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IP WORKSHOPS - ESSENTIAL IP LAW FOR CREATIVES

IP Workshops – Essential IP Law For Creatives

IP WORKSHOPS - ESSENTIAL IP LAW FOR CREATIVESI have been hosting focused intellectual property workshops for creative agencies for a few months now. Attendees are incredibly engaged, and invariably find aspects of the workshop a real eye opener.

Intellectual property is intrinsically bound up with the work creative agencies do. Therefore, a good knowledge of Intellectual property law helps in running a creative business, as well as reducing the risk of legal complications.

For example, better to avoid an infringement claim by doing proper due diligence checks before creating a logo than waiting to find out there is a problem once the logo is already created.

Liability for IP issues

While many agencies aim to limit their liability for IP related issues by putting the onus on the client to obtain legal advice themselves, it is difficult to see how agencies could successfully absolve themselves of liability in situations where they create a new logo, or even a new name.

One of the most memorable cases involved a dispute over the Dr Martens Airware logo . Due to a lack of IP knowledge the agency was embroiled in litigation along with the client, and suffered significant time, effort and expense in the ensuing court battle. This could have been so easily avoided with the right documentation in place.

IP law essential

The role of IP law is therefore crucial in avoiding pitfalls, and positioning clients of agencies for maximum success. IP fits hand-in-glove with the creative process.

The workshops highlights the pitfalls. Then by simply offering IP services, or referring matters to an IP specialist at the appropriate time in the creative cycle, agencies are able to give their clients real help while absolving themselves of responsibility.

Contrary to popular belief the right time to refer clients is not after the creative exercise is concluded. The appropriate due diligence checks should be carried out at an early stage, because if what you intend to create or use infringes on a third party’s rights, the client has nothing worth protecting. All the effort taken in creating the identity is wasted.

The workshops help agencies to find alternatives to simply asking their client to consult their own lawyers. Many clients will not have lawyers or may never consult any lawyers because they do not appreciate the significance of doing so. The upshot is that they are at risk of using an identity that may cause problems for them down the line. That will impact their revenues, and could expose them to litigation. And it’s doubtful that a clause excluding liability in the agency’s terms would be legally effective anyway.

The next workshop is on 14 July from 3-5pm. It’s a small session for a maximum of 8 people to attend.

This session costs £40+VAT per person (or £25+VAT for early birds) and includes refreshments, as well as a copy of my book Intellectual Property Revolution.

To book go to EVENTBRITE NOW.

Valuable IP Workshop for Creative Agencies Taking Place

404-bg-image-optimizedHow many people in the branding industry truly understand intellectual property (IP) law?

Not enough, according to Shireen Smith, the founder of one of London’s leading IP specialist law firms Azrights.

In light of this, Azrights are holding a workshop specially catered to creative agencies.  The workshop, which is the first of its kind from the law firm, will be an intimate and interactive session covering the IP basics that will help those in creative industries avoid legal complications that can arise when dealing with intellectual property.

The workshop is taking place on Thursday 28 April 2016, from 15:00PM to 17:00PM at Azrights, 81-83 Essex Road, Islington, London, N1 2SF.

The session costs £45 +VAT per person, or £30 +VAT per person for early birds, and includes refreshments and a copy of Shireen’s book Intellectual Property Revolution.

Tickets for the event can be bought online following this link.

Led by Shireen Smith, the workshop will focus on the potential dangers that creative agencies can come across and the solutions they can implement to avoid these.  Shireen uses high profile case studies and expert advice from her book to create an engaging and highly informative session that will provide attendees with a strong understanding of IP and how they can best serve their clients and maximise the profitability of their own businesses.

“Branding involves creating IP.  Intangible assets produced during branding should be well chosen to ensure elements like names and logos are available to use and do not infringe on somebody else’s rights.  A solid understanding of IP law can help a branding agency ensure that the choices are also capable of creating potentially valuable intellectual property that is capable of protecting and improving a company’s competitive market position.

“Therefore, branding agencies need to find a way to incorporate IP considerations into their work.  The practice of leaving IP considerations for clients to deal with through their own lawyers’ due diligence leaves a lot to be desired.

“Many clients lack an appreciation of the risks and opportunities that IP presents.  The widespread belief that the legal aspects of branding can be passed on to clients therefore leaves them exposed. Many do not have access to lawyers with the appropriate skills to do searches during naming projects, or to give advice on copyright or designs.

