Sunday, 25 January 2015

The Moving Series Episode 4: Sally Cooper looks at Communications: Phone and Mail

If you want to sell to Sally, forget advertising, its all serendipity: let her tell you the tale of her telecoms purchases. BT loses out but Royal Mail proves a star

Some twenty years ago, the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys gathered in Stratford-Upon-Avon for its Annual Conference. Delegates were (with varying degrees of apprehension enthusiasm) looking ahead to 1st April 1996 when OHIM would officially open for business in Alicante and when WIPO would accept Trade Mark Applications from the UK under the Madrid Protocol. And in my luggage was my first (brick-size) mobile phone.

At the end of 2014, the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys held a Reception in Edinburgh. In my pocket when I took the train south (from Edinburgh to Windermere) was a newly-acquired Vodafone Smart 4. Why?

“I can't get a signal” could be a cause of frustration or it could be a cause for celebration. In business terms, it's going to be frustration. And, in Cumbria, there are places which have network coverage from one operator but not from another (and there are places where there is no coverage at all).

 I wanted a phone that could use 4G and (because I'm a serial loser of mobile phones and careful about money) I wanted to start by using PayAsYouGo / see what I could get for around £100. Also, I had recently visited Wray Castle. This National Trust property on the north-west shores of Windermere was (before opening to the public in 2011) leased to a telecommunications company which not only “wired” the Castle but also left the legacy of a mast on the tower – now a Vodafone mast.

The final piece of the jigsaw was my hotel in Edinburgh (end of 2014) being in the same block as the Vodafone store on Princes Street. It was a swift purchase. I had a train to catch. And an appointment to keep – to collect the keys to my new office in Windermere.

The only “blip” with the phone so far has been self-inflicted (if you can self-inflict a “blip”). I walked nervously into a Vodafone store and explained I was happy with the phone – but it didn't seem to want to take incoming calls. Oh! The embarrassment on learning that its number began 07918 and not 07819! Problem solved in an instant!

 In fact, I was so embarrassed that I went on to explain my intention to use the phone “for business” and “in Cumbria” after the end of 2014. In subsequent discussion, the words “virtual landline” entered my vocabulary. Also, I was introduced to the idea that, whilst BT has restrictions on allowing a number to be taken “out of area” (and a first conversation with BT had said “no” to taking 0161 (Manchester) numbers to Cumbria), a BT number can be “ported” to another telecoms provider.

I learned a lot more about virtual landlines through watching the videos for Vodafone's One Net service. In essence, that service provides both “local numbers” (so clients / customers feel they are dealing with a “local business”) and “when one phone isn't answered by the business - move call seamlessly to the next phone - so client / customer is sure of talking to someone and doesn't have to leave a message” (a service for which there's undoubtedly a technical term).

I wasn't interested in “when one phone isn't answered” but I was very interested in being able to keep two 0161 (Manchester) numbers. I had used 0161 941 3362 for twenty-four years (latterly phone and internet) and 0161 941 1246 for nearly as long (latterly fax and internet) and I didn't want to leave them behind / release them back to BT.

In the end, I decided Vodafone's One Net service offered more than I needed. But searching “virtual landline” on the internet took me to Virtual Landline and present circumstances. Both 0161 941 3362 and 0161 941 1246 were “ported” from BT on 31st December 2014. When anyone calls either number, their call is (automatically / seamlessly) forwarded by Virtual Landline to the Vodafone (number beginning 07918). I'm still a novice on other features of the service and will be experimenting further with (a) the app which seems to allow me to make outgoing calls from the Vodafone with number given to recipient as 0161 941 3362 and (b) the various “message” services that operate when the Vodafone is not answered / switched off – extending to a voice mail being left at the email address of

So – at present – no land line: though paying for a land line to sit alongside the Ethernet cable that links computer-on-desk to the internet remains an option.

Royal Mail

To end – a few words about post. I thought I had time but I didn't. I set about providing people with change-of-address information in days and weeks following collecting keys to the new office (1st November 2014), but it was Friday 12th December 2014 (exchange of contracts) when it was confirmed I had five days to clear old office on Wednesday 17th December 2014 (completion). Royal Mail's “redirect” service is available on its website and I just had to live with two things. One is that Royal Mail requires five days' notice to redirect so (in my case) redirect wasn't going to happen until Friday 19th December 2014. The other is that the on line service works through postcodes – and my new office isn't listed as a building, but by reference to the businesses in the building. I'm still waiting for the people who purchased on 17th December 2014 to forward the few items of post that arrived on 18th / 19th December 2014, but the redirect service has been brilliant notwithstanding the local postman having to deliver post for four people and for my office to a very small (domestic) postbox. The only attempted“gone astray” I know of so far is a letter sent by courier to old address. It came from Latvia and was confirmation of letter sent by email. DHL called 0161 941 3362 when unable to deliver / Virtual Landline forwarded to the Vodafone / I picked up DHL's message / returned the call to explain the position / DHL kindly delivered to Cumbria.

