and management rather than to their inventors. As in any other negotiations their duty is to get the best possible deal for their company. In that regard the inventor is in exactly the same position as any other suppler. Contracts drafted by licensees have to be watched for get-out clauses, ownership of intellectual proper rights in improvements, sub-licences and so on. For that sort of thing it is absolutely essential to get good professional advice from a lawyer with expertise in licensing.

The other big event at the Tuesday meeting was a presentation to Chris Brown, the patent librarian of Manchester City Library which I mentioned in my Inventors Club blog. This was the first time I had been to the Manchester Inventors Group for several months and it was good to see some old friends again. After the meeting some of us retired to The Bank on Mosley Street which is one of the landmarks of Manchester. The Group meets at the City Library on 151 Deansgate at 18:00 on the first Tuesday of most months and its meetings are well worth attending.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Manchester Inventors Group: Top 11 Mistakes Inventors make in Selling their Inventions

The Manchester Inventors Group, which meets at the City Library, 151 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3WD on the first Tuesday of every month promises a particularly interesting talk this month. At 18:00 on the 5 April 2011 Steve Reece of the "Rich Inventor" programme will give a presentation on the "Top 11 Mistakes that Inventors Make in Selling their Inventions".

I hope to be there and I shall blog the event if I make it.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Trade Mark, Copyright and Passing Off: Westwood v Knight

I have published this case note on Westwood v Knight [2011] EWPCC 8 (22 March 2011) in this blog rather than my IP/IT Update blog because the defendant Anthony Knight came from Manchester. It is an important case because it was the first trial in the Patents County Court since the new rules came into force. The causes of action were trade mark and copyright infringement and passing off.

In the consultation on the new rules I expressed reservations as to whether the two day limitation in CPR 63.31.2 would be realistic for cases where there was likely to be a dispute on the facts:
"Two days may be enough for patent trials which are more likely to turn on the law or the construction of the specification than on fact. They are unlikely to be enough for copyright, breach of confidence or passing off where there is more likely to be a dispute of fact."
I need not have worried. Judge Birss QC seems to have coped admirably with a case where there no less than 12 issues plus the defendant's conduct as a whole and each topic had to be divided into a consideration of the claimant's rights, the conduct complained of and the relevant cause of action.

The decision itself contains only one point of law and that was the effect of paragraph 20 of Sched 1 to the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 on s.52 of that Act. S.52 limits the term of copyright in design drawings for industrially produced articles to 25 years. The corresponding provision under the 1956 Act had reduced the term of copyright to 15 years. The claimant had argued that s.52 had extended the term that existed under the old Act to 25 years. The judge held at paragraph [69] that it was the other way round:

The effect of the transitional provision is that the period of protection referred to in s52 is cut down from 25 years mentioned in the 1988 Act to the 15 year period mentioned in the 1956 Act. The claimant submitted that the effect of the transitional provision was the other way round - lengthening the period from the 15 years in the 1956 Act to the 25 years in the 1988 Act. However the provision does not work that way. The 1988 Act repeals the 1956 Act. If s10 applied before the 1988 Act then it would have applied with a 15 year period. Paragraph 20 of Schedule 1 applies s52 instead. The period in s52 is normally 25 years. Paragraph 20 substitutes
that 25 year period with the 15 year period of s10 of the 1956 Act.

The rest of the trial addressed such matters as whether

infringed this:

Not surprisingly the action was substantially successful.

This claim shows how well the new procedure works. The case was over in a day and the costs will be a fraction of those that would have been run up in the District Registry. The Patents County Court should be the usual forum for all intellectual property claims involving small businesses wherever they arise.