JONATHAN IVE RECEIVES KNIGHTHOOD

Sir Jonathan Ive: Ive Pod, Ive Pad  etc. A design genius and true Great Britain. 

I salute you….or should I curtsy?

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Chopper Designer Alan Oakley Dies

I seem to be writing a lot of Obits lately; it’s perhaps a sign that I am getting on when some of the designers of iconic products from my childhood are shuffling off this mortal coil and through the pearly gates , probably considering a remodel of them, safe in the knowledge that the celestial budget will cover it.

Alan Oakley designed the original Raleigh Chopper in 1967, apparently whilst on an airplane back from the States. It might have been a n American dragster or perhaps a Harley Hog that influenced him, but the Chopper quickly became the bike every boy – and girl – from 8 to 18 wanted. It didn’t look like your dad’s bike, you didn’t need to roll up your trouser leg or put on bicycle clips; it didn’t look like your big brother’s racer or your sisters shopper – it was made for one thing only – making you look cooler than the Fonz. Sure, the ape-hanger handle bars and the asymmetrical wheels could tip you up if your balance was off and you’d career into the frame-mounted gear changer if your braking was even a little hesitant but  add a clicker to the tyre spokes (and not streamers to the handlebars) and it may as well have been a TR7!

Oakley turned around the fortunes of Raleigh in Nottingham but allegedly received no additional pay for his design. Employer’s ownership of copyright and inventions in is a fairly standard term in employment contracts. If you need advice on protecting and exploiting your designs or how to deal with employees’ inventions, contact Joanne Frears on jef@jgrlaw.co.uk 

SPIRIT OF SUMMER – A SHOWCASE FOR GREAT BRITISH DESIGN

Last week a very nice client invited me to the Spirit of Summer Fair at Olympia where they were exhibiting. We went along to show our support and to talk to about the need to ensure your brand is properly protected.

Olympia was awash with great British designers showcasing inspiring and creative fashion and interior designs and products and artisan food producers demonstrating that local food revival continues despite the economic downturn.

We spoke to many exhibitors about trade marks and design rights and heard too many stories of their designs being copied and their creative output being ripped off. Whilst it is impossible to protect an idea, once an original idea is reduced to writing, drawing or CAD it is protected by copyright. You don’t have to register your copyright, merely tell the world that you consider your work to be protected by marking it with the universal copyright symbol ©.

In the crowded marketplace of lifestyle brands, the best way to protect your business identity is to register it as a trade mark. It is a relatively cheap and simple process and at the end of the registration you have a monopoly right to use the name and prevent others from doing so. What’s more, it’s an intangible asset to place on your balance sheet which can be particularly interesting to investors and potential buyers.

For help and advice on brand protection, Trade Mark and Design Registration contact Joanne Frears at jef@jgrlaw.co.uk

PASS THE CLICKER INVENTOR PASSES AWAY

Despite what Tommy Lee Jones may have us believe in MIB, the remote control was not alien technology and the inventor of it, EUGENE POLLEY died yesterday aged 96.

Polley invented the first wireless TV remote control in 1955/56 for Zenith which used light emission to change the channel by activating a photo-cell at the corner of eth TV screen. Despite the insightful genius that inspired him to create the device, it was rather uninspiringly called the ‘Flash-Matic’ and by today’s standards it’s size and shape could easily be mistaken for a hairdryer, although some might argue it would be easier to find the remote if it still looked like that!

The remote control was initially a luxury device, but now it seems hard to imagine daily life without the ability to change channels and interact wirelessly with a multitude of devices. Having worked in radar detection at the US Dept of Defence during WWII Polley was well placed to take these insights into his civilian engineering career and put them to commercial use. Polley earned 18 US Patents for his inventions which included the video disc (a short-lived predecessor to the DVD) and push-button radio (removing the need to ‘tune’ your radio by turing a dial). Polley’s contribution to the entertainment industry was recognised when he received an Emmy in 1997.

