Monday, 16 October 2017

The Business and Property Courts in Birmingham

Birmingham City Centre
Author GavinWarrins
Reproduced with kind permission of the author
Source Wikipedia

Jane Lambert

For several years, the specialist judges of the Chancery and Queen's Bench Divisions in London, including those who sit in the Patents Court and Intellectual Property Enterprise Court ("IPEC") or hear other cases in the Intellectual Property List, have worked together in the Rolls Building. Since 2 Oct 2017, those judges together with the specialist judges in Birmingham and other major cities have been known collectively as "The Business and Property Courts". I wrote about the development in Launch of a Judicial Superhighway? 12 July 2017 IP Northwest, The Leeds Business and Property Courts 12 July 2017 IP Yorkshire and "Better than the M4 - The Judicial Superhighway" 2 Oct 2017 NIPC Severn.

According to Ed Pepperall QC, the national network of Business and Property Courts was a Birmingham idea.  He discussed its conception and development in The significance of the new Business and Property Courts – a view from the Bar.  His article is a contribution to a new introduction to the Business and Property Courts in Birmingham which was compiled by the Midlands Chancery and Commercial Bar Association and published by LexisNexis.

The introduction states that one of the advantages of the project will be the integration of the courts sitting in Birmingham with those in London:
"The B&PCs will be a single umbrella for business specialist courts across England and Wales. There will be a super-highway between the B&PCs at the Rolls Building and those in the regions to ensure that international businesses and domestic enterprises are equally supported in the resolution of their disputes."
It adds:
"Lord Justice Briggs’ reports have consistently recommended, and the Judicial Executive Board has accepted, that no case should be too big to be tried outside London. We should be able to provide an integrated Business & Property Courts structure across England & Wales. The aim is to achieve a critical mass of specialist judges sitting in each of the Business & Property regional centres so that all classes of case can be managed and tried in those regions. At the moment, many such cases migrate to the Rolls Building for a multitude of inadequate reasons. Once there, they are often tried by a section 9 circuit judge from the region whence the case originated. It should become easier to transfer regional cases back to the regions for management and trial.

Waiting times are considerably less in the regional centres than they are at the Rolls Building. In all the Business & Property Courts and Lists, a High Court judge can be provided to try an appropriate case outside London."
If specialist cases are tried regularly in Birmingham and the other major regional court centres more local practitioners will develop expertise in patents, registered and registered Community designs, semiconductor topographies and plant breeders' rights which are reserved by CPR 63.2 to the Patents Court and IPEC in London.  Although the Patents Court and IPEC Guides have always stated that the Assigned and Enterprise judges are ready and willing to sit outside London for the convenience of the parties and to save time and costs, a patents trial outside London does not happen very often. I can think of only one case, Hadley Industries Plc v Metal Sections Ltd and another [1998] EWHC Patents 284 where that happened and that was nearly 20 years ago. In that case, the claimant's solicitors were in Birmingham and the defendant's in Nottingham but the counsel (one of whom is now an assigned judge) came from London.

In addition to an overview and chapter by Mr Pepperall, the introduction contains profiles of the judges who sit regularly in the Birmingham Business and Property Courts and lists useful email addresses and phone numbers and useful practice notes such as "Where to start a claim" and other guidance.

Should anyone wish to discuss this article or the Business and Property Courts generally, he or she should call me on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact form.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

SME2017 - 3 and 4 Oct

Jane Lambert

The Coventry and Warwick Local Enterprise Growth Hub's SME2017 opens at the National Exhibition Centre at 09:00 today and runs until 16:00 tomorrow. It is billed as "the Midlands biggest exhibition for SMEs", There is a massive exhibition and there are two days of seminars with talks on finance, funding, innovation, IT, marketing and outsourcing. Tickets are free and may be ordered through the event's website.

The Intellectual Property Office will be at the show and one of the speakers will be Gary Townley. He will speak in the Innovation Platform Theatre from 15:00 to 16:00 today.  You will find a summary of his talk by clicking the "Innovation Theatre" tab on the "Seminars" page of the SME2017 website. Gary will be followed on the platform by Mark Houghton of Patent Outsourcing Ltd. of Bakewell who will speak from 16:00 to 17:00. You will find a summary of Mark's talk immediately below Gary's.

