SNIPETs. Worth knowing, easy to read, not too long

There’s not enough IP knowledge in UK company boardrooms or wider management, or even amoungst innovator teams themselves. People from the top team down just don’t have time to acquire it from available sources.  In any event, these seldom deliver information in a business-minded way and doesn’t recognize the obstacles business people encounter in dealing with IP.  There’s now a solution:  SNIPETs.

SNIPETs are bite-sized chunks of practical IP learning designed for busy people.  Store a SNIPET’s essence away in your head.  Retrieve it with a moment’s thought.  Look up the copy when the time comes to use the information.

We’ll keep it brief, we’ll always give a context, we’ll steer clear of legal theory (in fact, we’ll try not to write like lawyers at all).  As this offering grows,  we’ll include options to put flesh on the bones – still with SNIPET’s trade mark practical edge.

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May 23, 2018


In patent application procedure, an “Examiner” compares a new patent application with the “state of the art”.  He then issues an official report listing earlier published documents (called “citations”). It’s at this point patent applicants can get nervous and misunderstandings can follow.  Let’s explode some myths:

“The Examiner lists lots of documents – it looks pretty hopeless”
Not necessarily. In itself, an extensive list of citations doesn’t mean that much.  You’d be surprised at the subtle amendments and intricate arguments patent attorneys come up with.

“The documents are mostly American.  Surely they don’t count – we have a UK patent application”
No, they all count if they are “prior” to the relevant patent application date.  American state of the art is as good as any other.

“All the documents are patent documents. Should we assume the Examiner thinks we infringe?
No. The most comprehensive structured technical document collection is the global patent publications collection. It’s often treated as representative of the state of the art and, simply to be practical, it’s where an Examiner usually concentrates efforts to find relevant prior documents.
He’s interested in their technical personality (what they disclose) and not their legal personality (the legal rights they claim).  For example, a 2015-published patent P which discloses a paint made by adding an additive to an initial mixture will get his attention in examining a 2018-filed patent application A whose scope encompasses P’s initial mixture.  P’s technical personality makes it an obstacle to A.

“And P’s legal personality is relevant to infringement – is that right?”
Yes, P may claim legal rights in the final paint and that affects third party freedom to operate. Unlicensed making of the final formulation would infringe rights given by patent P, as would selling and other types of infringing activity such as using the formulation for some purpose.
But this assumes patent P is in force where that activity takes place.  Legal rights a patent claims are geographically restricted and have a limited life (think 20 years maximum in Europe).

So ….”
.… a patent document’s technical personality might obstruct you getting your own patent and its legal personality might prevent you commercializing your innovation in at least some places – or it could be that only one of these is true and not the other – or neither may apply (it all depends on the facts).

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Copyright: Concerto IP Limited 2018

October 31, 2016

Sorry for the wait.  SNIPET is still reviewing feedback before further postings.

August 24, 2016

Internet posts saying some company or other has applied for a patent in a new technology are quite common – here’s an example. How significant is that? On its own, probably not very. For most companies, it indicates a direction of thinking but doesn’t necessarily signal a significant new business strategy. A patent is applied for when people in a company involved in innovation come up with something the company might commercialise. Decisions are made quickly as the window for applying is quite narrow – the basic rule is that any patent application must be filed whilst the innovation is still secret. Where the line is between YES and NO is company-dependent. But it’s the nature of business that many patent applications are filed speculatively, just as insurance policies are taken out for contingencies. In 2011, the ratio [pending patent applications] : [patents in force] was 20X the ratio ten years earlier.

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Copyright Concerto IP Limited 2016

August 19, 2016

Protecting trade marks is important. But for global businesses, it’s a global task (or near-global – the whole EU, for example, can be protected by one registration) with pretty sizeable costs. Even huge multinationals restrict initial protection costs to markets where there’s reasonable confidence of the success of a new product. Over a period – perhaps even a year or two – other markets will start to look promising and so a new round of brand protection is needed. By then, third party rights may be in the way. In the Apple case here, third party rights did get in the way. Apple did nothing wrong – in a practical world, they just could not protect the globe at the outset. If you’re a business which exports, you’re quite likely to encounter the same problem at some point; it’s life.

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Copyright Concerto IP Limited 2016

July 29, 2016

Businesses can’t know everything about what can be protected as a trade mark. So it might be surprising that one of the biggest brands in the confectionary industry should put huge effort into protecting the physical form of a chocolate bar. And this is not a first; whereas Nestle has failed – so far – to register the four fingers of their familiar Kit Kat bar, Toblerone succeeded some years ago in getting a trade mark registration for the triangular “Swiss mountain peaks” shape of their bar. Registrations for this kind of trade mark are unusually £valuable so business managers should have that in mind. But the truth is that they can also very tough to get. Success may depend on proving the shape concerned leads consumer purchase decisions – and not, as the court thought in the case of Kit Kat, the snazzy red wrapper.

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Copyright Concerto IP Limited 2016

SNIPET is intended for UK business persons outside the IP profession

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