Innovation and enterprise blog

The British Library Business & IP Centre can help you start, run and grow your business

Introduction

This blog is written by members of the Business & IP Centre team and some of our expert partners and discusses business, innovation and enterprise. Read more

25 October 2023

Sonal Keay: A Silk Road to Business Growth

Every quarter, the Get Ready for Business Growth programme carefully selects 25 high-growth creative businesses to embark on an exciting journey. This initiative, funded by the Arts Council England, is specifically designed to empower entrepreneurs to re-evaluate critical aspects of their business, from marketing strategies, innovating products/services to the entire business model.

We had the pleasure of chatting with Sonal Keay, the brilliant mind behind This Is Silk, who has recently completed this transformative program. Sonal graciously took us on a compelling journey, sharing the inspiring story behind her business's inception and her ambitious vision for its future.

"I’m Sonal, Founder of This Is Silk, a company that harnesses the healing and renewal properties of Silk for our skin and hair. I started the business with silk pillowcases in 2018 after experiencing these healing powers for my own rare skin condition and in 2022 we launched silk skincare and haircare after working with a leading cosmetic scientist.

A headshot of Sonal, the entrepreneur in front of a brightly coloured painting

It represented a personal and professional highlight for me to be back at the British Library for their Get Ready for Business Growth programme, because I had spent many happy hours researching there when I first started the business.

Our youngest daughter had just been born and every spare hour was dedicated to research and reading about Silk. It was at the British Library that I first poured over dermatological and scientific literature detailing the use of Silk as a wound-healer and it was through a mentor there that I’d obtained a start-up loan to start the business.

Five years after that time, This Is Silk was now the UK’s most awarded silk company, winning prestigious beauty industry awards for ‘Best New Luxury Skincare Product’ for our Silk Overnight Oil, coveted Beauty Bible awards and more. When the application for the programme caught my eye, we had just finished working with a leading university to develop a proprietary silk protein. As a sole, largely self-funded founder with no prior business or corporate experience, it is critical that the decisions I make to deploy our precious resources are well thought through and researched, especially on the cusp of scaling the business.

a hand dipping into a pot of moisturiser

So when I found out I had been accepted onto the Get Ready for Business Growth programme I was overjoyed - it felt like I was coming back home. It was a tough deep dive into both the business and into my own strengths and weaknesses and I took something very valuable and very personal to the business away from all the sessions with the experts. I will implement at least one headline recommendation from each of the experts.

Some of those sessions opened my mind up to possibilities, some emphasised the urgency of making changes and others gently corrected conventional thinking and challenged the status quo.

One of the best things I learned was about myself. There is a lot said about authenticity in the industry, and I had always assumed that as I had come to the power of Silk through my own, painful skin condition that that was the end of the matter. But Mike Waller, Professor of Design & Innovation at Goldsmiths University, helped me to realise that what I had done, and what I feel most comfortable doing is innovating. I am obsessed with the science of Silk and what it can do for our skin and hair, and that is my ‘happy space.’ Mike made me realise that the ability to innovate is a rare thing and that I should comfortably inhabit this space and that the multiple awards the silk skincare has won is a sign I am good at it. So I should make the most of it! To that end, I am hiring to free up more of my time to focus on this.

Mike also encouraged me to use lateral thinking when approaching issues in the business. We are in the middle of applying for B Corp certification and Mike had some incredible ideas about how to weave social good into the company’s foundations.

Another wonderful expert, Uday Thakker, urged me to focus on export and PR as significant levers for growth and I am treating his advice as a business plan to be actioned. Silk has traditionally always been an internationally desired product (the ancient trading routes known as the Old Silk Roads are so called because Silk was desired so much it crossed continents to reach its devotees) so looking abroad, especially in countries that already have an understanding and appreciation of Silk, whilst I build that education here in the UK.

This Is Silk serum

Suzie Campbell urged me to keep a very close eye on my numbers, especially during a growth period, and to keep an open mind for the right investor, who would suit both the business and me and I received excellent advice from Andy who reminded me to communicate everything I know and love about Silk not only to my customers but also to retail buyers at trade shows.

This is an amazing programme I would recommend to anyone looking to scale their business. The roster of experts there take their time to research and analyse your business and their 121’s are stuffed full with incredible advice and the support from Rosie and the team is wonderful.

It is now for me to implement all of this advice and I will report back from the next stage of business growth. I hope to do the programme and the experts proud."

 

Applications for the next intake of our Get Ready for Business Growth programme are now open, if you'd like to get involved email us at [email protected]

12 September 2023

BIPC Local Lewisham's one year anniversary

This month we are celebrating the one year anniversary of the Business & IP Centre Local in Lewisham. Building on the legacy of Start-ups in London Libraries (SiLL), our previous programme in partnership with local boroughs that helped many start-ups throughout the capital, our BIPC London Locals makes this support a permanent offering. Over the past year Lewisham Libraries have played a major role in supporting over 100 aspiring entrepreneurs and businesses in the borough through expert led workshops, one-to-ones and networking events. We are proud that since opening, they have welcomed people from all walks of life, including 67% women, 73% from a Black, Asian and ethnic minority background and 13% who are disabled, demonstrating the BIPC's commitment to diversity and inclusion.

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'I thoroughly enjoyed supporting businesses on a local level through SiLL, and I am proud that Lewisham Libraries continue to build on the positive working partnership with the British Library to deliver business support, developing exciting and dynamic ways to engage and provide the community with information as proud members of the BIPC network. Through BIPC Local Lewisham's business forums, one-to-one support sessions and digital market research tools it has increased access to resources for local businesses and residents. This success will continue to grow the local business support offer and expand reach for an inclusive economy. As we celebrate BIPC Local Lewisham's first anniversary I’m proud of everything that’s been achieved in the past year and I'm looking forward to what’s coming next.' - Mark Berbeck, Principal Business Officer at Lewisham Council

Meet our BIPC Local Lewisham ambassadors

These are business owners based in the borough. Some of them benefited from business support during SiLL, as well as BIPC services in Lewisham and the British Library, and we are now passing on their experience to local entrepreneurs. 