Between them, Gary and Mark should give you a good introduction to intellectual property and how it can be used to protect your investment in branding, design, technology or creativity. There is, of course, a limit to what they can cover in two hours.  If you require further information locally, you can visit the Business and IP Centre at the Library of Birmingham where you will find more resources online and in print as well as talks and clinics with patent and trade mark attorneys.  If it is hard for you to get to Birmingham there are other Business and IP Centres in Exeter, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Northampton, Norwich and Sheffield and Patent Information Units in the rest of the UK.

You will also find information about IP and technology law in the West Midlands in this blog.  This blog is connected to NIPC Law which contains in-depth articles on IP and technology law, NIPC Branding with articles on trade marks, domain names, geographical indications and passing off for entrepreneurs and their investors, NIPC Inventors Club with information on patenting, trade secrets and starting a new business for inventors and entrepreneurs and other regional blogs covering developments in the East of England, East Midlands, London, North West, Severn Estuary, South East and Yorkshire. There are also features on the Midlands Engine, Northern Powerhouse, the Brexit negotiations and all sorts of other special topics.

If you want to discuss this article or IP generally, call me on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact form.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Intellectual Property and Birmingham's Commonwealth Grounds Bid

The National Indoor Arena, Birmingham
Author Cls14 at English Wikipedia
Licence Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 unported

Jane Lambert

On Friday 29 Sept 2017 Karen Bradley MP, Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport, announced that Birmingham would be the UK's candidate city to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games (see Press release Government confirms Birmingham bid for the Commonwealth Games 2022 29 Sept 2017).

The Commonwealth Games Federation ("the Federation"), the body that organizes the Commonwealth Games, describes them as " a unique, friendly, world class, multi-sports Games, which is held once every four years" (see Commonwealth Games FAQ).  The Games are open to athletes who are citizens of the 52 member states of the Commonwealth or the dependent territories of those member states. Over 5,000 athletes from 70 teams are expected to compete at the next Commonwealth Games in more than 15 different sports and over 250 events.

Cities that have hosted the Games report tangible and lasting benefits.  In the Commonwealth Games Manchester 2002 A Prize Worth Winning? the Manchester Commonwealth Games legacy report noted:
"The area which was once known as the workshop of the world had been in steady decline for the last 30 years. Large-scale de-industrialisation had a huge and devastating effect on employment Plans had been in place since the early nineties for the regeneration of this area. However, the hosting of the Games and the decision to site the stadium in this area was the catalyst needed. This was the focus which attracted a range of other initiatives to New East Manchester.
Is it working? This is a long-term regeneration strategy but one year after the Games how many of these lofty ambitions are now starting to be realised.
Will there be A New Town In The City?
  • Over the next 15 years New East Manchester is expected to secure over £2 billion in public and private funding. 
  • The momentum gained from the investment in world class sporting facilities at SportCity presents a new image to the commercial world. There has been a quantum shift in perceptions of the area from current and prospective residents and investors.
  • The New Business Park development is expected to create over 6000 jobs. The development of a new retail centre, four star hotel and the new housing developments are expected to create 3,800 jobs for the people of East Manchester.
  • Manchester City Football club as the new resident in the City of Manchester stadium is drawing nearly 40,000 people to the streets of East Manchester for each of its� home games.
  • There is a renewed sense of pride in the area. New canalside homes are being built and the metro link lines lay to provide a rapid transport link to the city centre.
Without the impetus provided by the Games investment on this scale could not have been secured."
Like other major international sporting events, the Commonwealth Games will be funded:
"Through the sale of international broadcasting rights; corporate sponsorship programmes; ticket sales; licensing and merchandising sales; and contributions from Central and Local Government" (see Commonwealth Games FAQ).
I have not yet found any statistics as to how much each of those revenue  streams contribute to the Commonwealth Games but Professor John T Gourville of Harvard and Professor Marco Bertini of the London Business School estimated that of the US$2.8 billion revenues generated by the Sydney Olympics some $1.3 billion came from broadcasting, $892 million from domestic and international sponsorship and only $551 million from ticket sales (see Jane Lambert Olympics Association Right and London Olympics Association Right 31 July 2017 NIPC Law).

In order to protect those revenues, the Nairobi Treaty provides special protection for Olympic symbols. The International Olympic Committee requires the government of every host city to create new intellectual property rights known as "association rights" to prevent ambush marketing and other unauthorized exploitation of the Olympics (see Olympics Association Right and London Olympics Association Right supra). To implement the Nairobi Treaty, Parliament enacted the Olympic Symbol etc. (Protection) Act 1995. After the 2012 Games were awarded to London, Parliament passed the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (Amendment) Act 2011 and Sunday Trading (London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games) Act 2012.

