Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Adam Robinson, Plus Minus Design Leeds Inventors Group 20th October 2010

Adam explained the importance of good product design - pointing to the many products around us whose look and functionality has been determined by good design. Two thirds of UK businesses believe that design is integral to their future economic performance and the Design Council believes that every £100 spent on design increases turnover by £225. Design is a product package involving advertising, protection, brand development and publicity. Very often you are trying to create a lifestyle impression – convincing customers that they need the particular product in their lives.

Plus Minus Design, based in the centre of Leeds, has dealt with a great range of products – from physical products to app designs. Plus Minus Design are also heavily involved in eco development and are specialists in this area. Adam pointed out that there are big demands for this now particularly due to government regulations and consumer demand. Even a 5% improvement in this area can be quite significant and can lead to greater efficiency and lower costs.

As inventors know, very few things are totally new – coming up with an improvement or a variation is the challenge and design is the same – often changing something which is already there. Good design can add value to a product. Manufacturers prefer to see a tried and tested product rather than an idea so approaching them with a well-designed and tested product can make a big difference.

Adam then went through the various stages of developing a design. The Planning stage defines the boundaries of the project – the timescale, budget etc. At the Concept design stage different ideas are explored and put down on paper. The functional and aesthetic features begin to emerge. At the Development stage a small number of the initial ideas are refined and costed. Decisions have to be made in terms of which options best meet the clients needs and which should be dropped. Prototyping and testing is a vital stage. It can be expensive but many people don’t realise the value it represents. It indicates whether the product can actually work and it can show up potential manufacturing problems. Very often this can mean going back to the design and testing stage a number of times to iron out any problems. James Dyson made around 150 prototypes while developing his cyclone vacuum cleaner. The Design definition stage looks at materials, tolerances and components and results in a set of detailed drawings for manufacture.

He used Plus Minus Design’s “Solar Pebble”™ as an example. This product works by soaking up sunshine during the day and can then be used to provide up to 6 hours of light during darkness and also charge other products. Its purpose is to replace the kerosene lamps frequently used to provide light in Africa.

Adam’s view is that if you are going to protect a product (eg with a patent or registered design) it can be advantageous to do so at the end of the design process as the product may change significantly during this process. Plus Minus Design have several patents and they believe that patent protection needs to be international to be effective. However they also believe that sometimes a well-designed product can be just as effective in cornering the market as taking out a lot of protection on it as customers are likely to go for the best and most cost-effective product rather than the poorly designed one. Getting a product to market quickly is sometimes the best tactic. The “Solar Pebble”™ is not patented because they believe the low cost of the product and the branding will outweigh the advantages of patenting. Confidentiality agreements are obviously important.

Once a product is ready for production, there is usually the choice of self-manufacturing or licensing to someone else to produce. Manufacturing can potentially bring greater financial rewards but Plus Minus always go for licensing as manufacturing can involve significant amounts of responsibility, commitment and risk.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Looking after Number One: Panel Discussion A question and answer session about music copyright

Looking after Number One: Panel Discussion from Manchester Libraries on Vimeo.
A question and answer session about music copyright with expert advice from John Robb, writer and Goldblade frontman. Joining John is Nigel Gardner, music specialist and director at Cobbetts plus Ged Doonan, patent librarian at Leeds City Libraries and Matt Wheelton from the band Zap Zap Zap.

This was a free event hosted by Manchester Libraries at City Library, Manchester on August 25 2010.

This is quite a long video because the panel offered so much useful information and advice for young bands and songwriters we didn't want to leave any out!

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Protecting your ideas & inventions 15th Sept Leeds Central Library

Leeds libraries hosted this event led by the UK Intellectual Property Office – an opportunity for anyone interested in protecting their ideas and inventions to listen to a series of speakers and then take part in one-to-one discussions with local attorneys.

Addressing around 50 delegates Dave Hopkins of the UKIPO gave an overview of intellectual property explaining why patents, trade marks, designs and copyright are important to business – both in terms of their value and also in avoiding infringement of the rights of others.

A recent survey by the UKIPO show that there has been an 11% increase in the number of patents granted in the Yorkshire region. 67% of Yorkshire businesses believe that innovation and product development is vital to their businesses while 38% feel that innovation is fundamental to business growth. Developing an awareness of intellectual property is therefore very important.