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'When I first came across the SiLL offer in Lewisham and attended one of their workshops for aspiring entrepreneurs I was lucky to meet with other aspiring business owners, engage with them and find out more about their businesses. It was a great opportunity to network, expand and build relationships with each other. Fast-forward and I am now a Business Ambassador for BIPC Local Lewisham and my business Authentic Worth Publishing continues to increase in legacy, awards, influence and inspiration for creatives, authors and business owners to authentically share their stories and turn them into published books.' - Esther Jacob, founder of Authentic Worth

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'The workshops we attended through SiLL helped us take the right steps to position ourselves for success. Ongoing access to business support and networking opportunities through BIPC Local Lewisham has expanded our coaching business's reach, allowing us to connect with a diverse client base and share our expertise more effectively.' - Jennifer McLean and Fiona Wedderburn-Graham, founders of Amaze Associates

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'BIPC Local Lewisham has provided such valuable support for my business over the last year. Through my work as one of their Business Ambassadors I've been able to connect with a wide range of other local small business owners, who I wouldn't otherwise have had the opportunity to meet and it's great to know that thanks to their network of libraries across the borough, access to meeting rooms and other business resources is always available to me in a convenient location, whenever I need them.' - Hannah Drakeford, founder of Hannah Drakeford Design

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'BIPC Local Lewisham has helped me build awareness for my business, Buddies for All, throughout the Borough. I have been able to access the various services they offer such as the Cobra database and GrantFinder, which has definitely been beneficial for my business journey. Buddies for All has also benefitted from being promoted on the BIPC website as well as being featured on their bookmarks, posters and flyers.' - David Bourroughs, founder of Buddies for All

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'BIPC Local Lewisham has me helped connect with other inspiring business owners and community project founders pan-London, and has also provided vast business resources such as financial planning tools as well as finance to do various activities with the book club. The funding we received from the BIPC also helped 4 of the boys complete an aviation short course, followed by flying lessons.' - Mel Nichols, founder of CHAYSES BOYS BOOK CLUB

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Part of our National Network, now in over 100 regional city or local libraries around the UK, our BIPC London Locals are based in Bromley, Greenwich, Lewisham, Waltham Forest and Wandsworth, and we aim to have 10 boroughs offering BIPC services through their high-street libraries by 2025. Whether you’re just starting out or looking to develop your business, they offer tailored support, free resources, training and events, both online and in-person to help you on your journey. In addition to that, you can take advantage of two days of free workshops that will give you the insight and skills to kick-start your business, supported by JP Morgan.

You can find the BIPC Local in Lewisham in their hub libraries in Catford, Deptford, Downham and Lewisham. They're free to join and open to everyone, so come by and say hello!

24 August 2023

BIPC Oxfordshire – helping young people to succeed in business

It’s been a whirlwind year for our Business & IP Centre (BIPC) Oxfordshire. Although it’s still relatively new, we’ve already supported over 1,500 people with their start-ups and ideas, and all of our hard work was recently recognised in the form of an award from Libraries Connected.

We’re delighted that our work helping young people in enterprising activities and supporting them into business has been recognised by Libraries Connected - a membership organisation representing the public library services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland - in the form of the Children's Promise Award. 

BIPC Oxfordshire receiving the Children's Promise Award from Libraries Connected
BIPC Oxfordshire receiving the Children's Promise Award from Libraries Connected

Of course, the BIPC doesn’t only support young people, but we’ve been particularly focused on younger generations here in Oxfordshire, partnering with local and national organisations to nurture their ambitions, and give them the skills to build their enterprise.

For the past two years we’ve been partnering with Oxfordshire Young Enterprise to host the end of year showcase. Last year alone, we had 75 students from 14 schools all over the county attend a special learning event where they pitched, exhibited and were interviewed on their projects.

We’ve additionally hosted individual school visits, including those for children special educational needs. This includes introductions to resources including our free market research databases including COBRA, which provides how-to guides on starting hundreds of different types of businesses.

For people making the first steps into business, we appreciate there can be barriers to accessing the knowledge that is mostly gained from experience. Having the tools to navigate the market is critical in so many sectors, and being able to offer access to some of these is something that makes us unique here in Oxfordshire. This is also why we’re also looking at cross-organisational approaches to link up with colleagues in Target Youth Support services to help young people who may not ordinarily have this access to get involved and gain skills they need, while also signing them up to benefit from a library membership more widely.

Beyond this, we’ve also been looking at how we can support companies or help people to create companies that support young people in education, wellbeing and other related activities.

Among the organisations to benefit from our services is GetFED. GetFED provide barista and business training for young people at risk of exclusion and exploitation. Through bespoke training sessions, the organisation supports young entrepreneurs with the basics of running a small business, developing barista skills and even project managing their own events.

Tim, founder of GetFED
Tim, founder of GetFED

The Drone Rules is another organisation that has been working closely with the BIPC. This unique organisation provides education for individuals and educational providers on all things drone-related – a technology that will be no doubt of interest to a lot of people.

William, founder of The Drone Rules
William, founder of The Drone Rules

BIPC Oxfordshire is certainly opening the doors for many young people and we hope we can continue to tap into the undiscovered skills of many more.

If you want to find out more about the work of BIPC Oxfordshire visit their website or head to the Centre, you can find them on the second floor of the Oxfordshire County Library in Oxford, with Locals in Bicester and Blackbird Leys Libraries.

Ryan Johnson – BIPC Engagement and Marketing Manager at Oxfordshire County Council

22 August 2023

An innovative history of the historic patent collection at the British Library

Sir Isaac Newton, once said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” A few generations after, the Newtonian revolution in physics along with other discoveries of the time heralded in a new age of innovation, engineering and industry. Patents are the primary records of that step process in innovation. They’re a fascinating and invaluable ‘time capsule’ of brilliance (and occasional eccentricity).

Today, the British Library’s historical patent collection has become a world leading collection of historical IP documentation; not only from the UK, but from over 150 countries worldwide. No other collection at the Library captures better the progress of technology and commerce from the early 17th century to the present day.