There is no similar treaty or legislation in the UK to protect the Commonwealth Games symbols but the Federation has registered the initials "CGF",  the words "COMMONWEALTH GAMES" and a device known as "The Bar" as UK trade marks for goods and services in classes 14, 16, 25, 38 and 41 with effect from the 9 Nov 2000 under registration numbers UK00002252153UK00002252159 and UK00002252160. Clause 18.1 of the Federation's Bylaws requires it to establish and maintain The Bar" as an official emblem. All rights relating to that emblem shall belong exclusively to the Federation. It is also required by 18.2 to establish and maintain an official flag which will consist of The Bar set on a white background featuring "CGF" above "The Bar". All rights related to the flag shall also belong exclusively to the Federation. The Federation is permitted by clause 18.3 to establish a symbol or symbols of the Commonwealth Games. All rights related to such official symbol or symbols shall belong exclusively to the Federation.  The "Commonwealth Games Intellectual Property" is defined by clause 18.4 as:
"the intellectual property rights in the term "COMMONWEALTH GAMES", the initials "CGF", the Official Emblem ("The Bar"), the Official Flag, the Official Symbol or Symbols, event specific names, symbols and logos, intellectual property relating to the organisation, exploitation, broadcasting and/or reproduction of the Commonwealth Games by any means whatsoever and any other materials, products or works that a reasonable person would assume are related to or connected with the Commonwealth Games."
Clause 19.1.1 provides:
"The Commonwealth Games Intellectual Property is the exclusive property of the Federation and the Federation owns all rights concerning its use, organisation, exploitation, broadcasting and/or reproduction by any means whatsoever."
Subject to its Constitution, Bylaws and regulations, the Federation has the exclusive right to exploit the Commonwealth Games Intellectual Property in any way that it sees fit.  No other entity has any right in respect of the Commonwealth Games Intellectual Property or any representation of it without the express written approval of the Federation. However, the Executive Board of the Federation is authorized to assign or otherwise deal with the right to exploit commercially part or all of the Commonwealth Games Intellectual Property to one or more affiliated Commonwealth Games associations ("CGA") and/or the organizing committee ("OC") of a host city on such terms and conditions as it sees fit. The decision to assign or otherwise deal with the Commonwealth Games Intellectual Property is at the sole discretion of the Executive Board. Affiliated CGAs and OCs must vest in the Federation any intellectual property to which the Federation is entitled pursuant to the Federation's Constitution, Bylaws and regulations.

The Federation reserves the right under clause 19.2 "to exploit commercially all broadcast and/or narrowcast and/or any other form of communication rights relating to the transmission of the Commonwealth Games to the public, including those related to television, radio, internet and television and radio archives, on a worldwide basis."  It also reserves the right to exploit commercially sponsorship rights in relation to the Commonwealth Games and Commonwealth Games Intellectual Property on a worldwide basis though the Executive Board is authorized to assign any or all of those sponsorship rights to the Host CGA and/or the Organizing Committee on such terms and conditions as it sees fit. Sponsors of the Games or of the Queen's Baton relay may be named as official sponsors of those events.

Clause 19 B.1 of the Bylaws provides that a Commonwealth Games team is the exclusive property of the affiliated CGA in its territory and that the affiliated CGA owns all rights concerning its organization and exploitation by any means whatsoever. Commonwealth Games England has registered the image of a rampant lion above the words "We are ENGLAND" in colour and monochrome as a UK trade mark for a range of goods and services in classes 6, 9, 16, 18, 25, 28 and 41 with effect from 18 Sep 2009. That mark appears in the top left-hand corner of the home page of Commonwealth Games England. That same CGA has also registered "ENGLAND COMMONWEALTH GAMES DELHI 2010 OFFICIAL FRIEND" as a trade mark for the Delhi Games. A number of earlier marks have expired.

Subject to the written approval of the Federation, clause 19 B.3 of the Bylaws requires each affiliated CGA to incorporate The Bar along with a design of its own choosing to make its own emblem. Subject to the CGF Documents and the directions from time to time of the Executive Board, clause 19 B.4 assigns to all affiliated CGAs the right to exploit commercially the official emblem as incorporated into the emblem of the affiliated CGA within their own territories but not outside them.