We reward genius and insight such as Polley by granting the inventor a patent – a method of anniouncing the nature of an invention to the world whilst securing a monopoly right right to use it to the inventor and secures an income stream and return on creative investment. Trade Marks are another form of registered intellectual property which grant a monopoly right, as are the much underused Registered Design Rights.

 

To find out more about how to protect your inventions, brand and design contact Joanne Frears at  jef@jgrlaw.co.uk

Keep it Copyright!

There are over 11,000 design consultancies in the UK, half of which work in digital and multi-media design. It is acknowledged by Government that “creative industries are a vital part of the UK’s economy” generating “around 6.4% of GDP and employing 1.9 million people” and that the collective fee incomes and budgets of UK design businesses alone “amounts to £16bn” the UK’s creative industries form a greater proportion of its GDP than any other nation!

One might expect that such a contribution would result in pressure being exerted by the industry to ensure its output is protected by copyright, but perhaps because of the competitive nature of design and marketing agencies and consultancies, this appears not to be the case.

What is more, despite acknowledgement across Europe of design as an economic and creative force, on the whole EU legislation has not kept pace with working practices and technological innovation in the creative industries. Legislation lags behind in recognising the modern design process in all its iterations and designers can often find that materials they have created may not satisfy the legal requirements for copyright because traditional legal concepts of ‘originality’ and ‘authorship’ do not sit comfortably with their working methods and technology used.

The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) has recently acknowledged that the balance that once existed between rights holders and those seeking to use copyright works has tipped too far away from creators due to the development of new technologies and the ever-increasing worldwide use of the internet. Until new legislation is proposed which addresses concerns about the lack of clarity in protection of CAD and computer-generated materials and broadens the availability of protection for such works if you are in doubt, take legal advice about how to protect your work and keep it copyright!

For advice on copyright law contact me here or on jef@jgrlaw.co.uk

UK Confidential?

For months the British media has been mired in the phone hacking scandal and today I’ve been thinking about some legal issues it has raised.The first is whether voicemail messages and text are ‘confidential information’ under the Law and the second, wider issue is about whether such CI should be covered by a specific right to privacy under English Law.

As lawyers we are used to the concept of confidential information being a type of intellectual property. CI usually appears as defined term in business contracts and non-disclosure agreements. The definition of it is always more or less the same to cover secret business information, IP, sales & marketing information and business processes but it might occasionally be tweeked by the lawyer drafting it if they know the client has something particular in mind . The question is though, with so much data being created, stored and made freely available by private publication on social media, blogs and even Wikipedia, how do we determine what is “confidential information” and a legally protected form of Intellectual Property and what is personal information and thus not IP? Should we not even try to distinguish the two?

In the recent English Court case of ((i) Coogan and (ii) Phillips v News Group Newspapers and Mulcaire, Coogan and Phillips claimed that their hacked voicemails were confidential information. The Judge decided that the voicemails probably were a type of intellectual property and they probably contained commercial or confidential information. Good, that’s clear then! This leaves the vexed question of whether the content of a voicemail has a bearing on whether the message is CI or not? It seems logical that it should. If the message relates to business or commerce then it probably is CI, right? But what if the message contains personal rather than business information? In the datacentric world of social media, personal data is a commodity and why shouldn’t it also be protected as valuable confidential intangible/intellectual property?

We might cross the line here into arguments for a right to privacy. Under English Law no such right exists. Recent cases such as Douglas v Hello! have conceded that there is a civil right (or tort) against ‘breach of confidence’ and have permitted claims for ‘misuse of private information’ arising from the premise that personal information can also be CI, but these torts have been strained to fit a judgement that seems ‘proper’ where no other law would adequately assist.

In light of the clear failure of Press self-regulation and the exponential growth of data in a myriad of forms, perhaps it’s time we stopped thinking of CI as commercially focused and consider all information as confidential unless it is marked otherwise. CI could come with a ‘Creative Commons’ style license indicating the person or business to whom it relates agrees to share the information and a firm presumption that where there is no license, the information must remain secret and undisclosed. Could this type of ‘self-regulation’ by oneself work and would the Law recognise it?