And now, the British Library’s Business & IP Centre also sits on the shoulders of this gigantic treasure trove of patent, design and trademark information. In fact, it’s almost 170 years since it was first made available to the general public as the Library of the newly formed Patent Office. It really is a library within a library. The history and development of the collection offers us an intriguing insight into how much this information was prioritised managed valued, for researchers then as it is now. One report, by the US Commissioner of Patents in the 1860s described it as a ‘technological library unequalled by anything in America’.

I believe it still is.

The Alexander Newton statue outside of the British Library

Why a patent library?

From a practical point of view, a patent library is an essential part of being able to find (and provide evidence) that a new patent application is indeed an innovative step on what’s preceded it. One can view the history of these patents almost like a family tree of technical steps and developments, each building on the other.

Hot off the heels of the Patent Law Amendment Act of 1852, establishing what we know as the Patent Office (the Intellectual Property Office today), came the Patent Office Library. It opened on the 5th March, 1855. Its formal title was ‘The Library of the Great Seal Patent Office’. To be clear, there were patents and records of them before 1852, managed by Court of Chancery, but the nucleus of the library were 388 books from Bennet Woodcroft, the Superintendent of Specifications and Indexes, and 707 books from Richard Prosser, an engineer closely associated with the Act.

The site was on 25 Southampton Buildings, off Chancery Lane. A site it would occupy in various forms and alterations until the 1990s. In 1891, due in part to an increase in the number of visitors to the Library, plans were drawn up to rebuild the entire site. This was undertaken in stages between 1893 and 1912, with the Library moving to temporary accommodation in 1898. A full library service was maintained during this time. The new Patent Office Library was designed in the cathedral style of library architecture by Sir John Taylor.

Patent office

War and Post-war

The Library continued to offer reading room services during the First World War, albeit with reduced hours and staffing levels. Visitor numbers predictably fell. And with the later onset of the Second World War, the library experienced a few near misses from incendiary bombs and a V1 flying bomb in 1944.

All during the war years, the need for a comprehensive scientific and technological network in the UK was apparent. And post-war, while widespread support was seen for a national library of science and technology, there was considerable debate on whether the British Museum or the Patent Office collections would form the basis of the new library. The debate was settled in 1959, when a Working Party on the issue recommended the new library should be based on both collections, and put under the control of the British Museum Trustees. And this, in hindsight, was what took it a step closer to the custodianship we have today.

In April 1966, the Patent Office Library formally transferred from the control of the Board of trade to the British Museum and became the National Reference Library of Science and Invention, (NRLSI Holborn division). In the late 1960s it was decided that there was a need to create better links between the UK’s major lending and reference libraries. To that end, the National Libraries Committee was formed in 1967, which recommend the creation of a national library system in 1969.

The British Library is founded

And so, the British Library was created on the 1st July 1973 as a result of the British Library Act which was enacted in 1972. Under the Act the following institutions were administratively combined to form the British Library: the library departments of the British Museum (including the NRLSI), the National Central Library, and the National Lending Library for Science and Technology.

The NRLSI was renamed the Science Reference Library upon joining the British Library and then in 1985 it was restructured to become the reference arm of the Science Technology and Industry Division (being renamed the Science Reference and Information Service (SRIS) in the process).

The British Library under construction

1998

The next most significant turning point was the opening of the St Pancras site of the British Library and the rehousing of the patent collection. The collection had its own floor (level 2 where the Newsroom currently is). But it wasn’t until 2006 that the Business & IP Centre as we know it today was formally opened. It was a unique opportunity to merge two distinct, but related collections; business & intellectual property under one umbrella. And so came a physical alteration to the space that included meeting rooms and the well-used networking area space.

All this was with an aim to offer a comprehensive range of resources, workshops events and services to support small businesses from the first spark of inspiration to forming and growing their business. Inspired by how the New York Public utilised its Science, Industry and Business collection it was a model that resembles how the Centre operates today at the British Library and now across a national network of over 20 Business & IP Centres.

But today, there is a very special merger that’s not only about business and intellectual property. It’s connecting the past with the present. Our current intellectual property advice and expertise would likely not exist were it not for the historic patent collection. So as we look ahead to what a tumultuous 21st century could bring, it’s somehow reassuring that the firm anchor of the past will continue to guide the innovators, problem solvers and entrepreneurs of the future.

Woman in the BIPC reading room at the reference desk, being helped by a member of staff

 

Co-written by Jeremy O’Hare Research and Business Development Manager at the BIPC and Steven Campion, Subject Librarian at the British Library

17 August 2023

A few of our favourite things about the British Library

Did you know that the British Library is home to over 200 million collection items? Occupying over 746km of total shelving, growing an extra 8km every year, our St Pancras site houses inventions that date back thousands of years, as well as new technology from our digital age.

To continue our celebrations for the British Library's 50th anniversary, we asked our BIPC team what their favourite facts about the Library are, as well as their favourite inventions.

Here's what they came up with:

Meron

  • ‘My favourite fact about the British Library is that it’s an unusual and uniquely built building that resembles a ship. Prior to becoming an architect, Colin St John Wilson was a naval lieutenant... This now makes sense!’ - Meron, Reference Specialist 

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  • 'My favourite invention is the Starship delivery robots in Milton Keynes. I love the innovative solution for local deliveries. They are completely autonomous and the robots can sense when they need to move out of the way. Since they can deliver a small grocery shop, it’s a great solution particularly for people less able to leave their homes. Also, they’re surprisingly cute!' - Claire, Head of Reference Services 

Jeremy

  • 'I find it amazing that as you walk through the British Library there are four levels of football pitch sized floors of information beneath your feet; the lowest basement sitting beneath the Piccadilly line. I find the historical patent collection just an endless treasure trove of incredible inventions that have changed what is even possible. My favourites are the aviation patents. The Wright Brother’s and Frank Whittle’s aviation patents. Like so many of us, I took one of these ‘flying machines’ to go on holiday somewhere warm and didn’t even consider the marvel of it.' - Jeremy, Research & Business Development Manager