Clause 19.C.1 of the Bylaws requires each OC to incorporate the Bar along with a design of its own choosing to make its own emblem.  The emblem of the Glashow Games consisted of the letter "G" in a number of circles above the words "GLASGOW 2014" and "XX Commonwealth Games" above The Bar against a green background.  The emblem is reproduced in the top left-hand corner of the home page of the Glasgow Games website. If the Federation chooses Birmingham to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games the emblem of those Games will be a heart surrounded by a burst of colours above the words "BIRMINGHAM 2022" and "XX COMMONWEALTH GAMES" over The Bar and the slogan "HEART OF THE UK, SOUL OF THE COMMONWEALTH". Birmingham City Council applied to register that emblem as a UK trade mark for goods and services in classes 6, 14, 16, 18, 25, 28 and 41 on 31 Aug 2017 under number UK00003253631. That mark appears in the centre of the home page of the Birmingham 2022 website.

When the Games came to Manchester in 2002 a number of intellectual property, contractual and commercial issues arose and I was asked to advise on some of them. I expect similar issues to arise in 2022. Anyone who wishes to discuss this post or any other issue relating to IP and sport should call me on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact form.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Innovate 2017 Conference

Jane Lambert

Innovate UK, the UK's innovation agency,  will hold its Innovate 2017 conference at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham on the 7 and 8 Nov 2017. This is billed as "an event creators, investors and entrepreneurs from all over the world", a "place to be inspired and network with future-focussed thought leaders" and a "chance to hear captivating speakers and see game-changing innovations for the first time."

The themes of the conference will be:
These themes will be explored according to this agenda.  

There will also be an innovation showcase - no details are provided but there is always an exhibition and competition by that name at the regional Venturefests, a support zone at which Digital Birmingham, Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership and the University of Birmingham and other agencies will be present and an exhibition.

Surprisingly, the IPO is not yet listed in the support zone and the IPO has not yet included Innovate 2017 in the IPO Events Calendar. Specialist advice will be required on the optimal legal protection of any intellectual assets that may result from any collaboration between creators, investors and entrepreneurs, inspiration by thought-leaders and game-changing innovation and any agreements that they may negotiate among themselves.

Should anyone wish to discuss this article, intellectual asset protection, joint ventures and licensing or any other legal topic relating to innovation, he or she should call me on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact form.

Friday, 1 September 2017

BCRS to manage Midlands Engine Small Business Loans in the West Midlands

Jane Lambert

On 29 Aug 2017, I reported the launch of the Midlands Engine Investment Fund and the publication of Spotlight: The Midlands Engine Investment Fund. On Wednesday, fund managers for small business lending were appointed in the East and West Midlands. First Enterprise Business Agency was appointed for the East Midlands and BCRS Business Loans for the West.

A small business loan is one between £25,000 and £150,000.  Loans of between £100,000 and £1.5 million are available through the Midlands Engine Debt Finance Scheme which is managed by Maven Debt Finance.  Initial enquiries as to eligibility for a small business loan can be made through the enquiries form on the BCRS website.

As I said in my report on the launch of the fund:
"Anyone seeking any kind of funding under the MEIF or any other scheme will be expected to have planned, protected and leveraged its investment in branding, design, technology and creative output and that's where I come in. If you don't already have an IP strategy give me a call on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact form.

I can help you identify your intellectual assets and suggest the best ways of protecting them having regard to your business objectives and available resources. If you already have a patent or trade mark attorney, solicitor or other professional advisers I can work with them. If not, I can put you in touch with some of my contacts and help you choose and instruct the ones you like best. I can incidentally also put you in touch with many other professionals such as product design consultants and IP insurers and introduce you to your nearest Business and IP Centre or Patent Information Unit where you can get more advice and assistance either free of charge or at a very modest cost."
Further information on IP strategy can be obtained on my What is Intellectual Property Strategy? resource page and further information on the Midlands Engine on my Midlands Engine resource page.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

British Business Bank launches the First Tranche of the Midlands Engine Investment Fund

The Midlands
Licence Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 unported
Source Wilipedia

The Midlands Engine Investment Fund ("MEIF") is a joint initiative between the government owned British Business Bank and a number of local enterprise partnerships ("LEPs") in the West and East Midlands. The participating LEPs from the West Midlands are the Black Country, Coventry & Warwickshire, Greater Birmingham & Solihull, Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire, The Marches, and Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnerships. The Bank hopes to make £250 million available to small and medium enterprises ("SME") in the Midlands Engine area through debt finance, small business loans, proof of concept and equity finance funds in amounts ranging from £25,000 to £2 million.