Monday, 19 January 2015

The Moving Series Episode 3: Sally Cooper looks at buying IT: Internet and Phone

Internet: Phone: Post This was the order in which the need for change was addressed. It is, of course, a “reverse order” for historians as 
  • Sir Rowland Hill came up with the radical idea of charges for post being paid by the sender (not the recipient) in the first half of the 19th century [1837] and 
  •  Alexander Graham Bell was the first to obtain a patent for an "apparatus for transmitting vocal or other sounds telegraphically" in the second half of the 19th century [1876]and 
  • It's a mere twenty-five years (so second half of the 20th century) since Sir Tim Berners-Lee wrote the code that gave us the World Wide Web. What, I wonder, will be appearing before “internet” in any similar order when a business moves office fifty years from now (so 2065)?  

Thoughts on the Internet split in a number of different ways. For me, Domain Name(s) and email address(es) and ISP(s) were in need of review for each of past (“how did I get here?”) / present (“what’s in place at today’s date?”) / future (“what’s round the next corner?”). Domain Names, I’m reminded of conferences in the 1990s which addressed the question: “Are Domain Names IT [Information Technology] or IP [Intellectual Property]?”. The fact the question was asked at all links in part to it being very easy for “the techies” to register Names. Looking back, I see that I didn’t register SALLYCOOPER.COM until 2000 (and I registered SALLYCOOPER.UK in June 2014). Before 2000, I used an email address provided by an ISP based in Warrington– much as, these days, people use hotmail or gmail or btinternet etc. Since 2000, the email address has been (still is)

Working from home (already regarded as “the old life”) meant there could be four people wanting to use the Internet at the same time (with two of them wanting to use the Internet for “business” rather than “leisure”). From the early 1990s there were two phone lines and, at the time when decisions were needed, one line doubled as fax number and Internet provided by the ISP based in Warrington and the other line was phone and Internet provided by BT. Both the ISP based in Warrington and BT supplied wifi.

The New Office
Note wall depth
Call me old-fashioned, but I like to do “serious work” at a desk. Whilst I own the regular items of kit (laptop / tablet / smart phone) that make it possible to work just about anywhere, the office has a door that can be closed to be sure of confidentiality. The words “just about anywhere” crept into the last sentence and probably went unnoticed by many. Cumbria isn’t a county where it’s possible to “work anywhere”. Also, the office is in a typical Lakeland building – solid construction and thick walls.

So we’re presently in transition. The Domain Name and email address are retained with change-of-address duly notified. Both phone lines have gone. Contracts with the ISP based in Warrington and with BT are at an end. The principal link to the Internet is now by Ethernet cable which building-owners provide and which links to a (newly-purchased) Dell computer (desktop).

There will soon be “home wifi” (BT land line again – not my decision this time) and other access to the Internet is presently through smart phone (a recently-purchased Vodafone), an ASUS tablet and a (recently-purchased) Dell laptop. Why Dell? Customer loyalty. The Dell website is easy to use. Goods ordered arrive quickly and it’s not difficult to get what’s delivered up-and-running. Why ASUS? Customer loyalty again. I still have one of the first (very small) laptops ASUS produced for use by children in schools. I can admit now that I recall “ordering for a child” in order to get hold of it. I still use it to access the Internet but it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles (viz: all the apps) of the ASUS tablet. Why Vodafone?

“Communications – Phone and Post” will follow!

Friday, 9 January 2015

The Moving Series Episode 2: Social Media Sally Cooper style

Sally Cooper digresses on moving in the social media and you thought she was already pretty expert on this!
The background to this note is comment made by a speaker at a Business Event in 2014 at the Coronation Hall in Ulverston (being a market town between Barrow and Kendal and birthplace of Sir John Barrow (1764) and Stan Laurel (1890)). With other speakers, he took the theme of a hotel in Ulverston wanting to attract attention to itself : “Think of your website as your building viewed from the outside. Think of Facebook as the exchange with the client that happens at a Reception. Think of Twitter as the chat with the waiter or waitress at breakfast the following morning: “Did you sleep well? Got any plans for today?””.  The Duck says you can think of it like that but some of even my tweets tend to have rather more influence than that

Sally's hitherto local guru
Whenever I begin to feel lost in social media, I remember this comment and it helps “position” whatever new service I’ve come across (and might want to use).