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  • 'I have thick and often unruly hair and couldn’t live without my trusty Tangle Teezer™.  Shaun Pulfrey, inventor and founder of the eponymous company, came to the Business & IP Centre when it had recently opened to see if he could protect his innovative design and now, over 15 years later, he has patented the brush in over 30 countries. Each brush design is also protected by design rights and the name Tangle Teezer™ is also protected as a trade mark.  Shaun also took part in our scale-up programme, now called Get Ready for Business Growth in 2014-15 and in 2021 he hit revenues of £43.5 million and sold a majority stake to Mayfair Equity Partners for around £70 million.  This is an incredible achievement by Shaun and his team and we like to think that we made a positive contribution to their successful business journey.' - Isabel, Head of Business Audiences

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  • 'Apart from the amazing free business support the BIPC National Network provides, the most impressive aspect is its geographical spread. It would take just over six days and 458 grueling miles to walk from the most southern point of the BIPC National Network (BIPC Devon Local in Paignton) to its most northern point (BIPC Glasgow in the Mitchell Library).' - Billy, Project Administrator

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  • 'My favourite invention is the printing press. The democratisation of text ushered in the second information age in Europe by allowing for the mechanical mass production of books and broadsheets. With greater demand for written materials, the invention also fostered translations of popular texts that could be disseminated to the public rather than remaining within the church or royal courts. The British Library’s Treasures exhibit displays one of Gutenberg’s bibles, the first book printed with moveable type in Western Europe, as well as a copy of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales printed by William Caxton, the first book printer in England.'  - Amy, Growth Programme Service Liaison Manager

Simon

  • 'My favourite invention would have to be either the Printing Press, or the Electric Guitar!' - Simon, MI and Project Coordinator

Jordan

  • ‘If you see five items each day, it would take you over 80,000 years to see the whole of the Library's collection.’ - Jordan, BIPC Workshop and Events Administrator 

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  • ‘Our science blog recently posted some interesting facts about the hidden 'wild' features of the British Library: "the British Library hosts a permanent show of animal fossils, hiding in plain sight. As you cross the Piazza on a visit to the Library you tread on limestone, formed in the early Cretaceous period (145 and 100 million years ago - Ma) in a warm, shallow sea, teeming with life. You can also find fossilised sea sponge outside the Conference Centre, as well as calcareous algal pellets and various fossil shells on the floors inside the British Library".' - Alyssa, Project Coordinator 

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  • ‘The British Library collects words, written and spoken. Its sound archives collect oral history to bring back stories and accounts, like for the BBC programme Aids: The Unheard Tapes. I felt proud of the British Library’s contribution to the programme, which brought personal stories back to life, turning the programme into compelling viewing.’ - Elisabetta, Project Administrator

 

12 July 2023

50 Books for 50 Years of the British Library

As we celebrate 50 years of the British Library, home to over 13 million books, we’ve put together a reading list with recommendations from entrepreneurs we’ve supported from around the UK.

1. “My favourite books are slow-paced and reflective. Michael Cunningham's A Home At The End Of The World is the first book I remember reading as an adult that gave me that comforting, peaceful feeling I now associate with reading, which I do a lot." - Sam Hutchinson, co-director of b small publishing

2. "A book that impacted me is Small Change by Nabeel Hamdi." -  Jan Kattein, director of Jan Kattein Architects

3. "I would recommend Profit First by Mike Michalowicz – ever since I read it and made the changes mentioned, my business has been in profit and I can see it!” - Keri Jamieson, founder of KeriKit

4. "A book that has significantly impacted me is Games for Actors and Non-Actors by Augusto Boal, a revolutionary collection of exercises and approaches to using theatre to rehearse for challenging situations in real life." - Jon Dixon, director of Dramatic Theatre

5. "One of my favourite books is Henri Charrière's Papillion. It is a story about grit, determination and the ability to stick to stuff you feel strongly about. Something I believe is so important about being an entrepreneur." - Doug Marshall, CEO of Altaura

6. "A book that has impacted me is A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf.” - Jessica Mello, co-founder of London Sculpture Workshop

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7. "It may be old school, but Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a huge influence. When reading this as children it offered so much hope. Quentin Blake (who created the illustrations) inspired us to pursue a creative career from a young age." Chloe and Abigail Baldwin, founders of Buttercrumble

8. "Frankenstein by Mary Shelley impacted me because I have such a vivid memory of being in primary school and finding out that the author had to publish the book anonymously because she would have been unable to do so otherwise, as she was a woman. I remember being so shocked by this revelation and discovering that women, people of colour and basically anyone that wasn't a white male, often wrote under pseudonyms due to them not being granted the same privileges. Mary Shelley is now infamous world-wide for being one of the first science-fiction writers. I just think it inspired me because it goes to show that in life, there will be obstacles in the way and people may tell you that you aren't capable; but if you are passionate enough and persevere, you can achieve anything.’ - Rachel Sampara, founder and director of Wings & Radicles

9. "A book that has impacted me is the Mechanical and Metal Trades Handbook. This is the English translation of a German engineering bible. Engineering textbooks are often impenetrably dense, but this book is accessible to all." - Nick F, founder of PipSqueak 3D 

10. “I've been inspired by Leading an Inspired Life by Jim Rohn" - Constantin Cornel Paunoiu, co-founder of Wine Chateau

1 Jasmine Richards photo credit Josimar Senior  and Black Writers’ Guild’ (1)

11. "Aziza's Secret Fairy Door by Lola Morayo - it was the first book I sold from my production company and thus my proof of concept that this business idea had legs!" - Jasmine Richards, founder of Storymix

12. "A book that impacted me is The Source by Dr Tara Swart. The book talks about the power of mind and visualisation backed by neuroscience. I find the concept of neuroplasticity inspiring. Our brains have an amazing ability to change and adapt at any age. It’s never too late to reach our potential!" - June Mineyama-Smithson, founder of MAMIMU 

13. "One of the best books I found for anyone starting a creative business is The Practice by Seth Godin. It’s made up of lots of small ‘blog’ type posts which are ideal to just pick up for an instant shot of motivation and focus."- Helen Cross, founder of Helen Cross Jewelry 

14. "The E-Myth by Michael E. Gerber was the first ever business book I read, the month I started out. It’s about understanding starting a small business, why most don’t work and what to do about it. It really impacted me and made me want to succeed all the more." - Victoria Eggs, founder of Victoria Eggs Ltd