Today the Bank announced the launch of its £150 million debt finance funding scheme which is the first tranche of the £250 million (see the British Business Bank's press release British Business Bank launches first £120 tranche of Midlands Engine Investment Fund 29 Aug 2017).  Also today, the Bank published Spotlight: The Midlands Engine Investment Fund which surveys the Midlands Engine area economic and funding landscape.

Anyone seeking any kind of funding under the MEIF or any other scheme will be expected to have planned, protected and leveraged its investment in branding, design, technology and creative output and that's where I come in.  If you don't already have an IP strategy give me a call on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact form.  

I can help you identify your intellectual assets and suggest the best ways of protecting them having regard to your business objectives and available resources. If you already have a patent or trade mark attorney, solicitor or other professional advisers I can work with them. If not, I can put you in touch with some of my contacts and help you choose and instruct the ones you like best. I can incidentally also put you in touch with many other professionals such as product design consultants and IP insurers and introduce you to your nearest Business and IP Centre or Patent Information Unit where you can get more advice and assistance either free of charge or at a very modest cost.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

DIT's Midland Engine Branded Trade Shows

Jane Lambert

Earlier today I blogged about Northern Powerhouse branded trade missions in IP Northwest and IP Yorkshire. I wondered whether there was anything similar for the Midlands Engine. It turns out that there is a Midlands Engine campaign page and that six trips have been arranged.  I have written about those missions in detail in Midlands Engine Trade Missions which you will find in my East Midlands blog.

In that article, I have reminded readers to take care in the handling of their trade secrets, that is to say not to disclose secret technical or commercial information except in confidence and to take care to make sure that any NDA or confidentiality agreements are governed by English law. I have also warned of some of the difficulties that can arise at international trade shows and where readers can get further information.

Should anybody wish to discuss any of these matters, call me on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message on my contact form.

Further Reading

The Midlands Engine

Monday, 7 August 2017

Brexit and Batteries: Business Secretary's Visit to Birmingham

View of Birmingham

Jane Lambert

The Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, visited the University of Birmingham on 24 July 2017 with Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands Combined Authority and his ministers, Claire Perry MP, Margo James MP and Lord Prior.

In a wide ranging speech (a transcript of which is here) he discussed
His remarks on Brexit were probably intended to be anodyne and they almost certainly were at the time he made them.  Among the things he said was: 
"People who voted for Brexit did not vote to be less prosperous." 
Since then we have had the results of a YouGov poll in which 61% of the sample who had voted to leave the EU thought that "significant damage to the British economy" was a price worth paying for bringing Britain out of EU. Some 39% of them believed that "causing you or members of your family to lose their job to be a price worth paying" (see Matthew Smith "The 'extremists' on both sides of the Brexit debate" 1 Aug 2017). An extraordinary statistic that one of Mr Clark's predecessor picked up in his article in the Mail Online on Sunday 6 Aug 2017).

Dr Clark also denied that "the vote for Brexit was part of a global move towards protectionism – for trading less, for retreating from the world." He emphasized the Prime Minister's approach "to be a global champion of free trade, is to want to increase the complex exchange of products and services between countries, not to aim for a sort of national self-sufficiency." I share that aspiration though it seems inconsistent with an insistence on controlling immigration thereby restricting the labour supply which is a crucial factor of production. Much will depend on the terms of any withdrawal agreement that we may reach with the remaining member states but crashing out of the Union without any kind of trade deal or even making one with our biggest and nearest trading partner on terms less favourable than those we enjoy now will make that objective harder to achieve, not easier.

Much less controversial was Dr Clark's announcement of the Faraday Challenge with an investment of £246 million into research, innovation and scale-up of battery technology. The project is explained in Simon Edmonds and Annie Wise's article The Faraday Challenge – part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.  The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council ("EPSRC") has already invited proposals from UK university consortia to establish an internationally recognised virtual institute to lead in research, education and knowledge transfer.  The objective of the institute is to ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of novel battery technologies which will underpin its ability to lead in the area of energy storage. The institute is intended to provide a national hub to promote research and its application to automotive and other technologies. The EPSRC's request for proposals is here together with an FAQ on the invitation. Only universities that attended a preliminary meeting on 12 July 2017 (a list of which is here) can lead a consortium but other universities can join the consortium at any time.

