A Start-Up’s Guide to Intellectual Property

i Intellectual PropertySo far, in our A-Z Guide to Starting a Business, we’ve looked at topics including bookkeeping, data backup, and funding. With so much to cover, it’s no surprise that intellectual property (IP) sometimes takes a back seat when setting up. 

The World Intellectual Property Organisation describe IP as the “creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.”

In this blog, Phil Coldrick from IP Scope, provides us with an overview to IP as well as describing what IP needs to be considered when starting a business…

Q: What IP should I be considering when I start a business?

A: Typical things to consider include your business name – your name and brand is a valuable asset to your business so think about protecting it by registering it as a trade mark. Remember, if you have registered your company name with Companies House this does not mean you are protected. Someone else could still use it.

Other IP aspects include copyright for your website and any other promotional literature you create. Copyright is automatic but beware of who owns the copyright when a third party is involved such as a website designer. You might want to consider having the copyright assigned to you through any contract you arrange with them.

Q: How can I determine if my business needs IP protection?

A: The UK Intellectual Property Office provides a free IP Healthcheck service that takes you through a series of questions to determine how to safeguard your IP assets and provides a confidential report with recommendations for next steps. http://www.ipo.gov.uk/whyuse/business/iphealthcheck.htm

Q: I have an idea, but don’t want to tell anyone in case they steal it. What can I do?

A: It is important that you do not make your idea public before you apply for IP Rights, if you do, you run the risk that you may not be able to patent an invention or protect your design because it is invalidated by the public disclosure. However, that does not mean that you must never discuss your idea with anyone else. Conversations with qualified (registered) lawyers, solicitors and patent attorneys are legally privileged and therefore in confidence. If you need to discuss your idea with someone else before you apply for an IP Right – such as a patent adviser or consultant then a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) can help. NDAs are also known as confidentiality agreements and confidentiality-disclosure agreements (CDA). An explanation on setting up NDAs (including templates) can be found at http://www.ipo.gov.uk/nda.pdf

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For more information, email info@cambridgebusinesslounge.com or tweet @CamBizLounge.

 

Generosity in Business: You Can Catch More Flies With Honey Than With Vinegar

“I’m best of breed within my industry. I’ve got plenty of charisma and I’m not bad looking. I’m one of a kind.”

“My social life; my personal life don’t mean anything to me. I live to work, that’s all I do.”

“I take cut throat and ruthless to a completely new level. The only focus for me is myself. I’m cold and hard. I am unstoppable”

Programmes like The Apprentice, from where the above lines are taken, and Dragon’s Den, are heavily edited to draw in an audience in an attempt to create edge-of-your-seat viewing. For anyone starting a business, this may seem like the way business should be done if someone wants to succeed, but I’m going to let you into a secret: It’s not.

GenerosityOne of the hardest parts of building a new, professional relationship, whether you’re a new or an established business, is establishing rapport and trust. For this, you need to make it clear from the offset that you are one of life’s good people, by showing credibility and empathy with the potential customer or supplier that you’re looking to work with.

Forget this seemingly TV-driven world of corporate backstabbing and bickering, and focus your energies on generosity and reciprocity. For example, when you help another business owner to overcome a challenge, there is a high chance they will look to help you back one day. Even if they don’t, you’ll feel good for helping and will quickly build a reputation as a trusted business professional, which will be act as an attraction tool itself.

We all recommend people we trust. That trust is measured in the level of service provided, the quality of work and how expectations are exceeded by wanting to help and support.

We’ve seen both sides of this approach happen at our Collaborative Cambridge events, a mastermind group where business owners provide solutions to the challenges of others in the group. This attitude is a winner for everyone whether you’re helping others or others are helping you.

Try this the next time you’re trying to forge a new relationship or at the next networking event you visit. Don’t go with the aim of meeting potential new customers; visit with the thought in mind of “how can I help someone else?”

As the late Dr Maya Angelou wrote…

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

What examples of generosity have you seen in business? How has that approach helped you overcome challenges? Email info@cambridgebusinesslounge.com, we’d love to hear your stories.

To view other Start-Up Tips, visit: The A-Z Guide to Starting a Business.

Starting a Business? Never Be Afraid To Ask For Help

The Start-Up A-Z: Dangers of Disappearing Data

The process of starting a business means that you’re going to collect a considerable amount of data.

D - DataInformation that will include your business plan, contact information, forecasts, reports, designs, images and more. In fact, you’re likely to create more data during the set up stage of your business, than at any other time during the first 12 months. And while some of this will be automatically stored in the cloud, how much of your personal and private information that you have right now…isn’t?

Now, here’s a story courtesy of Neil Hamilton-Meikle, Business Development Manager at Safebox

Sunburn in Cyprus – lost forever.

So you’re a new business, you’re eager, bursting with ideas and enthusiasm, you have clients on board, suppliers, you’ve done the marketing and even the bank manager thinks you’re onto a winner; its all looking very positive.