15. "I enjoyed reading Suitcase by the Russian writer Sergei Dovlatov. The novel, published in the 1980s, is a collection of stories, each one inspired by an item he took in his suitcase when he left the USSR for exile in the USA in 1978." - Laura Sheeter, co-founder of Chalk + Blade

16. "A book that impacted me is Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy. It’ll help you stop procrastinating and focus on your biggest frog (tasks) first. Being a Virtual Assistant I am constantly juggling a million and one tasks, how do you identify what your most important task is when everything is important!?” - Keira Simpson, founder of Daisy Days Virtual Assistant

17. "A book that's impacted me is The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg." - Adam Chandler, founder of Reel Film

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18. "The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson impacted me because it shows that small, consistent activity is the key to forming habits that make people successful." - Danielle, owner of Wise Owl Tuition 

19. "While many books have influenced me, none compare to the Bible. Growing up Catholic, I find solace and wisdom in its stories, even during the busiest of times." Brian Danclair, founder of Fish, Wings & Tings

20. "The book that has had the biggest impact on my life is The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by the late Stephen R Covey. In 1994, I was fortunate enough to attend a management course which was entirely based on Covey’s principles of the book. Two of the key symbols for Covey were the clock and the compass. Covey explained; the clock represents what we do with and how we manage our time. The compass represents what we feel is important and how we lead our lives. I was so inspired by Covey’s philosophy, it was the reason why I named my business Clock and Compass Coaching." - Daniel O’Connor, founder of Clock and Compass Coaching

21. "I've been inspired by a wide variety of books - reading James Joyce’s works like Ulysses while studying him at University in Ireland had a huge influence on me in understanding European connectivity. Also anything by Roald Dahl, who I’ve always loved!" - James Seager, company director of Les Enfants Terribles

22. "I’d have to say Brian Johnson’s Optimize. What’s fantastic about this series is that each episode condenses multiple business books on areas such as leadership, productivity and habits, taking the best bits and presenting them in 1h podcasts." - Zachary Pulman, founder of Zachary Pulman Design Studio

23. "A book that has had a great impact on me is Drinking from the Fire Hose by Christopher J Frank and Paul Magnone. Nowadays, we are constantly bombarded by information and data. This book helped me focus on the data I need and leave the rest aside." - Mario Spiridonov, co-founder of Santa Sofia

24. "I've been impacted by S.U.M.O by Paul McGee. I don’t usually read self-help, however, I found S.U.M.O. very relatable, easy to read and thought provoking, with plenty of humour thrown in for good measure. The book helped me learn some self-awareness, to look at myself honestly and understand how to make positive changes. I would recommend it to anyone who’d like to improve their confidence or find some motivation to change their path." -  Tracey Purcell, founder of Beautiful Ethical

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25. "My favourite book is The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. It taught me that life can change at any moment, and if it does to keep going and do it with a sense of humour." - Laura, founder of Higham Refill

26. "I have been inspired by Natives by Akala." - Danson Njoka, CEO of Kugali Media

27. "I love to read motivational books and books on improving myself in all areas, and I spend a little time each night with a book. One of my favourites is Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude by Napoleon Hill and W Clement Stone. It is a brilliant reminder that mindset is key, so this is one I turn to often to pull me back on track." - Maria Grachvogel, founder of Maria Grachvogel London

28. “My recent favourite books have been Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo and Homecoming by Yaa Gyasi." - Sadia Ahmed, founder of Oliver's Cupboard

29. "A book that has inspired me is Zero Limits by Joe Vitale." - Mary Otumahana, founder of The RecordShop

30. "A book which has impacted me has to be The Art Of Effortless Living by Ingrid Bacci. I read this book in 2010 and it started me on the most amazing journey with myself! This led me to start my business in 2013." - Rose Hill, founder of Co-Creative Connection

31. "The books that has impacted me the most is Dream Big Journal by Bob Goff." - Adeola Adelakun, co-founder of Cultureville

32. "A book which has inspired me recently is Sitopia by Carolyn Steel. It felt almost prescient reading it just before lockdown, discussing how we all need to reconnect with growing and making our own food in order to live healthier lives and save the environment.” - Frankie Fox, co-founder of The Foraging Fox.

33. "A book that I find inspiring and fits with my philosophy is Paul Jarvis’ Company of One: Why staying small is the next big thing for business.” - founder of Becky Griffiths, founder of Mother's Ruin

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34. "We've been impacted by The Vinegar Cupboard by Angela Clutton." - Andrew and Sarah du Feu, founders of The Slow Vinegar Company

35. "Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman has been a huge influence. Not only is it an incredible story, it’s also one of the simplest ways of illustrating how unfair racism is in our society." - Eleanore Richardson, founder of Fulham Scalp and Hair Clinic

36. "Ancient Wisdom Modern World by the Dalai Lama has made a huge impact. My mum’s had this book since she was in her 20s and gave it to me when I was 19. It started my path to Buddhism, which led to me adopting the vegan lifestyle, which led to Heart Street.” Evie-May Ellis, founder of Heart Street

37. "A couple of years ago a good friend of mine bought me In The Company of Women by Grace Bonney which has inspiration and advice from over 100 female makers, artists and entrepreneurs. On those difficult days in business it shows what you can achieve when you pursue your passion, giving you the courage to follow your dreams.” Kate Underdown and Rachel Walker, co-founders of The Fold Line

38. "I am passionate about cities. One of the most important books for me captures all the intensity, excitement and ambition inherent in building one of the great cities in the world. It's Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan by Rem Koolhaas." - Jan Kattein, founder of Jan Kattetin Architects 

39. "I recently read The E Myth by Michael Gerber again. I think all entrepreneurs should read this to help plan their way forward. Working ON the business, rather than IN the business.” - Bhavin Shah, founder of Central Vision Opticians

40. "The book that has impacted us the most is Jen Sincero’s You Are a Badass." - Savvy and Stevo, founders of Savvykraut 

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41. "I've been inspired by Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes" - Ronke Jane Adelakun, co-founder of Cultureville