As is usually the case with projects of this kind, there are likely to be all sorts of legal issues such as the terms of the contract between the consortium members, the ownership of any inventions that may be produced, the terms of any licences, the disclosure of know-how and show-how and the resolution of any future disputes that may arise between consortium members and third parties.  Anyone wishing to discuss those issues should call me on 020 7404 5252 or send me a message through my contact form.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Welcome to NIPC West Midlands

Jane Lambert

This is a blog for creators and innovators and entrepreneurs and investors in the West Midlands. Creators - artists, authors, composers, designers and performers, writers - and innovators - inventors and those who apply existing technology in a new way -make the products, processes and services upon which society depends. Entrepreneurs make them available to us and investors put up the money to make it all possible.

All of them depends ultimately on intellectual property - the bundle of rights that protect investment in innovation and creativity. Such rights are not easily obtained and are frequently challenged because they confer monopolies and exclusivity. Because they are not easy to get, enforce or maintain, many of the businesses that need those rights most fail to take advantage of them.

That is unfortunate because preserving the competitive advantage that innovation or creativity confers has a lot to do with the success of an economy.  In Europe, we have only to look at Germany whose inventors and businesses applied for 25,086 European patents in 2916 compared to 5,142 for ours in the UK. Even Switzerland with one-eighth of our population managed 7,293 applications. Overseas, China, Japan, South Korea and the USA applied for more European patents than we did and many times more than still in their own home patent offices.

The big difference between Germany and other continental countries and us is that the Mittelstand - roughly what we would call SME (small and medium enterprises) - are much more likely to patent their inventions, trade mark their brands and register their designs. The main reason for that is that it was considerably cheaper and easier to enforce intellectual property rights in those countries than here. As I said in "Litigation Costs in England and Continental Countries" in Dispute Resolution it is still true for big ticket litigation in the Patents Court but the authorities have been trying to do something about the differentials in costs.

First came Intellectual Property Office opinions in 2004. These are authoritative opinions by patent examiners on whether a patent is valid or whether it has been infringed which cost £200. I was present at a consultation at the IPO in 2003 which was attended by the Comptroller and Sir Robin Jacob who was then a judge of the Patents Court and the presiding Chancery judge in Birmingham when the idea for this service was first mooted. I also arranged a workshop in Leeds in 2005 with IP insurers when we explored how they could make it easier for IP owners to get after-the-event insurance.

Next came the IPO's mediation service for which again I arranged a conference with the IPO and World Intellectual Property Organization. I am a member of the WIPO's panel of neutrals and also one of the external mediators on the IPO's list of mediation providers. I have a lot of experience of alternative dispute resolution both as a neutral and as counsel.

Finally, time limits and cost caps were introduced for the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court ("IPEC") together with a small claims track which brought most IP litigation costs in this country more or less in line with those on the continent. Also, by pressing ahead with ratification of the UPC Agreement the government is doing all it can to reduce the costs of big ticket patent litigation by advancing the Unified Patent Court and unitary patent despite Brexit.

There has been some increase in demand for IPO opinions and the use of IPEC but not a commensurate increased in the number of patents that are sought by British inventors. When I have tried to find out why businesses have not made more use of the IP system I am told that "IP is for big businesses and not for the likes of us." That is just not the way their German, American, Korean, Japanese or Chinese counterparts would think.

The problem is one of perception and that is where this blog comes in.  There are a lot of services in the West Midlands that are either free or reasonably priced.  There are, for example, free IP clinics at the Library of Birmingham between 17:00 and 18:30 every Monday evening.  All you need to do is call 021 303 6800 or email to book a slot. The Library can also help you with many other services including workshops, seminars and introductions. If you want to stop someone from selling knock offs of your products or using a brand that is similar to yours you can now bring a claim virtually risk-free for a few hundred pounds in the IPEC small claims track, There is also low-cost IP insurance and services like Legal Cost Finance that let you spread the cost of first class advice and representation.

Although I now live in Yorkshire I have a lot of connections with the West Midlands. I was born in a clinic in Manchester but my parents brought me home to Much Wenlock where they were then living. My first school was in Lichfield and when I came to the Bar I spent a lot of time in the Walsall, Wolverhampton and Birmingham County Courts. I was in one of the first Chancery cases in Birmingham after it got Chancery jurisdiction. I have many clients in the region both big and small.

If you want to discuss this article or any other matter relating to IP or related areas of law, call me on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message on my contact form.