Right, off you go then, oh watch for that printer cable on the floor……

As you break your fall whilst failing to remain composed, you see your laptop, which until just a few moments ago was tucked safely under your arm, spinning away into the distance, its date with the floor at speed confirmed. You scamper over to it and cradle it in your arms as if it were an injured child, but as laptops and gravity don’t mix to well, sadly the last few moments of life slip away. The hard drive stops beating, death has taken its grip.

Your thoughts suddenly leap to the loss of that rather amusing wallpaper picture you had of you on the beach in Cyprus with the amusing sunburn. But don’t worry, you had everything backed up, I mean who is this day and age would be daft enough to have their entire business on only one device with no back up. I mean really?

Oh!

This story isn’t as far fetched as it may appear. Only last year when I was working from home, I walked up the stairs with an open laptop and a cup of coffee. Well, you can imagine what happened when I tripped up the last step. It’s not just accidents that are a risk either. A few years ago when I was working for a major High St bank, a customer told me of her painful experience:

We had a break in and all 7 desktops were stolen. I had no choice but to shut down and start again as I just didn’t think it would happen to us

KTS Computers even states on their website that “Statistically, a hard drive crashes every 15 seconds and 60% of businesses who lose their data go bankrupt within 6 months”

The common responses when suggesting data back up are:

“I’m too busy to back up”
“I do it at the end of each month”
“It won’t happen to me”
“I don’t know how”

My answers to those are: Read Neil’s story, That’s not often enough, and It might and that’s a good enough reason”

On the last point, the ways to back up are on CD, USB Drive, External Hard Drive and the easiest and most cost effective of them all, online. The system I use it I-Sure which is just £2.75 per month and backs up everything for me daily without me having to do anything.

Now you’ve read this article, act on it before it’s too late and as Neil says “Treat your business data as you do your family photos, which are probably on CD, data stick, laptop, phone, etc. Just as your business data should be.”

How do you back up and what would you recommend? If you’re not, what’s stopping you? What support do you need? Email your comments and thoughts to info@cambridgebusinesslounge.com.

The Art of Small Business Collaboration

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Collaboration comes from the Latin “colaborare” meaning “to labour together.” In business, it is the action of working with a group or an individual, to produce something and achieve a common goal, which would never have been achieved without that  co-operation. It’s the process of pooling knowledge, resources and relationships for the sake of pursuing shared aims, where everyone shares the reward or loss of the venture.

Bringing people and businesses together and then igniting and nurturing a collaborative effort, is something we proactively support at Cambridge Business Lounge. The opportunity for a start-up to create something fantastically new with the support of others, can speed up the process of any start-up to find their feet. As well as perfectly compliment their existing services or products.

Here are a few examples of to demonstrate how it worked for others…

Victoria Arnold, Desk Union:

We were keen to collaborate with another start-up, Desk Unions booking software, rather than buy an off the shelf package or have something developed from scratch. We identified a fellow Scottish start-up called Appointedd who had just launched an online booking software for salons and spas. Together, we co-developed Desk Union’s booking software over 3 months. The end result means an awesome affordable software for us, an opportunity for Appointedd to try white-labelling, and two happy startups. It’s a win-win! We always try to collaborate rather than reinvent the wheel.

Ann Hawkins, Business Advisor, Consultant and Mentor:

Locally, Patients Know Best is about five years old. Patients are put in control of their medical records; collaboration happens between patients, clinicians, researchers, charities, the NHS and pharma companies.

Local Motors is about six years old. They bring together global communities of designers, engineers, fabricators and automotive enthusiasts to solve local problems, locally.

Lego was failing badly in 2008 when it started collaborating with Japanese company Cuusoo to create a completely new business model.

Ann Hawkins and I are also good example of this. We’re both business mentors and although we target a different audience, there is some cross-over. So, do we steer clear of each other? Split Cambridgeshire in half? No, we decided to jointly host networking events and write a book to be published in January 2015, entitled “New Business: Next Steps. The All-in-one Guide to Managing, Marketing and Growing your Small Business”

What about you?

What skill, knowledge or resource could you add to another business, or a business bring to you, to produce a whole new offering? For example, instead of author commissioning an artist to illustrate their book, how about an artist and a writer coming together to create a graphic novel?

Can you see any collaborative opportunities that you’d like to seek out? Don’t worry if the answer is no, as many ideas are born out of ‘water cooler moments’ and just simply meeting businesses in the same situation as you can sow the seeds of new opportunities.

Collaboration is a powerful way to accomplish what no single organisation can on its own. It can also be a complex beast. Once you have found the right idea and partner, formulate what both parties bring to the project, what the shares and spoils are, and put it in writing. You’ll be glad you did if something did go amiss.

Now you need to find those potential partners. Try seeking these businesses and people out at your local coworking space, networking group or even good old social media. And once you have embarked on the exciting new journey of collaborative working, email your story to info@cambridgebusinesslounge.com or @CamBizLounge