42. "A book which has impacted us is Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. Great insight into the underbelly that is the commercial kitchen." - Sam and Sarah, founders of Marla's Sandwich Shop

43. "I read to escape and switch off, so crime fiction is my favourite. I love Mary Portas' How to Shop with Mary, Queen of Shops. I have a signed copy after I met her at a book event and she told me she loved my boots while I waited in line - it was a true fangirl moment when I told her they were from our shop Finale and we chatted about it.” - Faye, founder of Finale Shoes and Accessories

44. "I enjoy books about food, local recipes, and the history and social stories that accompany food. One of my favourites is Taste Ye Back: Great Scots and the Food that Made Them by Sue Lawrence. Here a number of well-known Scots reminisce about their younger days and the food they enjoyed as a child. Everyone’s favourite dish comes with a special story, recipe or family tradition and always a huge dollop of nostalgia. When I read this book, it gave me reassurance that a Clootie Dumpling website was not a completely mad idea."  Kirsteen Oliver, founder of Granny Beaton's

45. "Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard, founder of international brand Patagonia. This book changed my outlook on corporations as it challenges the culture of consumption that we find ourselves in. It looks at the crisis we’re facing in western society and how to deal with it as forward thinking leaders and change makers. It’s had a hugely positive effect on not only the way I run my business, but equally how I live." - Hellen Stirling-Baker, founder of We Are Small Stuff

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46. "All books impact me, regardless of their genre - for example, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens." - Tas Jennings, founder of Very Craftea

47. "A book that's impacted has impacted me is Creativity, Inc. - Overcoming the unseen forces that stand in the way of true inspiration by Amy Wallace and Ed Catmull. It's a book about running a creative business from the founder of Pixar. It's entertaining but also packed with really useful insights into how to run a business well for and with creatives." - Julia Alcamo and Dan Hodgson, founders of Happenstance Films

48. "One of the first books I remember reading is Fluke by James Herbert. It was totally captivating. I’m not sure I understood everything at the time but it’s the story of a dog who remembers being a human in a past life. I love reading fiction as it takes you away from the everyday. If I’m not reading fiction then I am looking at cookery books – another great passion of mine.” - Alli Briaris founder of Drinks Kitchen

49. "A book that has impacted me is The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, as I truly feel that if you are living in the moment then there can be no stress and you can be inspired effortlessly to what you need to be doing." - Julie Silver, founder of The Vitality Fairy

50. "A book that has inspired me is The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. It can be likened to a new business starting out, slowly and steadily working your way through your business plan and the process of what you need to do, getting everything in place bit by bit, before the final launch of your new business and spreading your wings." - Tracey Sharman, founder of Crescent Research

06 March 2023

Lizzie Magie and the history of Monopoly

For last year’s Women’s History Month, I wrote a blog post highlighting seven female patentees who I felt deserved more recognition. Whilst I was happy with how the blog post turned out, I was less happy with just how much the stories had to be condensed in order to best fit a list format.

So this year, I’ve decided to revisit that blog post and flesh out the story of one of the female patentees in particular. Namely, one Lizzie Magie – the board game pioneer, who forever changed the way we would spend time (read: argue) with our friends and family over Christmas.

This blog post will also discuss some key events in the history and development of Monopoly. Events crucial to understanding how Magie’s contributions, and so place in history, were deliberately minimised, if not erased, by a handful of men.

 

The ‘official’ line

First let us look at the ‘official’ Monopoly creation story. The following version was given on the instructions for the 1973 US edition of the board game:

PARKER BROTHERS Real Estate Trading Game MONOPOLY was invented during the Great Depression by Charles B. Darrow of Germantown, Pennsylvania. Mr. Darrow, like many other Americans, was unemployed at the time and he worked out the details of the game primarily to amuse himself during this period. Prior to the Depression, Darrow and his wife vacationed in the resort town of Atlantic City, New Jersey. When it came to naming the streets on the game board, Darrow naturally adopted those of his favourite vacation spot.

It was an often touted example of the American Dream, that for a long time was fairly well known throughout the world. Even today, you can still find examples of this story being given as the true history of the board game. The problem is, the story is a lie. We’ll move onto Charles Darrow, as well as how the actual true version of events was rediscovered, in time, but for now let us turn our attention to the true star of this blog post – Lizzie Magie.

a black and white photo of Lizzie Magie, white woman with short wavy hair (photo from wikimedia commons)

 

A quick biography of Lizzie Magie

Lizzie Magie was born in 1866 in Macomb, Illinois. Her father, James Magie, was a keen supporter of Georgism, and a great proponent of equality. Traits that were certainly passed down to his daughter.

At this early juncture, it’s probably best to talk more on Georgism, as this will come up again (spoilers: very importantly so) later on. Georgism developed from the writings of Henry George, a popular nineteenth century politician and economist, who in his 1879 work ‘Progress and Poverty’ proposed a single tax on land values (replacing all other taxes). George believed that someone should own 100% of what they have made, but everything found in nature should belong to everyone. Proponents of Georgism believe the single tax would lead to economic equality. With that hopefully better understood, let us return back to Magie.

In 1890 (ish), Magie and her family moved to Washington DC, where she would find work as a stenographer and typist at the Dead Letter Office. Here every piece of undeliverable mail was sent to be investigated, sorted, and, ultimately, disposed of. Only the staff at this Office had the power to open mail, and many turned detective to reunite mail and owner.

In her free time, Magie would write poetry and short stories, and would act and perform comedic routines on stage. She also clearly had an aptitude for invention, for in 1893 she was granted US patent no. 498,129 for an improvement she designed for Hammond class typewriters. Her invention reduced the size of the margins on the page, thus allowing for more typed words per page. I can’t find any evidence of this patent being utilised, however it should be noted that this patent was obtained when less than 1% of all US patents were being granted to women.

Patent for Lizzie Magie's typewriter

Magie was also a proud feminist, and wrote and spoke on the subject throughout her life. She had no desire to lose her independence by being married young, which was the norm at the time. Instead, she worked hard, and saved well, so that she was able to buy her own house and land. To bring the struggles of women in the US to the public’s attention, particularly with regards to low wages, she placed an advertisement in which she offered herself as a ‘young woman American slave’ for sale to the highest bidder. The stunt brought the press to her door, which allowed her to articulately expand on her point further.