“Branding agencies are much better placed to provide access to the necessary legal checks.  Any agency that creates intellectual property for clients plays an important role in the client’s ultimate value as a business, so they need to take on board trademarks, copyright and designs.

“These IP laws are relevant to an agency’s own business, and also determine whether suitable IP is created for clients.  For example, a good name is one that is appropriate to the business’ plans and does not infringe on anyone else’s rights. Also, it must be the right type of name so it may be uniquely owned.  Once the due diligence is done, it is vital that steps are taken to protect the name before design work begins.

“That is how you ensure the identities, or other intangibles created, generate wealth and value for clients if their ventures succeed.”

 

The importance of names

Shireen continues, “Although there is a lot more to IP than names, names are so universally relevant to all businesses that the issues they give rise to should be taken on board by all agencies. Even if the agency is not picking a name for a client, as the name is potentially one of the most important IP assets a business uses, it is important that agencies flag this up with their clients. Key points are:

  1. Names should not infringe on the rights of others. Legal due diligence before adopting a name is crucial. If someone else is using the same name it may be appropriate to abandon that name and find another.
  2. The adopted name must be capable of functioning as a trademark. Not all names are capable of being owned.
  3. The name should be ‘clear’ to use before trademarking. Trademarks are cancellable so doing due diligence is essential before registering a trademark.

“Unfortunately, there is little real understanding of IP among SMEs, so agencies have an important role to play in educating their clients to help them to succeed with IP.

“Branding agencies with suitable access to IP help are better able to manage the complexity of IP laws given the central relevance of IP to the work of agencies.

“The vast majority of branding agencies do their own checks during naming projects. However, they lack access to quality advice to interpret the results of their searches. Lack of guidance to interpret the results of searches can lead to perfectly suitable names being dropped.

“The risk of leaving the legal checks to clients’ own lawyers – something many of them will not do – is that the name undergoes no legal clearance at all, and the client is left using a name which might cause problems for them several years down the line.

“Alternatively, if the client does engage its own lawyers to do legal checks then the client might be disappointed if the name does not hold up to legal scrutiny. It also puts the agency in a difficult position as to where to draw the boundary unless it has clarified in advance what legal checks the name must withstand.”

A video explaining more about how the digital economy is changing IP can be found here.

 

Azrights website
Azrights on YouTube
Azrights on Twitter
Intellectual Property Revolution

 

 

About Shireen Smith:

Shireen qualified as a solicitor in 1985 and began to focus on IP, IT, trade marks and copyright as an in-house lawyer at Reuters in the late 80s.

She has extensive practical experience of intellectual property and technology law and solid academic credentials, including a Masters in Intellectual Property law from QMW, London University. Shireen is consistently praised for the depth of her expertise and pragmatic, accessible advice.

Having developed a good grasp of the IP issues relevant to blue chip companies, she then applied that knowledge to working with start-ups and SMEs once she founded Azrights in 2005.

IT Directors Must Protect Intellectual Property

Data Protection and Email MarketingMany IT Directors and CIOs are not fully aware of the importance of protecting commissioned websites and software.

Talking to ITProPortal, intellectual property (IP) lawyer Shireen Smith of IP-specialist law firm Azrights said, “If an IT Director commissions a website or a piece of software without being entirely sure that their business will own the finished project, they are taking a huge risk.

“If a business has software or a website created for it by a third party and does not discuss ownership rights prior to signing a contract, the completed product will belong to the creator rather than the commissioner of the work.

“One possible consequence of this is that the business could lose the rights to sell on any commissioned software, making it an expensive investment that will not bring in any revenue.”

Using the example of ClearSprings Management Limited, a provider of outsourced IT, housing and support services, Shireen Smith explains: “In 2005, ClearSprings Management Limited (CML) came up with a great software idea and hired a Businesslinx Limited to develop it with a view to selling it once completed.  There was only one problem.  Even though the software was built for CML, ownership of the software remained with the developers and CML had nothing to sell. They merely had a right to use it internally.

“CML had made a classic error which seems to be repeated time and time again.  There was a legal agreement in place, but it failed to address copyright.  By entering into an agreement without proper understanding of copyright law meant that the company signed up to an agreement that failed to address the vital issue of copyright ownership.