John-Paul Rooney of Appleyard Lees, patent and trade mark attorneys then explained the role of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys and why it can be important to talk to a patent attorney at an early stage of developing a new product or service.

Ged Doonan of Business & Patent Information Services (part of the Europe-wide PatLib network), based in Leeds Central Library gave a brief history of intellectual property in Leeds followed by an overview of current services and resources. Business & Patents have many years experience of dealing with intellectual property enquiries and carrying out patent and trade mark searches. Many business resources such as company databases, factsheets, British Standards, market research reports and journals are also available. The department has produced some of its own booklets on subject such as copyright for photographers and musicians and also starting a business. All of this is backed up by a number of websites and blogs providing a wealth of further information – and readily available to those wishing to find out more about how to protect their ideas.
IP barrister Jane Lambert followed this up with an explanation of intellectual property enforcement. Infringement of IP rights is not a criminal act unless carried out on a commercial scale and therefore it is up to the owner of that IP to take action against such infringers. Jane detailed what is very often a complex and expensive challenge to the wronged party.

Alison Orr of Enterprise Europe Yorkshire discussed the importance of seeing intellectual property as an asset which can be bought, sold and transferred. The Enterprise Europe network, which spans more than 40 countries, aims to encourage innovation, help technology transfer or finding a business partner and promote competitiveness.

Inventor Claire Mitchell then described her “Eureka moment” when she first realised that her idea of a pre-sterilised teat which could be attached to a carton of formula baby milk could be developed into a business - Chillipeeps. She gave an entertaining description of her first encounter with a patent attorney, her dealings with large companies and the many awards which she and her product have won. She emphasised the determination needed to succeed and the importance of making the most of any advice offered – such as that available during this event.

The event was rounded off with the one-to-one discussions. Attendees could book a short consultation with one of six local patent attorneys in confidence, in which they could gain advice relating to their specific situation.    

The response from the attendees was very positive – several expressing their appreciation of the value of events such as these in developing awareness and pointing them in the right direction.

Monday, 26 July 2010

“Keeping the Sharks at Bay: resolving disputes between inventors, licencees and others” Jane Lambert Leeds Inventors Group 21st July 2010

Jane explained that conflict resolution is a big part of what she does as a barrister and pointed out that it is something which happens a lot to inventors. She gave a list of who the potential “sharks” can be:- co-inventors, investors, licensees and third parties.


Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Mark Coulman Leeds inventors group 16th June 2010

Mark is an Innovation Specialist heading Business Link’s Innovation Team. He works with businesses who see innovation as important and in this meeting wanted to look at what exactly innovation is.

In an interactive session he demonstrated that innovation is a process involving teamwork. Views were expressed that it usually involved something new, or putting things together in a new or different way. Mark said that a new product in itself is not innovation, an idea in itself is not and making change may not be. The important thing is implementing new ideas – innovation is a process and not one individual thing. You can have an idea and do nothing with it, but exploiting the idea is innovation. It’s important when making changes that if you do change things you are improving them.

The group then looked at what the results of innovation can be. Various suggestions were made – such as improvements in products, saving time and money, increasing employment and market share.

It’s important to think about what you want at the end of the innovation process and everything you do should be related to this – people often spend too much time on the idea without thinking about where it’s going. Research and development is one part of the innovation process and doesn’t always have a particular end result in mind. It has been suggested that R& D is the use of money to create knowledge whereas innovation is using knowledge to create money.

Mark summed up by emphasising that having a clear idea of where you’re going is vital. You can then determine how you’re going to achieve it and how sustainable it might be.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Chandra Parmar Leeds inventors group 19th May 2010

Chandra was an engineer for 24 years and his wife, Rekha, is a cancer research scientist. However they have both always loved food and it was this shared interest which developed into “Kitchen Guru”.
Rekha was always giving out recipes to friends and then began to include ingredients as well. She began to wonder if this basic idea could be developed into a business. They both understood product development and the importance of marketing. They carried out some of their own market research in 1995 and felt that this was positive but because the market was dominated by ready meals they felt it may be too early for their product, and as Chandra said, timing is vital.

Initially using market research reports available in the library and then doing some consumer surveys they kept an eye on changing trends and were particularly keen to find out what consumers didn’t like. Testing out their ideas on consumers was a vital step.