 In fact, I decided to take advice from the local “social media guru” : I asked him (a) to look for my office on the Internet and provide me with a list of results, and (b) to work through this list with me to see what changes should be made. The list (in order) provided the full results of an Internet search for SALLY COOPER
In terms of moving office, this was the core information I needed.

The “full results” search was surprisingly helpful in giving a check-list. As every business should, I search my business name from time to time and, whilst I’ve never engaged in (for example) search engine optimisation, I generally find SALLY COOPER : Trade Mark Attorney easy to find. I’m used to saying “I’m not the artist or the musician” and it doesn’t worry me that the artist / musician / Trade Mark Attorney swap places from time to time in search results for SALLY COOPER. A task for 2015 is to repeat a “full results” search and see where changes may still be needed. (The Duck says what about the actress and the occasional hit to this blog please)

So far as website is concerned, I’ve always taken the view that there’s no shortage of information on trade marks generally (and registration of trade marks in particular) on the Internet so the website is “where to find my office” rather than “what my business has to offer”. My regular account when asked how new clients find me refers to (a) the website of ITMA, and (b) the IPO passing on my telephone number in answer to enquiries, and (c) contacts built up over 30+ years of being a lawyer of one sort or another. I’m reminded of the accountant who attends networking events wearing a cricket shirt with “12” on the back. He explains that no-one he meets is ever looking for an accountant – but he’ll be there whenever he’s needed. The update of the website is underway !

I think the order of LinkedIn / Twitter / Facebook is right for my business. It was certainly very simple to review what appeared on LinkedIn and update where necessary. My social media guru took me through procedures for sending a personal message to all LinkedIn contacts to advise of new details but (shame to say) I’ve stuck with simply making changes / relying on these becoming available to anyone interested searching SALLY COOPER.

Twitter was only a problem in that I wanted to change @TradeMarksHale to @TradeMarksCumbria but – as social media guru pointed out – this exceeded the 15-character limit. This was the only part of the social media process where others (family and friends) were involved and the result has been a change from @TradeMarksHale to @TradeMarksLakes. Again, very simply to update.

 Facebook is – for me – very much a “friends” place rather than a “business” place. But, having said this, a lot of the people who are Friends on Facebook are people I’ve worked with (or still work with). It’s certainly the case that posting a “moving underway” message when the final day came (and the keys to home and office were handed over) attracted a lot of welcome attention – and a lot of encouragement and good wishes for 2015 !

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Online client reviews: worth the risk?

Catching up on my reading, I found myself scouring the pages of the November/December print version of Nick Holmes'/Delia Venables' Internet Newsletter for Lawyers (on which, details can be found here). This publication is always interesting and carries lots of good ideas, but it's also a bit annoying in that it can't help conveying the impression that there are lots of other lawyers out there, enjoying themselves online with the latest wheezes and gimmicks but at the same time doing far more useful things than you are -- and that they are doing so in a profitable and practice-building manner.

The item that caught my eye this time round was however written on a topic that has the capacity to do as much harm as good -- the provision of online facilities for your clients to review your practice.  This item, by Daniel Kidd ("Why customer reviews are so important", which you can read here),  looks at various service review packages and opens reassuringly with the words
"Getting your firm reviewed by customers is extremely easy and cost effective and has the potential to improve your search rankings as well as your click through and conversion rates".
Indeed, this is the case. There are however plenty of matters arising. These include and are therefore not limited to the following:

  • what to do about client reviews that are rightly or wrongly pejorative?
  • the effect of a client's accidental or deliberate mis-use of a law firm name (eg "Berwins" might refer to a firm of solicitors in Harrogate, to "Berwin Leighton Paisner" or to "King & Wood Mallesons", and Simmons & Simmons might emerge as "Summons & Summons")
  • the (non)portabilitiy of reviews where a practice dissolves and the solicitors go their different ways, whether to different firms or as soloists
  • the risk of reviews disclosing information that was not meant to be made publicly available
  • the need to develop a routine and a set of in-house practices for monitoring client reviews and dealing effectively with matters arising.

Do any readers of this blog have personal experience of client review software that they can share with us?