“The court implied a licence in favour of CML to use the software. However, as ownership of the software lay with the developers, CML did not own any rights in the idea. The practical consequence is that it had nothing to sell, it could only use the software it had commissioned.”

Shireen continues: “Make sure if you’re using templates to commission a copyright work that you understand whether the copyright and other IP provisions are appropriate to your plans.  If you don’t discuss ownership or appropriate licence terms before you’re committed to using a particular supplier, you are storing up potential problems for yourself later on.

“Going back to someone to renegotiate terms when the rights have a value invariably means people will be reluctant to agree to transfer them over to you without further payment.  The time to discuss such details is when they want to win the commission.

“I met an entrepreneur who told me about a software business he had run for two years with two co-founders which folded because it emerged that the company didn’t own the rights to the software.  They had used a freelancer who held the rights to the software, and wanted a lot more money than they had available in order to assign ownership to them.  So, the company decided to close down.”

Shireen has identified six crucial questions to be asked by IT Directors before commissioning a website or software:

  1. Who will have copyright over the software once it is developed?
  2. What rights are there for the use and distribution of the software?
  3. What documents are in place to confirm this?
  4. If there is a legal agreement in place, does it address copyright?
  5. If working with a freelancer, can the business be certain that it will own the rights to any work produced?
  6. Have documents been checked by a legal expert, who can ensure that it protects the business’s interests?

“These are essential considerations, and going ahead with a commission without addressing these is a risk.  By consulting an IP expert, the risks are minimised and a weight is taken off the IT Director’s shoulders.”

Further IP advice can be found in Shireen Smith’s book ‘Intellectual Property Revolution’, which is printed by Rethink Press, available from Amazon and is priced at £12.99.  The book contains expert advice for businesses on how to successfully manage IP assets, protect brands and add value to businesses in the digital economy.  It is written in plain English and is intended for use by business owners and ‘brand guardians’.

Links:

Azrights website
Azrights on YouTube
Azrights on Twitter

Intellectual Property Revolution will shape British Business

New book launch by IP Lawyer Shireen Smith

how web 2.0 changes the rules of brand protection and brand promotion introduction“In spite of the UK being recognised as the most advanced adopter of online retail and the digital economy, with creative industries exports worth £17.3bn, there is a general lack of awareness ab
out the importance of Intellectual Property protection”, says one of the UK’s leading IP Lawyers, Shireen Smith, Founder of law firm Azrights.

“To date, IP has been one of the lowest profile sectors of the legal industry but that will change as the future UK economy becomes more reliant on digital products and services.”

Shireen adds, “The new currency in our digital economy is information, know-how, brands, systems and data. Whether people are building a brand identity, launching a new product or service worldwide, or even a start-up business, they’re also creating intellectual property.

“The value and safety of intellectual property has become more important than ever before.  Do it right and the intangible assets you create could be worth more than the products or services themselves.  Do it wrong and you could miss vital opportunities, have your true value stolen or find yourself on the wrong side of an intellectual property dispute.”

One way of raising the profile of the subject is to inform and educate business owners, in particular marketing directors and company secretaries who are often on the receiving end of tension when things go wrong.

On the evening of October 13 at the Institute of Directors, Shireen Smith launched a new book called ‘Intellectual Property Revolution’, which is all about how to successfully manage IP assets, protect brands and add value to your business in the digital economy.  It is written in plain English and aimed at business owners and ‘brand guardians’.

Jeremy Phillips, Professorial Fellow, Queen Mary Intellectual Property Research Institute and Intellectual Property Consultant, Olswang LLP said, “I applaud Shireen Smith for her passion in educating business owners about the value of IP.  The Government’s IP Office is doing well in spreading the message on the subject but many people in business simply don’t know where to start in terms of looking for information.  Shireen Smith’s new book is designed to educate the reader thoroughly, so that they can make timely decisions that will ultimately add to the value of their business.

“Unless someone chooses to sell their business, they often have no idea about the value of their own materials or trade marks.  Sometimes a bank might insist on pre-purchase due diligence, only to discover that the brand names are insufficiently protected.  This can cause a great deal of distress.”

Shireen Smith added, “Once IP is on the business owners’ radar, it’s crucial for them to consult an IP lawyer in the early stages.  So often, people in business commit to brand names, website URLs and costly designs before speaking to an IP specialist, only to find that their so-called assets lack value.”