Very few Indian food products on the market were authentic and Indian cooking can be quite complex. Their research and testing of existing products confirmed their view that there was a market for their product which gives exact amounts of the relevant spices. They realised that they needed a well-designed product and filed a patent application which was granted in 1998. Very little in the food sector can actually be patented and their success created interest.

They had to make a decision as to whether they should sell or licence the invention, or do the whole thing themselves. They chose the latter and got to work in their garage, often working till the early hours. Chandra’s experience as an engineer came in handy – at one point converting a pie-making press into a sealing machine.

In 2002 Chandra left his job to concentrate full time on the product. A limited company was set up under the name “Kitchen Guru” which they also trade marked – choosing the name “Guru” because that is someone who teaches you something. That year they attended their first trade show and received their first orders. Initially they targeted independent stores and by the following year had not only increased sales but had also been approached by four investors interested in helping them grow the business. They were able to choose an investor who was interested only in investing, rather than trying to influence the business. Doing so was a big help, not only on the financial side but also in adding business expertise as Chandra and Rekha were quite inexperienced. They were able to move into business premises and the following year expanded again, bringing in more equipment.

Having greater capacity enabled them to supply the supermarkets and large chains. Last year they branched out into Thai and Mexican food products. Chandra commented that to maintain market share you have to continue to develop and improve. They carry out regular customer surveys and doing so helped them to improve their packaging after customer comments alerted them to certain issues with the existing packaging. They got quotes from some design companies for the job of updating the packaging – one company quoted £60,000. In the end Chandra went to a freelance designer and was able to have much greater input in the process. Changing the packaging increased sales significantly.

Selfridges, Harvey Nicholls and Harrods all take “Kitchen Guru” products now. Chandra commented that they don’t make a large amount of money from these stores but it’s good for the reputation.

Within two years of starting, “Kitchen Guru” products were being exported to ten different countries, including Europe, China and Canada. It’s been important for them not to overstretch themselves. They have also utilised spare capacity in their quiet times by producing packaging for plant seeds for a seed company and also greeting cards which have flower seeds attached.

The company has won 12 awards altogether, including small business Exporter of the Year. The value of awards is the recognition in brings – it’s free publicity.

Chandra summed up by reiterating how important it is to research the market, time the launch of the product well, be persistent and also delegate and get expert advice when it’s needed – you can’t know everything!

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Intellectual Property Clinics

Attending an IP clinic offers the opportunity of a FREE confidential one-to-one consultation with a registered patent agent to discuss your ideas, products or brands.
The Leeds clinic takes place once a month on a Monday evening in the Central Library and appointments must be booked in advance (0113 2478266). The clinics are free but we do ask for a £20 deposit when you book an appointment - this is returned to you when you arrive at the clinic. Dates of forthcoming clinics are given below.
next clinic

15th Nov 2010 4.00pm-7.00pm
13th Dec 2010 4.00pm-7.00pm

All attending patent attorneys are members of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys
For more information please see our website events page or to book a place tel: 0113 2478266

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Claire Mitchell, Leeds Inventors Group 21/4/10

In an amusing talk Claire introduced herself to the group as a “Mumpreneur” – a reference to having a young child whilst developing new products. She has had several careers, which have included engineering and care home management.

Her invention is still at the prototype stage and she’s looking for funding. Baby formula milk now comes is cartons but she wanted a way to use it more conveniently particularly when out and about. She came up with the idea while on her way to a party, panicking about whether there was a sterilised baby bottle in the car. The idea was for a pre-sterilised teat which could be affixed to the cartons and immediately ready for first use. It can then be easily cleaned and re-sterilised for future use.

Having come up with the idea she emailed Peter Jones of “Dragons Den” TV fame. In reply she received an automated email asking if she’d patented it. She immediately arranged an appointment with a patent attorney who turned out to be very enthusiastic. As a result she made a PCT (international) patent application, being careful not to limit the use of the product to baby products.

This was just the first of a number of ideas and it had been Claire’s intention all along to make a business out of the products. She commented that having a limited company gives a much more professional look to the business, which is important particularly where inventions are concerned. She came up with the name Chillipeeps and registered this as a trade mark.

Claire tried out a number of marketing companies without success. Then with the help of Rowena Mead, who is also developing child-oriented products, she made contact with Richard Hall of Pd-M and using a confidentiality agreement told him about her ideas.