Magie would eventually start teaching Georgism in the evenings, but quickly became frustrated by her limited reach. By now, single tax proponents were dwindling in America, in large because the charismatic and well-liked George had passed away. Magie eagerly sought a way to spread her views more widely, and soon settled on a board game as the ideal solution. At this point in time, board games had started to become more commonplace in middle class homes, as mass production made them cheaper to manufacture, and thus more readily available.

So Magie got to work, and by the end of 1903 had created a board game titled ‘The Landlord’s Game’, to which US patent no. 748,626 was granted on the 5th January 1904.

 

The Landlord’s Game

By looking at the illustration (below) of the game board Magie supplied alongside her patent specification, the similarities with Monopoly can clearly be seen.

Patent image of the Landlord's Game

Some of its notable features are: a continuous path for players to circle over-and over again (most board games at the time had a set path with a clear start and end point), collecting wages for passing the starting point, four railroads, a ‘go to jail’ corner space (complete with a corresponding ‘jail’ corner space), a public park space (a precursor for free parking), property spaces which the players would buy and sell with play money and deed cards, etc.

Originally the object of the game was to obtain wealth. Magie would later refine the game to have two sets of rules in order to better make her point. A monopolist set (known as Monopoly), in which the goal was to create monopolies and force others out of business, and an anti-monopoly set (known as Prosperity) in which all players were rewarded during wealth creation. Magie believed this approach would demonstrate to the players that the anti-monopoly version was the morally correct choice. Both in game, and, of course, in the real world. As the rules of the 1932 edition of the game stated:

The Landlord’s Game shows why our national housekeeping has gone wrong and Prosperity Game shows how to start it right and keep it going right’.

In 1906, Magie moved to Chicago where, along with some friends, she founded the Economic Game Company in order to sell her game. While never really a sales success, copies were sold to college lecturers (who used it as a teaching aid), just as Magie hoped. In 1910, Magie submitted the game to Parker Brothers, but they decided against publishing it.

As an interesting side note, The Landlord’s Game found its way over to the UK in 1913, where it was sold as ‘Bre'r Fox and Bre'r Rabbit’. Despite a change in title and appearance, the game played largely the same. Unfortunately it did not sell well, making it a rare and valuable game today. So one to look out for at a car boot sale.

In 1924 Magie patented a revision for the game (as the term of the original patent had expired), and this version was sold by the Adgame Company. Again, it wasn’t a huge success.

At this point we’ll Leave Magie for a while, but we won’t be leaving The Landlord’s Game.

 

Students and Quakers

Unbeknown to Magie, The Landlord’s Game was becoming popular among the college students who had played the game in their economics classes. Copies soon began to spread from friend group to friend group, from locale to locale, in the Northeast of the US. Unfortunately, none of these copies were the version Magie produced. At the time, it was fairly common to create homemade versions of published board games, and this is how The Landlord’s Game was spreading.  

The fact that the board games were homemade, meant changes could creep in. Sometimes new house rules would be added to the ruleset. Other times, the locations on the game board would be fully changed to reflect the local area (something Monopoly would later do itself, to great success).

Unfortunately the meaning of the game became somewhat lost as people soon realised that it was actually more fun to dominate as a landlord, and bankrupt ones friends and family. So much so, that the Prosperity ruleset was eventually left to one-side entirely, and so the game became increasingly known as ‘The Monopoly Game’ or just ‘Monopoly’.

For a detailed account of how the game spread, I would recommend reading ‘The Monopolists’ by Mary Pilon, but it’s worth briefly mentioning the Quakers, who readily embraced the game, and whose ranks it quickly spread through. This group would go on to add fixed prices to the properties and change the street names to ones found in Atlantic City. The same street names that are familiar to anyone who has played the original US version of Monopoly.

It is at this point, in 1932 (28 years after Magie’s original patent) that Charles Darrow finally enters the story.

Black and white image of Charles Darrow, white man with short hair in a suit smiling at camera

 

Charles Darrow

In 1932, Charles Todd bumps into his childhood friend, Esther Jones, whilst out on a walk. They had lost touch after leaving their Quaker school, and so made plans to catch up over dinner, along with their spouses. Their friendship was soon renewed, and so Todd would go on to invite Jones and her husband over for a board game night. They played a homemade version of Monopoly, and Jones and her husband, one Charles Darrow, were immediately hooked. Todd would go on to make Darrow his own version of the board game, for which Darrow insisted he provide a clear written set of the rules.

The US was in the middle of the Great Depression, and Darrow had indeed lost his job. Given the circumstances, it’s not my place to judge or question Darrow, but he soon decided to try and sell the game as his own. He asked his friend, the political cartoonist, Franklin ‘F. O.’ Alexander to work on the design. Some accounts list his contributions as including the now iconic ‘human’ characters seen on the game board. These are (and the following may help at your next pub quiz) Rich Uncle Pennybags, Jake the Jailbird, and Officer Edgar Mallory. It is likely he also designed much of the illustrations that have remained mostly unchanged, such as the tap and light bulb seen on the utility spaces, and the question mark seen on the chance spaces and cards.

Originally Darrow made his version of Monopoly with a round game board made out of oilcloth. By 1934 he had moved onto a cardboard square board which was sold at a local department store. He used his initial profits to refine his version further and after some sales success, the game would go on to be bought by Parker Brothers in 1935. The same year Darrow and Parker Brothers obtained US Patent no. 2,026,082 for the board game. Monopoly sold 278,000 units in 1935, and in 1936 it sold 1,751,000. The game was an unprecedented success.

Soon after the deal with Parker Brothers was made, Darrow was asked by the President of the company for a written account of how he came up with the idea. This is where Darrow told his lie that would go on to be repeated for years to come.

Let us now return to Magie as we continue the story.