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

The Moving Series Episode 1: To Logo or not to Logo

The great Sally Cooper Migration Path
The background to this series of notes on “moving office” is that, from December 1990 to December 2014 (so 24 years) this blogger “worked from home”. The office that began as SALLY COOPER: Solicitor (4 years) became SALLY COOPER: Solicitor and Trade Mark Attorney (7 years) and eventually SALLY COOPER: Trade Mark Attorney (13 years). In 2015 “walking to the office” is replacing “working from home”.

The Old Office
There has never been a logo. Is it time to change this? The move is not just down-the-road. The move involved travel of 87 miles. Goodbye to the leafy suburb of Hale in South Manchester (Cheshire) and hello to the hills and lake of Windermere in South Lakeland (Cumbria). I am not just moving an office but taking on a new county.

The logo – to have or not to have? is not a new question. No-one ever asks me “Why don’t you have a logo?“ but I’ve always been ready with three reasons. The first is psychological and the third is practical and the second sits somewhere in the middle.

The first (psychological) reason centres on lack-of-confidence. When The Almighty (of whatever religion you may or may not subscribe to) handed out attributes, he or she didn’t – for me – overdo either Ambition or Confidence. It was never an Ambition to set up a legal practice: it just happened. I was never Confident the practice would survive through to adult life: it just happened. Add to this the “if it ain’t broke, don’t mend it” school of thought (viz: you’ve never had a logo – why do you want one now?) and the no-logo side wins the argument.

An Herdwick sheep opines on logos
The third (practical) reason involves thinking over what any logo might look like. Should there simply be colour and / or stylisation added to SALLY COOPER? Should some geometrical shape (being a shape without apparent meaning) appear fore or aft or elsewhere? Should a picture (or depiction) be introduced? Even – as the move is to Cumbria – a picture (or depiction) of a Herdwick Sheep? At this point, the overlap with the first (psychological) reason clicks in. The Almighty also left me short on Vision. I don’t have a Vision of the practice other than in terms of the name SALLY COOPER so there’s reluctance to put on web page / business cards / notepaper etc anything that adds to or alters SALLY COOPER. Again, the no-logo side wins the argument.

The second (somewhere in the middle) reason links to the business of being a Trade Mark Attorney. Daily routine involves talking to people about logos they want to use in their businesses. I take care not to criticise or give an opinion on the merit or otherwise of these logos (“I am not a brand consultant”). I limit my role to helping with issues of registrability for particular goods and / or services. Experience suggests (a) there are trends in logos and (b) the business that keeps the same logo over time is the exception rather than the rule. Perhaps there’s (again) an overlap with the first (psychological) reason and what’s lacking here is Trust. Would I trust a designer to come up with a logo that was truly original (and didn’t look like a logo on which I might be asked to advise)? If I made the leap – would I trust myself to stick with the logo (and be able to resist the temptation to change it just as soon as I spotted a new trend in logos)? Again, the no-logo side wins the argument. The Duck quacks: that's actually the best reason for a trademark adviser to be lightly branded in a particular style- it avoids alienating those who adopt different styles.

If this all sounds negative – it isn’t. For many, the forces for change frequently come from outside. The sole practitioner has the advantage that, if there’s no external pressure for change, the matter of whether there should be change at all can be assessed over time. For the time being, the business of SALLY COOPER is comfortable in its own skin – there won’t be a logo!

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Thank You @Oamitweets for 2014

It is the season for writing thank you letters so now that the holiday season is drawing to a close, I was thinking of writing a SOLO thank you letter to OHIM for the challenge of their new website.
It was a great idea. We applaud the concept of electronic business. Some of us may have dusted off the fax machines and given up the unequal struggle of finding the right button to press to record or pay or limit or surrender our client's marks. Nevertheless there are some smart error trapping reasons behind all those buttons. You cannot oppose an International mark too soon  or partially surrender a pending application. You can now submit your Grounds of Appeal and taking over representation is simplicity itself. So for the result we thank you.

I am sorry that despite the long holiday period from 24 to 31 December announced in 2013 and today 1 January 2015 more recently announced,  that someone or something was still working. Over the dies non I have received alerts, search reports, renewal confirmations, notices of advertisement and the dreaded surveillance notices. None at least on 25 December so at least some holiday may have been observed.

I am surprised that there are still bugs lingering but OHIM website weekend works still seem to be a regular occurrence with the last advertised for 20 December 2014

It would be nice if 2015 saw some stability so we can get to grips with using it without things changing under our fingertips.

