31 January 2018

NESTA Inventor Prize Shortlist

Jane Lambert

In "Harnessing the Potential of the UK's Home Grown Inventors" - The Government's Proposed Industrial Strategy 24 Jan 2017 I blogged about the government's commitment is to:
"....... seek to harness the potential of the UK’s home-grown inventors and stimulate user led innovation by launching a challenge prize programme. This prize, which will be piloted through the NESTA Challenge Prize Centre, will help inform our support to the ‘everyday entrepreneurs’ operating in companies and at home – such as through supporting enabling environments, incubators and maker spaces."
I reported on progress in The Inventors Prize 2017  29 June 2017.

In Congratulations to the Inventor Prize finalists 26 Jan 2018, NESTA reports that it had received 180 applications from across the UK which were judged by a panel of 8 judges (one of whom was Claire Mitchell of Chillipeeps who had addressed both the Leeds and Sheffield inventors clubs) in accordance with the following criteria: innovation, insight and impact, quality and safety and market potential and feasibility.

A shortlist of 10 finalists have now been selected and Emma Renowden has published their names and particulars of their inventions in Congratulations to the Inventor Prize finalists! 26 Jan 2018 on the Inventor Prize website.

According to Ms Renowden, each of those finalists will receive £5,000 and mentoring from Barclay's Eagle Labs to perfect their inventions. This seems to come close to an accelerator for inventors which I discussed in No Invention should be left behind here - the Case for Inventor Academies 27 Jan 2018. The winner, who will be chosen in September, will receive £50,000 and the runners up prizes of £5,000 and £15,000 towards the development of their inventions.

Anyone wishing to discuss this article or invention  generally should call me on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or message me through my contact form.

30 January 2018

No Invention Left Behind - Making Money from an Invention

Author SimonTrew
Licence CC BY-SA 3.0 
Source Wikimedia Commons

Jane Lambert

If you are an independent inventor - that is to say, an inventor not employed in a capacity in which you are likely to create an invention - there are two ways by which you can profit from your  invention. One is by manufacturing and marketing the invention yourself as Percy Shaw did with cats' eyes (see Well at least a Yorkshireman invented Cats' Eyes 20 July 2014 IP Yorkshire). The other  is by licensinBIPCCase for Inventor Academies 27 Jan 2018.

As many of the inventors I see in my IP clinics or at local inventors' clubs are of a certain age  it should be noted that a lot of help is available for older people who wish to open businesses. The European Commission recognizes that senior citizens are increasingly interested in becoming entrepreneurs and is exploring how to benefit from the knowledge and skills of seniors, and how to ensure that they are able to go into business for themselves (see the Senior entrepreneurs page on its website). The Commission has published a Senior Entrepreneurship Good Practices Manual which presents 24 good practice examples from around the EU including the UK.  One of the more interesting initiatives mentioned in the manual is the Latvian Inventors Association's mentoring scheme.

Licensing or assigning an invention is often seen as an easier option than going into business but that is not always or perhaps even usually the case.  Someone with an established business has to be persuaded to set up a new production line and distribution channel for a product that he or she did not invent. Such a person will require a lot of persuasion especially if the inventor has no knowledge, experience or status in the industry. The established business owner will require the inventor to show the owner how the business will benefit from the invention which means that the inventor will often have to do much the same business planning and market research for a licensee as he or she would do for him or herself.

This is the third of a series of articles entitled "No Invention Left Behind". The others are The Case for an Inventor Academies and the WIPO's Inventor Assistance Programme. The next will be on the IP law that every inventor should know.  Should anybody wish to discuss this article or invention generally, he or she should call me on 020 7404 5252 or send me a message through my contact form.

27 January 2018

No Invention should be left behind here - the Case for Inventor Academies

Jane Lambert

Last week I featured a scheme by the World Economic Forum and the World Intellectual Property Organization to assist inventors in less developed countries to launch their inventions known as the Inventor Assistance Programme (see Jane Lambert "No Invention left behind" - WIPO's Inventor Assistance Programme gathers Pace 21 Jan 2018).  David Kappos, a former head of the US Patent and Trademark Office, coined the phrase "No invention left  behind" as the watchword for the scheme.

The slogan "no invention left behind" should not be limited to inventions in developing countries. Bringing an invention to market is difficult and risky for an individual or small business even in Mr Kappos's country as 20th Century Fox's film Joy showed a couple of years ago (see Jane Lambert Joy 3 Jan 2016). That is in spite of the resources for inventors and entrepreneurs offered by the USPTO which includes a 2-day annual conference every August at the USPTO's head office in Alexandria and the Inventors' Eye newsletter for individual inventors.  Over the last few years the British Library's Business and IP Centre and its partner libraries outside London have begun to offer similar help in this country but it is still not as extensive as the resources that are offered in the USA,

I have met a lot of individual inventors over the years through my practice at the patent bar, my inventors' clinics in London and the North, the Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield inventors clubs and running this blog and only a few have ever made any money from their inventions.  Far more lose money than earn it and some lose more than just money.  The reason why so few of those inventors make money from their inventions and so many more lose from them is that they spend money on things they do not need and fail to invest in things that they do. 

Inventions, like brands, designs and works of art or literature, are business assets which earn money only if they are used in business.  Individual investors are representative of the general public and most members of the public go through life without acquiring the skills, knowledge and experience needed to run a business.  It should therefore surprise no one that when a member of the public creates an intellectual asset he or she may have no idea what to do with it  That is why money is wasted not just on invention promotion services but also on legal protection where there will never be sales while services that could be useful, such as IP indemnity insurance, are overlooked.

So how do we equip private inventors with the necessary skills?   Five years ago I thought that inventors clubs were the answer.  That is why I wrote about inventors clubs, why they are useful, where they are and how to establish one if there is none in a particular area (see Inventors' Clubs 25 May 2013). I am not so sure now.  The inventors clubs that I helped to found and chaired for many years disbanded when the Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield Central Libraries became Business and IP Centres. They provide many of the skills through short courses on such topics as patent searching and business planning but not on a comprehensive basis.

I think something can be learned from business accelerators where fledgling businesses are offered office or lab space, mentored by experts, helped to refine their products or services and eventually introduced to investors.  Accelerator programmes tend to last between 3 and 6 months which is longer than is necessary to decide whether an invention has legs.   Week long or perhaps even weekend academies may be enough.

Anyone wishing to discuss the idea of inventor academies or inventor support generally should call me on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact form.