Thursday 24 April 2008

Slick gimmick or useful tool?

Here's something worth looking into. A UK edition of Patents, Registered Designs, Trade Marks & Copyright for Dummies has just been brought out by the company run by Trevor (Wind-up Radio) Baylis. It's pretty up-to-date (though it ought to state its date of currency in bold letters so that its rate of obsolescence can be easily tracked) and has been prepared by real IP people -- patent attorney John Grant (ex-Redland/Lafarge), Charlie Ashworth (IP manager with Trevor Baylis Brands) and Henri Charmasson (IP consultant/entrepreneur).

If you can swallow the relatively informal and breathlessly animated tone of books in the Dummies series (which I personally find difficult but most readers seem to like), and can factor in the real-life crises the book doesn't mention, such as the occasional traumas one can experiences when navigating the WIPO and OHIM websites, it's actually pretty good. It's not a law book per se, nor is it a slick gimmick: it has lots of checklists and action points that an entrepreneurial client can attend to before he/she consumes precious professional time. For example, it encourages readers to steer away from those flabbily descriptive brand names to which clients are so easily attached and from which it can be so difficult to prise their initial affections. For those readers of this blog whose legal interests run wider than pure IP, it's worth reading the authors' and publisher's 16-line disclaimer on the copyright notice page, in bold capitals (is this copied from Disclaimers for Dummies? I shouldn't think so).

The next edition might benefit from an up-front checklist of IP myths that it can take time and effort to eradicate from clients' minds, such as the notion that you have protected your business name once you've registered it as a domain name or company name, or that the law actually protects people against the theft of their ideas. Something else I'd do next time round is rip out the McLachlan cartoon showing a bunch of inventors sitting outside a door marked 'Patent Office', clutching identical inventions on their laps -- not because it's unoriginal (which it is), not because it's badly executed (which it isn't), and not because it's misplaced (it leads into the Part that deals with copyright) but because it perpetuates another myth, which is that you have to wait till you have rendered an invention into tangible form before you can take it to the Patent Office (or Intellectual Property Office, as we now must call it) in order to secure protection.

At only £16.99 for 326 pages, (or £11.04 if you buy it here from Amazon) it's a good deal, particularly if you are thinking of buying a few as presents for clients, reception reading material or merely to read in the loo.

More details of the book here. Customer review by Ms E. Bunting here.


  1. I assume you have a review copy Jeremy. Is Trevor advocating the file it and leave it for a year patent application policy or the other sales gimmick of selling patent searches (not that a search isn't a great idea for an inventor its just that the UKIPO fee is so low private practice can't compete) or is there enough in there to allow a prospective client to know whether he needs a patent attorney or not?
    The trouble with any book written by somebody with a commercial interest in taking you on as a client is that it's difficult to anticipate that it will give you a fair view of the options.

  2. Yes, it's a review copy. I try very hard not to buy books at all, given their marginal utility for most purposes and the speed at which they become outdated and unreliable.

    The book is not an out and out do-it-yourself guide, since it recognises the existence of professional skills and the need to make use of them -- but there's a great deal that even an IP creator or business can do unaided without driving you into penury. And even if this book just enables its readers to make better sense of the professional advice they've paid for, it will be pretty useful.