It was the start of a strong working partnership. Richard created a plan and costings and together they devised a vision for the business. Prototypes were tested and re-tested and by the 5th prototype the various problems had been overcome.

The next step was to find a company to manufacture. Claire was delighted that they were able to find a Yorkshire company who would be able to produce it for the RRP they wanted. The only problem was that tooling could cost up to £180,000. They needed funding. One of the difficulties was that often potential investors want a proven product rather than an idea.
She entered the Baby Products Association Concept & Innovation competition, and after convincing herself that her pitch had been a disaster, she was shocked to find that she’d won! Crucial to the judges’ decision was the fact that she had a plan to get the product to market. She was then able to exhibit at the Baby & Child Fair in London where she made a lot of useful contacts, including distributors from around the world. She followed this up by finishing runner-up at Venturefest’s Technology Competition. She was particularly impressed as she doesn’t really regard her product as technical. Once again, this opened more doors to her. She has followed this up by winning the “Women on their Way” competition 2010 for an Outstanding New Product – in spite of the fact that she was the only entrant not trading.

Further competition wins have followed and throughout Claire has gained more advice, mentoring and contacts, including Mandy Haberman, inventor of the “Anyway Up” cup, and Laura Tennison of Jojo Maman Bebe.

Claire is planning to launch a product range next March at the Harrogate Baby Fair. She is in talks with various large companies but believes that it will be much quicker and easier to launch as Chillipeeps. Once the products have been proved to work and have a market the bigger players are more likely to show a definite interest.

Claire finished her entertaining talk with a few tips for budding inventors. She pointed out that it is important to do as much networking as possible and to sell both yourself and your product (once you have filed a patent). It’s vital to be business-like and suggested that at the very least you need a business card – otherwise, as she put it, “you look like a nobody”. She followed this comment up by saying that you should check and double-check everything – she handed out a lot of business cards and then 18 months later realised that the phone number on them was wrong!

Like many inventors, Claire is keen to pass on the knowledge she has gained and is informally mentoring a small number of inventors herself.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Bill Horner & John Cadwallader, Leeds Inventors Group 17/3/2010

“DTI Grants & Support for Innovation” Bill Horner & John Cadwallader  Innovation Partners

Both Bill Horner and John Cadwallader are former Business Link specialists. Bill is a food scientist who covers chemical and biological areas while John is an engineer. Together they have formed “Innovation Partners” which helps to find funding for new products and ideas.

The responsibility for dishing out what used to be known as DTI grants (such as the old SMART awards) has now been given to Yorkshire Forward. Bill and John are very experienced in the processes involved in negotiating such grant schemes and their criteria. One of the main criteria is that the new product has to have some technical aspect which is not currently available – the sort of development or advance which might involve too great a risk for a small company without the grant money.

The grants are match-funded meaning that you have to be able to find a significant part of the funding for the project yourself – however part of this can be made up of such things as staff time, materials and overheads which you would be paying out for anyway. They pointed out that people often don’t realise how much funding is available.

It’s important to consider the aims of the project and be able to prove that there’s a need for it. Why is it better than what is already out there? Sometimes inventors can be too close to their product and Bill and John have to get out of them what they need. You also have to be able to show that you need the grant – ie you don’t have an alternative source for the full amount. There must be a clear plan as to how the money would be spent and once a proposal has been accepted you can’t claim for more. There has to be some evidence of potential marketability based on thorough research and risks assessed. There are targets – eg being able to generate 10 times the amount you’re given within three years. In most cases the funding is given in arrears so you spend the money and then claim it back.

A vital part of carrying out the preparatory work is a patent search – you must be aware of prior art. Even if you’re not intending to go through with a patent you need to determine whether or not you could be infringing someone else’s rights.

Many small businesses don’t have a business plan and this application / proposal effectively works as a business plan. It takes about five days for Bill and John to put an application together, then once it has been submitted it can take from 6 – 10 weeks (depending on the size and type of grant) to go through. They also offer a lower-cost vetting service whereby they check through an application which an applicant has done themselves.

A good awareness of the process and the information required obviously is more likely to result in a successful application and this is where Bill and John can use their experience.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Sara Ludlam, Leeds Inventors Group 17/2/2010

Sara Ludlam, Intellectual Property Solicitor “From garden shed to shop shelf:product development agreements”

We welcomed back Sara, who talked to us last year
“Making money from your IP” Licensing is one of the most common ways of making money from your Intellectual Property 18th March 2009

This time Sara talked to us about product development agreements. She advises clients about product development agreements which should above all offer value for money.

