"Team GB may have done very well at the Beijing Olympics but our inventors and entrepreneurs are nothing like as successful in the European patent application stakes. As can be seen from the ..... table [in the article], we trail a poor 7th in the number of European patent applications. Not only do we lag behind the economic super-powers, the USA and Japan, but we compare badly even to France and Germany with similar populations and GDP. We even trail the Netherlands and Switzerland with a third and an eighth of our population respectively and are about to be overtaken by distant South Korea which was a battlefield 50 years ago."I considered why the UK does so badly and found that it was because "start-ups and other small businesses, that are the mainspring of innovation in the UK as in most of our competitors, make much less use of the intellectual property system than their equivalents in other countries and, indeed, much less use than multinational enterprises and other big businesses here." I concluded that there were two reasons for that:
"One is that the cost of obtaining and enforcing legal protection for investment in brands, design, technology and the creative works is prohibitive and the other is that the intellectual property services available to small businesses, particularly outside London, is patchy in quality and, when compared to the unit costs that major companies pay, relatively expensive."Both Gowers and Hargreaves came to similar conclusions in their reviews.
By launching IPEC (Intellectual Property Enterprise Court) with its small claims track and acceding to and implementing the Unified Patent Court Agreement the government has done something about the first problem. Through its outreach programme the Intellectual Property Office is doing what it can in collaboration with the local enterprise partnerships and the Business and IP Centres at the British Library and Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield Central Libraries but it can only do so much.
What is really needed are local networks involving entrepreneurs, inventors, designers and content providers, investors, local enterprise partnerships, patent and trade mark attorneys and specialist counsel and solicitors, patent information units and universities. I established something like that in Yorkshire and the North West and I am now trying to build up similar networks in London, the East and South East of England and the East Midlands. Patent attorney Barbara Cookson saw the value of those networks right from the start. In her blog Solo IP she wrote in "An Alternative Business Model based on Quality" on 5 Sept 2008:
"As business people know the best advisers are those which come personally recommended by other clients. A recommendation from a peer comes without bias but a business peer may not know whether he has received the best possible device only other advisers know that. Jane is hoping to build a network that can leave Solo practioners running their own practices but with a platform that enables them to work in teams to provide the services the client needs. This is a great idea because there are business consumers who need experience and are offered only inexperience when they approach big branded law firms because they are compelled to ask for the lowest possible fee. Judging by the company last night there are huge opportunities for businesses to achieve excellent value by using solo practitioners and other great value practices that Jane has sought out."In Yorkshire we have established lively inventors clubs in Leeds and Sheffield, held clinics and workshops throughout the county, publish our own IP Yorkshire blog, have our own twitter account and Facebook and Linkedin groups. Between us, my collaborators and I have helped many innovative and creative businesses in all sorts of industries to get off the ground and prosper.
Our first event in the East Midlands is a workshop and clinic in collaboration with Loven IP and the Intellectual Property Office at Grantham College on 26 Sept 2014 at 14:00. You can find out more about the event in Our contribution to Grantham's Gravity Fields Science Festival: IP Workshop and Clinic 3 Sept 2014. Admission is free but space is limited so you must book in advance. You can do that through our Eventbrite page or by calling George on 020 7404 5252. Barristers and solicitors attending the event can claim CPD Points as we are accredited by the BSB and SRA.
Other CPD events are our seminars on the Intellectual Property Act 2014 at the offices of QualitySolicitors Jackson & Canter on 29 Sept 2014 at 16:00 and Leeds Business and IP Centre on 15 Oct 2014 at 18:00 as part of Leeds Business Week. Again, booking is essential. You can use the links or call George on 020 7404 5252. I look forward to meeting you in Grantham, Liverpool or Leeds.