Jeremy Phillips concluded, “Today there is one massive up-side and that is that thanks to the Internet and search engines, it is much easier to detect online breaches of IP.  It is also far quicker for business owners to research what is already public.  That’s just one of the many reasons why ‘Intellectual Property Revolution’ will be very well received by both business owners and ‘brand guardians’.”

A video explaining more about how the digital economy is changing IP can be found here:

Azrights website

Azrights on You Tube

Azrights on Twitter

Jeremy Phillips’ IPKat weblog

 

What does copyright cover?

“Who Owns Your Website and Software IP?” Asks Expert IP Lawyer

What does copyright cover?Shireen Smith, the founder of one of London’s leading intellectual property (IP) specialist law firms Azrights, warns business owners and entrepreneurs to take steps to protect their IP when commissioning a website or software.

If a business has software or a website created for it by a third party and does not discuss ownership rights prior to signing a contract, the completed product will belong to the creator rather than the commissioner of the work.

Using the example of ClearSprings Management Limited, a provider of outsourced IT, housing and support services, Shireen Smith explains: “In 2005, ClearSprings Management Limited (CML) came up with a great software idea and hired a Businesslinx Limited to develop it with a view to selling it once completed.  There was only one problem.  Even though the software was built for CML, ownership of the software remained with the developers and CML had nothing to sell. They merely had a right to use it internally.

“CML had made a classic error which seems to be repeated time and time again.  There was a legal agreement in place, but it failed to address copyright.  By entering into an agreement without proper understanding of copyright law meant that the company signed up to an agreement that failed to address the vital issue of copyright ownership.

“The court implied a licence in favour of CML to use the software. However, as ownership of the software lay with the developers, CML did not own any rights in the idea. The practical consequence is that it had nothing to sell, it could only use the software it had commissioned.”

Shireen continues: “Make sure if you’re using templates to commission a copyright work that you understand whether the copyright and other IP provisions are appropriate to your plans.  If you don’t discuss ownership or appropriate licence terms before you’re committed to using a particular supplier, you are storing up potential problems for yourself later on.

“Going back to someone to renegotiate terms when the rights have a value invariably means people will be reluctant to agree to transfer them over to you without further payment.  The time to discuss such details is when they want to win the commission.

“I met an entrepreneur who told me about a software business he had run for two years with two co-founders which folded because it emerged that the company didn’t own the rights to the software.  They had used a freelancer who held the rights to the software, and wanted a lot more money than they had available in order to assign ownership to them.  So, the company decided to close down.”

Shireen has identified six crucial questions to be asked by business owners should ask themselves before commissioning a website or software:

  1. Who will have copyright over the software once it is developed?
  2. What rights are there for the use and distribution of the software?
  3. What documents are in place to confirm this?
  4. If there is a legal agreement in place, does it address copyright?
  5. If working with a freelancer, can the business be certain that it will own the rights to any work produced?
  6. Have documents been checked by a legal expert, who can ensure that it protects the business’s interests?

Further valuable IP advice can be found in Shireen Smith’s book Intellectual Property Revolution, which is printed by Rethink Press available from Amazon and is priced at £12.99.  The book contains expert advice for businesses on how to successfully manage IP assets, protect brands and add value to businesses in the digital economy.  It is written in plain English and is intended for use by business owners and ‘brand guardians’.

A video explaining more about how the digital economy is changing IP can be found here.

 

Azrights website
Azrights on YouTube
Azrights on Twitter

Intellectual Property Revolution

What Hotels.com Teaches Us About IP Law

Trademark registration White label virtual departmentAt the start of 2015, SMEs in the UK accounted for a staggering 99.3% of all UK businesses according to research conducted by the Federation of Small Businesses Despite this significant figure, the importance of SMEs’ needs for intellectual property services is largely unaddressed.

The emergence of the digital economy has allowed small businesses to market themselves to a global audience, removing a traditional barrier to entry in many industries.  However, if these small businesses don’t take steps to protect their intellectual property (IP) they can risk losing out.

Leading lawyer and intellectual property expert Shireen Smith of London-based law firm Azrights explains that it is surprising that society has not yet recognised how essential IP law is.

Shireen says “Unfortunately due to the current confused IP landscape, legal issues can and do fall between the cracks.  In particular, there is little advice available for SMEs to think strategically about their name choice.  Instead they are led to mistakenly believe that any name they use in their business is good enough, provided they register it as a trademark.”

