I retired in April 2013 after 25 years as a librarian at the British Library specialising in inventions. This included running numerous workshops; writing books on inventions and a work blog; carrying out searches for clients; and one-to-one meetings with inventors. [more]


21 September 2014

Dragons' Den: The YoungOnes

A week late, I watched an episode of Dragons' Den which was first shown on the 15 September. I was interested in the pitch for YoungOnes by Chris Rea, 21, and Tom Carson, 23, with their price competitive "onesies" for university students. They are themselves from Exeter.

The name of the business (with a website) refers to student rebellion and to a BBC programme shown 1982-84, with a truly anarchic sense of humour that I for one found hilarious. I'm not sure how much young people respond to something three decades old, but maybe that doesn't matter. They knew their facts, even if they were nervous under the questioning. They were confident that the vogue for onesies would continue.

They offered 15% of the equity in exchange for £75,000, which valued the company at £500,000. The dragons had fun putting the onesies on, but for some reason they were marked YO rather than YoungOnes. Peter Jones pointed out that Yo was owned as a trade mark by Simon Woodrofe's Yo ! Limited. You don't actually own every business sector with a trade mark (unless it's a "famous" trade mark) but indeed Yo! does own a European trade mark for it in Class 25, which covers clothing, EU 637637. The boys should have done their homework.

(So, to be honest, should have Evan Davis, the respected economics voice on the programme, who spoke of concerns over "copyright" -- trade marks are not the same as copyright, as you cannot copyright a few words).

What the boys do have is the British trade mark for YoungOnes for clothing, with UK2648803 (owned by youngones apparel ltd.). That's the far more attractive (and safe) name they should have put on the onesies.

The verdict ? Duncan Bannatyne offered them, with his usual poker face, the whole £75,000 in return for 40% of the equity. He was asked if he would take 30%. No, he said, it was a fair offer. They discussed it, and one said he didn't know he would say to his father, and they accepted. Duncan was very pleased, saying it was a great opportunity for him. The mentioned father had said they should never give away more than 30%, incidentally.

There is more about the business on an Exeter business page. Their degrees are very relevant -- Chris' was in business and psychology, Tom's in business management and marketing. Watch out for the product on university campuses !

9 September 2014

Apple's new wearable technology patent applications

Apple is about to make a big announcement today about their next big product, after a gap of four years. As usual, presumably, they will announce any totally new product at the end, with "One more thing...". The Toronto Star among others speculates as the faithful wait.

There is a lot of speculation that it might be a wearable device, an iWatch. Not sure what they will call it -- there is already US85703706, a filing for that word as a trademark registration for class 38, telecommunication services by OMG Electronics -- though, fatally perhaps, not for devices worn on wrists. Thanks to Minesoft's tmquest for that information.

I've checked for any US patents filed by Apple since 2013 that mention the word "wearable" (anywhere in the text). There are an amazing number published in just 2014, over fifty. None have "wearable" in the title.

These include Configurable buttons for electronic devices, published 28 August. This from a quick look is the most obviously relevant. A couple of its drawings are given below.

And what about their Bi-stable spring with flexible display, published in February 2013. It doesn't sound promising, but the drawings are interesting. Here is the main drawing.

I did find it independently, but that one was well covered at the time, quite rightly in my opinion, by sites such as an Appleinsider posting.

4 September 2014

Listing patent status registers

Patent status covers things like when was a patent specification published in its different stages, is it awaiting grant, have renewal fees being paid, has it run its full term and expired.

Some patent authorities have made free data available either on separate status databases or have incorporated it in their ordinary databases. The alternative is to ask them. Below is a list of those that I am aware of.  Many are in English.

Those that can be accessed via the free Espacenet database are marked by an asterisk *. If a certain record is found, then a link is provided to the status data. For example, see the record for GB2471438, where the link to "GB Register" is just below the Bibliographic data in big, bold type, below the top banner.

I am sorry to say that I gave up trying to find the individual sites for Belgium, Greece and Italy.

Belgium *
Denmark *
European Patent Convention *
Finland *
France *
Greece *
Italy *
Norway *
Sweden *
Switzerland *
United Kingdom*
United States

Otherwise, Espacenet has an "Inpadoc legal status" tab on the left hand side when viewing information on a patent specification. There is often little data, or it is hard to understand it, but still, better than nothing.

The existence of the legal status databases is not given in the valuable data on Intellogist's Interactive Patent Coverage Map, and I would like to suggest that it would augment an already very useful site. For some reason the French site, at least, is indeed listed and explained. You find data on what online sources (some priced) cover a country by clicking on the continent, then on the country.

It would be helpful if the same software was used by new countries, partly to avoid duplicate effort and partly to help searchers using databases from different patent authorities.

Although I use patent status to determine if a patent is in force, ownership information is also very important for due diligence searches. If a company takeover is contemplated or occurring you obviously want to know what is owned by the company. As companies are not required to record changes in ownership or assignments (to my knowledge it is everywhere voluntary), you cannot rely on the owner name on a published patent specification. There may be false positives (it apparently has patents it doesn't have) or false negatives (it doesn't appear to have patents it does actually have).

Data on litigation (such as links to court cases) is rarely provided, and would again be useful.

3 September 2014

Negative lists for patent searchers

The free Espacenet patent database contains a vast number of patents and can be searched in a number of  ways. One of its features is the ability to create lists of important patents.

When a search is run, each entry in the results has a blue star on the left hand side. By clicking on the star, it turns red and the same entry is available in the "My patents list" folder above the hit list.

This means that useful patents can be noted for future study. In addition, if another search is run, those already marked in this way appear with a red rather than a blue star to show that they have already been put in the folder.

This is a useful feature and avoids wasted time looking at the same patents again and again in modified searches. Two small suggestions are that it would be useful if additional folders were available, and if they could be named, as a searcher might be dealing with more than one search.

However, this post is really about supplementing this concept of a folder of "positive", wanted, hits with a second folder of unwanted hits -- a negative folder.

Just as you can indicate that you "like" a patent, you should be able to indicate you "dislike" a patent that might seem from the brief details on the hit list to be relevant. In the same way as with the "likes", the searcher can simply disregard the entry on a revised search. There is no need to look at it again, you are reminded that you have already seen it and found it to be irrelevant.

Maybe the red star could be replaced by a "thumbs up" for positive and "thumbs down" for negative documents.