One of the bugs that annoys me is this. I want to edit the name or address of one of my owners and that helpful little message comes up that I have circled. It says "Please note: if you have provided a correspondence address you may also want to update it" but does it let you? No. Sucks boo, the correspondence address stays greyed out as does the Country of your address, whichever address that might be. Its been frustrating me for a while now but its not something I want to phone the customer support line about. I just leave the correspondence address. Its a bit of a legacy anyway now that the applicant is using e-comms and a representative.

It is fairly unusual for a company to want to use an address in another country, but it can. Since we have a European Union you might expect a company occassionally to want to run its business from elsewhere in the Union. While in the UK, our law requires a company to have a registered office address within the country of incorporation, the trademark does not need to use that address. I suggest to my clients that they do, but some prefer to use their business address instead. 

Or maybe a Scottish company might want Scotland to be there as their country. After all for a Scottish company that is where its registered office needs to be.

It seems that OHIM regard a change of country as a transfer but of course the transfer department do not see it that way and will not record a change of address on a transfer request. So sorry to bore those of you who have never had a client who wants to trade from another country, but this seems to be the most convenient way of  raising my concern.

Maybe "Owners" is one of the areas that the IT team are still working on. Mysteriously the number of Owners now in my User Area is much depleted. Ah you see OHIM loves to keep us on our toes. Lets just hope they keep moving in the right direction during 2015.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Money Laundering

The tale end of Rule 11 says: Every regulated person must ensure they comply with all legislation
pertaining to “money laundering” and “proceeds of crime”.

No problem. Back in 2008 Solo posted about it. The 2007 Regulations don't apply to patent and trademark agents.   I was therefore surprised by the IPREG advice page.  In August they took advice from Mr James Ramsden, a junior counsel, who opines that the Treasury is wrong (as is SOLO). Brave man! I was alerted to this development by the report at the back (page 655 to be precise of the recently arrived CIPA Journal on the webinar in September. Personally I would have made it front page news as we know from the secret diary that no-one reads these features. Webinars are of course for CPD points getters not for any useful information. There is also a summary published clandestinely on the CIPA web site in October here.

The consequence of Mr Ramsden being right and me being wrong is (amongst other things) that all solos now need to become nominated officers to submit Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs). The National Crime Agency has a nice on line interface for enabling us to pursue our new career as a nark. Under the law as I understand it, if someone asks me to participate in a dodgy transaction, I can just say no. I have no further obligations. Yes you do need to be aware of the possibilities of money-laundering and now that we all have client accounts, we may be tempted by suggestions that we use them to facilitate interesting trades that our clients have in mind. Don't do it. Just say No. Client accounts are for managing credit risk in a way that is fair to the client.

The reason why the Treasury were wrong apparently is that we are independent legal professionals who by way of business provide legal services to other  persons, when participating in financial transactions concerning the managing of other assets (where the other assets are patents and trademarks). Me thinks he is stretching it. We do manage patents and trademarks but participating in financial transactions concerning their management? I don't think you can have  had in mind the payment of renewal fees as a financial transaction. Managing assets means looking after an investment portfolio, a load of houses - something of that ilk, not keeping a database of renewal dates. Probably you should read the opinion yourself.  Paragraph 17 to 22 are the knub of it.

Under the 2007 regulations, I only have to do client identification procedures when I am establishing a business relationship to participate in these strange financial transactions. Therefore, it seems to me that I had better not even get close to doing that.

Since IPREG took counsel's advice in August, one would have hoped that they have managed to engage with the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority not Crime Agency) and work out who is the supervisory authority for us.

ITMA recently conducted a survey to find out how many members had held money in an escrow account as part of an assignment exercise. Was that what they thought managing assets meant? An independent legal professional that is involved in financial transactions concerning the buying and selling of business entities is caught by the Money Laundering Regulations. However a trademark is not a business entity. A business is a business entity and the business might include a trademark but it would be remarkable if the trademark agent acted in the sale of the business entity just to get the trademark. If something like that comes along, pass it on to a business solicitor.

I am also confused by the Statement from CIPA and ITMA that you can see here. The first paragraph while true does not seem to support any assertion. Are they asserting that we don't need client accounts or that we should not be covered by the 2007 Regulations. The next paragraph bemoans the fact that we are not covered and some people (not many)  have had difficulty getting client accounts (as to which see my earlier post). Hopefully someone who knows will provide an illuminating comment. Maybe it could be you!