“Because SMEs can now market to a global audience, it is important for them to pick names which can help them to stand out.”

“A trademark registration should be planned properly.  The notion that registering your own trade mark is as good as getting legal help, risks not getting adequate protection.  It is easy enough for SMEs to waste a lot of money filing inappropriate trade marks.”

Shireen expresses her concern about one issue in particular that can cause confusion when doing business online, “Naming can get mixed up with the question of being found online.”

“The general wisdom among certain online marketing specialists is that you should choose a name that matches a keyword people will be looking for.  However recent changes in Google’s algorithms make the benefit of using descriptive names insufficient.”

“An example of the sort of problem that can occur for a business with a descriptive name is Hotels.com, which was founded in the early days of the web when many companies tended to use generic descriptive names as brand names.”

“The company applied to register its name as a trade mark and put forward evidence to persuade the United States Patent and Trademark Office that its brand had acquired distinctiveness during the twenty years it had been in business.  After carrying out a nationwide survey of consumers, the company found that consumers regarded Hotels.com as a brand name.  Nevertheless, the USPTO held that the mark was generic, and Hotels.com lost the case.”

Shireen explains how that in opting for a descriptive name, Hotels.com left itself vulnerable.

“The downside to using a purely descriptive name is that there is little you can do to stop competitors using a similar name and piggy backing off your success and inevitably diminishing the value of your product.”

Shireen concludes by saying that “Names are only perfect if they are both legally available and legally effective.  Only then is it possible for SMEs to gain the best protection for the company’s IP assets.”

‘Intellectual Property Revolution’ by Shireen Smith is available from Amazon and is priced at £12.99.  The book contains expert advice for businesses on how to successfully manage IP assets, protect brands and add value to businesses in the digital economy.  It is written in plain English and is intended for use by business owners and ‘brand guardians’.

 

What is Intellectual Property Part 2

What Oracle v Google Teaches Business Owners about IP Law

What is Intellectual Property Part 2The digital revolution is redefining businesses.  Companies that were once confined to marketing to a local audience now have the potential to operate international business from little more than a mobile set up.

However, the simplicity involved in starting up online can be a trap for the unwary says Shireen Smith, Intellectual Property (IP) law expert of London-based law firm Azrights.

One area that Shireen believes needs more legal attention is business concepts that require setting up a social media platform.

Social media platforms are experiencing exponential growth, with 72% of UK internet users now
having a social media profile in 2015 according to Ofcom research. And success can turn a penniless business into one valued at almost £300 million in a year, like that of US-based app YikYak.

“Firms may want to interface with other sites in order to access media.  This involves knowing about your legal position when using an Application Programming Interface, or API for short.  Put simply, an API is a language a programmer can use to talk to a system.”

“The law in this area is constantly evolving and with the web design and development industry being unregulated, it is crucial to seek legal advice.”

Oracle and Google have had an ongoing legal dispute concerning APIs since 2012, which Shireen discusses in her new book Intellectual Property Revolution published by Rethink Press.

“Google made use of Oracle’s API and the question concerned whether the API was protected by copyright.  If so, then Google was not free to make use of it without Oracle’s permission.

“The courts ruled that APIs are in fact protected by copyright in the US.  According to the US-based digital rights group, Electronic Frontier Foundation this gives tech firms ‘unprecedented and dangerous power’ over developers by making it substantially more difficult for upstarts to create new software.

Shireen Smith continues “Although it would be interesting to have a ruling from the EU on the same facts, given that most APIs that you might want to use are US-based, the US ruling is one that you would need to heed if you wanted to use an API.

“The upshot is that you may need permission from the owner of a platform if you want to create another system which is compatible with it, for example Facebook.  The legal protection of computer software is a complex and fast-paced area of law.”

With regards to other social media platforms, ‘tropicalisation’ is an occurrence that has been significant in China and Brazil.  The term refers to the practice of investing in start-ups which take an established business model and adapt it to an emerging market – a feat that is easily achievable in today’s digital economy.

“Examples include Peixe Urbano a Brazilian clone of ‘daily-deal’ site Groupon, Weibo  the Chinese Twitter-like microblogging platform, RenRen the Chinese version of Facebook, Baidu the Chinese take on Google and Alibaba a Chinese copy of eBay.”