There a several things to consider and understand with product development agreements
-What do you want from your supplier? Services to be provided?what services are you paying for? research,prototype manufacture,industry standards testing,packaging design,marketing,manufacturing services-Do not pay all the money up front

-Conduct issues,your product may not be patented yet so you need strong confidentiality.Do they offer a professional service by responding to emails/phone calls etc. What do you know about your supplier? Go with recommendations/a good reputation.Is time critical? time limits? time to give to the developer

-Do you need legal advice?
(fees/costs of this to consider) "Yes you do"
Sara also went through the legal terms you would come across in an agreement. Force Majeure,royalty,jurisdiction,net sales price,net profit,termination rights and legal clauses such as warranties,indemnities,dispute management,duration of agreement, duration of obligations under the agreement.

You need enough information to make the decision to sign so read the agreement and understand it

the agreement must be in writing to count not just what is talked about.

When you read the agreement have all of these questions in mind-
Who will own the background ip, the foreground ip(improvements/other new ip)?
A confidential information clause
What do you get for your money?
When do you get it?
If you don't get what you where expecting, what can you do about it?

If there is anything you do not understand DO NOT SIGN IT!

For more information contact
Sara Ludlam, Ludlams IP Specialists
Telephone: 0113 200 68 96

Dragons' Den

Entrepreneurs from across the country once again have a chance to make their business dreams come true by appearing on Dragons’ Den. If you’re genuinely seeking investment for your business idea or invention, we’d like to hear from you.

The BBC is currently searching for Britain’s best entrepreneurs and will be auditioning throughout the coming months. We want to hear from anyone who thinks they’ve got what it takes to enter the Dragons’ Den.

If you would like an application form please send an e-mail to or visit

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

The Enterprise Shows 2010

The Enterprise shows consist of a series of 2 day events designed to help anyone wishing to start or develop a business. You will be able to access business advice and information from a diverse range of support organisations and attend a range of seminars and talks.

Staff from Business and Patents will be present at the following Enterprise Shows. Find us in Zone 3 -Research.

Date: 27th & 28th March
Time: Saturday 10am-5pm / Sunday 10am-4pm
Location: Millennium Square - Leeds

Date: 10th & 11th April
Time: Saturday 10am-5pm / Sunday 10am-4pm
Location: City Hall - Hull

Date: 8th & 9th May
Time: Saturday 10am-5pm / Sunday 10am-4pm
Location: York Race course

Also at:
Date: 24th & 25th April
Time: Saturday 10am-5pm / Sunday 10am-4pm
Location: Sheffield, Meadow Hall Coach Park

find your nearest show: Leeds, Hull, Sheffield or York and register for your FREE priority entry tickets either online or by phone on 0800 032 2626.

More information:

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Andy Taylor, Enterprise Europe Yorkshire. Leeds Inventors Group 20th Jan 2010

“Finding opportunities for novel technology & inventions” Andy Taylor, Enterprise Europe Yorkshire. Leeds Inventors Group 20th Jan 2010

Andy began by explaining his own background as a scientist involved in materials science and engineering, silicon processing, nanotechnology and analytical chemistry. He has been an inventor himself and also involved in an anti-counterfeiting company.
He then went on to explain the structure of the Enterprise Europe network, a support network covering 40 European countries and 600 organisations. Enterprise Europe Yorkshire offers business advice – particularly in relation to Europe - a technology transfer service and a partnership programme. They can match up people looking for particular technologies and people looking to have theirs exploited by working with them to build up a profile of what they have to offer and what they are looking for.

It is important for anyone looking to use the services of Enterprise Europe Yorkshire to be clear about what they have to offer and why it is novel. They also need to be equally clear about what they would want from a partner such as what type of technology is required and what kind of collaboration it would be.
Andy briefly went into European Framework Programme 7 under which they currently operate. This is the EC mechanism for funding collaborative research and technological development with a fund of 50 billion Euros over 7 years. As he said, involvement with the programme involves a lot of commitment and is not a short-term fix or a way to make a profit.

Enterprise Europe Yorkshire:
Enquiries contact 0800 0528156