“From an IP perspective there are few legal barriers to this tactic.  The law does not protect bare business models.  Elements of a business model might be protected.  A patent can sometimes
protect the technology, copyright can protect the expression of a concept, designs can protect the aesthetic aspects and trademarks protect business and product names.”

Shireen sums up by saying “Securing a range of intellectual property rights in different elements can combine to provide the most powerful protection as each IP right protects you in subtly different ways and situations.

A video which was especially commissioned for Azrights and can be found here explains further how the digital economy is changing IP.

‘Intellectual Property Revolution’ by Shireen Smith is available from Amazon and is priced at £12.99.  The book contains expert advice for businesses on how to successfully manage IP assets, protect brands and add value to businesses in the digital economy.  It is written in plain English and is intended for use by business owners and ‘brand guardians’.

Links:

Azrights website

Azrights on YouTube

Azrights on Twitter

 

What Karaoke Can Teach Us about Intellectual Property Law

Community Registered Designs and PatentsAccording to a Parliament briefing paper  published on Monday December 7, the number of businesses in the UK grew by 146,000 between 2014 and 2015 to 5.39 million, with 95% of firms employing fewer than ten people.

The emergence of the digital economy has allowed small businesses to market themselves to a global audience, removing a traditional barrier to entry in many industries.  However, if these small businesses don’t take steps to protect their intellectual property (IP) they can risk losing out.

Leading IP lawyer and founder of IP specialist law firm Azrights Shireen Smith believes small businesses can learn from the branding failures of large multinational corporations.

“Nowadays, SMEs are exposed to a global audience in ways that simply did not occur in the industrial era. We have more businesses today than we’ve ever had before, and because they can market to a global marketplace it is important for them to pick names which can help them to stand out, while not infringing on the rights of others.

“Given the possibility for a business with a good idea to create a substantial niche for itself, it is important that the name chosen is one that the business can uniquely own, ideally internationally. It should be a name which creates valuable IP – and that means it must be distinctive and capable of being trademarked.

“It is also important to understand some of the subtleties of IP law to appreciate why there does not need to be a dramatic consequence to ignoring IP, for there to nevertheless be a severe impact on a business which limits its potential. So, the owners may never be aware of the loss for the business.

“For example, you might find yourself like Daisuke Inoue, the Japanese businessman, who invented the karaoke machine. He hadn’t patented the invention, and others made significant sums of money from the invention while he made nothing. You would be aware if, like karaoke, you could have patented something, and would have some idea of what you lost.

“Alternatively, you could be like László József Bíró, a Hungarian born inventor, who in 1938 had patented the universally known ballpoint pen, or biro for short. Before the inventor had the chance to benefit from its huge commercial potential, László Bíró decided to sell the patent to Marcel Bic for $2million, around £11.6 million today. Bic soon used it as the main product of his Bic Company which is now reported to sell an estimated 15 million pens every day, and over 100 billion ballpoint pens globally. That is enough to draw a line to the moon and back more than 320,000 times, and to make £11.6 million look like short change.

“However, on the other hand, you may never know what you could have had exclusive right over, and hence earned more revenues from. What you don’t know you lost is not going to worry you. Although it should. Most people are in business to, among other things, make money. So, why wouldn’t you want to maximise your revenues by taking account of IP?”

Shireen Smith has recently launched a new book called ‘Intellectual Property Revolution’ published by Rethink Press which is all about how to successfully manage IP assets, protect brands and add value to your business in the digital economy. It is written in plain English and is helpful for business owners and ‘brand guardians’.

A video explaining more about how the digital economy is changing IP can be found here

 

Azrights website
Azrights on You Tube
Azrights on Twitter
Intellectual Property Revolution on Amazon

 

 

 

IP Law Makes Waves In Piracy

Online Piracy Doesnt Hurt SalesOr Does ItShireen Smith, intellectual property law expert and founder of London based law firm Azrights , has expressed her concern about the ongoing battle the games industry faces over piracy issues.

Writing in MCV (The Market for Computer and Video Games) 4 December issue, Shireen discusses how the digital revolution has bought IP law to the fore of every modern business and how the computer and video games industry is “experiencing an intellectual property revolution.”

UK games companies on average grew by 22% between 2011 and 2013 according to Ukie with digital game sales larger than digital video and music sales combined.  Given the commercial significance of the games market, Shireen believes that the computer and video games industry need to take a more serious overview of intellectual property law.

Commenting on Nintendo’s recent high profile legal breakthrough against circumvention devices, Shireen explains that IP issues are threatening large corporations as well as entrepreneurial firms.

“In an ongoing legal battle, Nintendo has made a breakthrough against circumvention devices with the case reaching Europe’s highest court in January 2014.”

“The ‘first instance criminal decision against the defendant puts an international spotlight on what is the legitimate use of devices such as mod chips, which can have non-infringing uses as well as infringing ones.”

“It is likely that similar cases across Europe will soon follow suit as anti-piracy campaigns continue to grow.  It also means that national courts in all EU member countries have a framework to assess whether security measures are protected – a huge success for the international computer and video games industry.  The high profile nature of the case has EU-wide implications on independent software developers, as well as gamers.”

Shireen, who recently launched her new book Intellectual Property Revolution  also provides some guidance for smaller businesses.

“Entrepreneurial businesses may have some misconceptions regarding the approach to IP law.  The advice in employing an IP expert is the earlier the better.  Nowadays SMEs are exposed to a global audience in ways that simply did not occur in the industrial era.  We have more businesses today than we’ve ever had before.”

“In a market which is constantly flooded with innovative concepts, smaller businesses can find themselves at a serious risk of losing out if IP infrastructure is not put in place.  There is greater risk in both the short and long run as smaller businesses often don’t have the time or resources to overcome a legal setback.”

It is not just the video and computer games market that is effected – the intellectual property revolution is happening across industries.

“In the fashion industry, the Kering group (who own Gucci), have recently challenged Alibaba on piracy issues.  There is also ongoing problems faced by the music and film industries with illegal downloads and streaming.”

Shireen’s MCV article titled “IP law clamps down on pirates” can be found here.

Azrights website

Azrights on YouTube

Azrights on Twitter

Intellectual Property Revolution on Amazon

Games Industry Must Ensure it Takes IP Law Seriously

Facebook users mourning the removal of scrabulousAccording to Ukie , the trade body for the games and wider interactive entertainment industry, the UK games industry was worth over £3.9 billion in consumer spend in 2014 and the sector is expected to grow at an annual rate of 8%.

The games industry is relatively new and therefore 95% of companies are microbusinesses or SMEs.  Leading intellectual property (IP) lawyer Shireen Smith thinks that many of these companies could be at risk of losing out as a result of an IP dispute, if they don’t take the necessary steps to protect themselves.

“If names are chosen without involving a trade mark expert, the business is at risk of losing out.  A poor choice of name can lead to a constant loss of value or difficulty in securing registration either in the UK or in other countries.

“An IP expert should always be consulted at the early stages of launching a new business or product.

“Otherwise, as soon as a new business starts up, the business owner might receive notice that it is infringing on another brand.  This can have serious consequences for those that have invested significantly in their branding and search engine optimisation.  Sadly for some, they don’t have the time or resources to overcome such a setback.”

Shireen Smith, who is the founder of London-based law firm Azrightscontinues to give an example.

Scrabulous was an app, created by two Indian brothers, which allowed people to play a Scrabble-like game online with friends anywhere in the world.  It was a huge hit – attracting 600,000 users per day – when in 2008, Hasbro, the owner of the Scrabble trademark, shut it down because their name suggested to the market that this was a similar game to Scrabble.  As trademark law helps to prevent piggybacking off the success of others’ brand, Scrabble was able to get Facebook to pull the Scrabulous app even though it was extremely popular.

“The founders had even applied to register a trademark for their name, clearly unaware of the wide scope of protection that trademarks give.  Had they taken advice before using the name they would have realised the choice was unwise.

“The fact that their app had gone viral did not stop Facebook from simply removing it.  This paved the way for Zynga to create what is now a highly successful app: Words with Friends.  The brothers’ advantage of being the first to build a Scrabble-like app on Facebook was lost, and we will never know how big Scrabulous would have been today if it had opted for a better name.”

Shireen Smith has recently launched a new book called ‘Intellectual Property Revolution’, published by Rethink Press which is all about how to successfully manage IP assets, protect brands and add value to your business in the digital economy.  It is written in plain English and is helpful for business owners and ‘brand guardians’.

A video explaining more about how the digital economy is changing IP can be found here

 

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