 

Magie re-enters the scene

Parker Brothers soon discovered Darrow wasn’t telling the truth, and became worried about Magie and her 1924 patent. So in November of 1935, George Parker himself visited the now 70 year old Magie. He told her the company had come across her board game and wanted to sell it (along with two other board games she subsequently created). Magie was obviously delighted by the prospect of her board game finally being mass produced and sold widely, and so accepted $500 for her patent. No royalties were offered. Parker Brothers would publish copies of all three games, but soon let them fade away after little advertising.

In 1936, Magie was of course shocked to see Monopoly on sale, especially as someone called Darrow was listed as the inventor. She wanted some form of payback, and decided to fight back via the press (one such article can be seen here). The story was hardly front page news and was soon forgotten.

Monopoly went on to be a huge worldwide success, Darrow became the first board game millionaire, and Magie was all but forgotten. Until the 1970s that is.

 

The truth emerges

In 1973, Ralph Anspach, an economics professor at San Francisco State University, released a board game designed to teach players about the ills of real world monopolies. The game was fittingly titled ‘Anti-Monopoly’, and it quickly became a modest counter-culture hit.

Predictably, it wasn’t long before the owners of Monopoly sent Anspach a cease and desist letter due to, what they considered, an infringement on their trade mark. Anspach ignored the letter.

During the near decade long legal battle which would follow, Anspach, as part of his defence, would thoroughly examine the history of Monopoly, in which everything you’ve read here (and lots more) was uncovered. He was able to prove that the board game had existed for many years before Darrow, and found surviving homemade versions of the game from the 1910s and 1920s (several of which even had the words ‘Monopoly’ blazoned across the middle).

Monopoly ad

 

Conclusion

Despite what I said in my introduction, this is still a very condensed version of a much larger story. I can wholeheartedly recommend ‘The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World's Favorite Board Game’ by Mary Pilon, if you would like to dive deeper still.

I’m very happy to say that Lizzie Magie is not as forgotten as she once was. There is now plenty of media out there that details her place in history, and I’m happy to be a part of that.

She is now rightfully recognised as being the originator of Monopoly, and as such is considered a leading figure in the development of board games. However I’m not sure how happy she would be that the board game she designed to highlight the faults of monopolies, ended up becoming a celebration of them.

One last thing, as we are the British Library, it would be amiss of me not to at least quickly mention the British version of Monopoly which came out in 1936. It was localised by Waddingtons to have the London street names probably familiar to most of you reading this. Above is an advert from a 1936 London toy catalogue from our Trade Literature Collection, announcing Monopoly as the ‘game that has taken America by storm’. It would of course go on to take Britain, and much of the world, by storm too.

 

Written by Steven Campion, curator of our historical patents collection. For more information on intellectual property, visit us at the Business & IP Centre or online: bl.uk/bipc.

25 January 2023

Going into IP battle with Banksy

The anonymous street artist, Banksy is no stranger to intellectual property (IP) controversy.

A recent spat with high street clothing retailer Guess over the use of a Banksy work, Flower Thrower, in their shop window has erupted into another round of IP battles between Banksy and others who use his/her work. The allegation is that the image was used without permission.

And that’s just the point. Banksy, being an anti-establishment artist, will always experience some tension between working within the ‘IP system’, to enforce creative and commercial rights as an artist. Not to mention associated moral rights too.

But on that front, I believe Banksy has had some success. And I would wish any artist or creative can enjoy that too for their own work. But in Banksy’s case, there are some unique lessons.

The story of Banksy’s relationship to IP is not unlike a Matryoshka Doll. There are hidden complexities within hidden complexities nested within the hidden artist whose power and intrigue rests on mystery, surprise and subversion. 

No wonder it can be hard to put Banksy into a neat category of a recognised artist commercialising their work.

So just how is Banksy different? And what’s Banksy doing to shake things up in the ordinarily suited and booted world of IP regulation?

Subverting while using the IP system

Banksy artwork "for sale was $90k now $45k" source Wikimedia Commons

I liken Intellectual Property to an umbrella term to describe a family of different rights that protect the work of creators and inventors. The different members of the family protect different expressions and for street artists that will mostly be copyright. For a business’ product and service brands, there are trademarks.

An artist may branch out into creating products that are manufactured, such as printed T-shirts or other merchandise that carry a distinctive appearance. And for that that there’s registered design.

Banksy, is correctly using as many different forms of IP as he can to maximise protection of his work (we’ll come on to his use of trademarks as a strategy).

In our workshop and webinar, Introduction to Intellectual Property, we emphasise how each of these ‘members of the family’ can be deployed to maximise the defence and use of your creations. While there are distinctions and differences between them, all could potentially be of use.

So how is Banksy doing it and what’s different?

He’s asserting his IP rights, in this case copyright, not to commercialise but to prevent commercialisation and to have his work used within his terms. The terms of use on his website make that very clear;

“Are you a company looking to licence Banksy art for commercial use? Then you’ve come to the right place – you can’t. Only Pest Control Office have permission to use or license my artwork. If someone else has granted you permission, you don’t have permission. I wrote ‘copyright is for losers’ in my (copyrighted) book and still encourage anybody to take and amend my art for their own personal amusement, but not for profit or making it look like I've endorsed something when I haven’t. Thanks.”

The case of Guess

Flower Thrower painting by Banksy (Source: Wikimedia commons)

In the dispute with retailer Guess, Banksy was asserting his rights as the copyright holder around usage. Anyone who creates an original work (be it artistic, musical, recording or even software) can assert the same rights. The hard job is often to enforce those rights.

Banksy, did that in his own inimitable way. He claimed usage of Flower Thrower was essentially theft and encouraged a similar response in an outraged Instagram post; “They’ve helped themselves to my artwork without asking, how can it be wrong for you to do the same to them?”

Just to be clear, there is a difference between civil law and criminal law (IP the former, shop lifting the latter) but perhaps from the point of view of the creator who’s had their work used, it can feel the same.

Guess, for obvious reasons, removed the image from their store front.

But then there’s another mystery, nested within the same matryoska doll.

Guess are selling a range of clothing in collaboration with Brandalised who license images by graffiti artists, among them it appears, Banksy. Was there some deal done in private with a third party like Brandalised to allow limited usage?

We may never know and we don’t have to know. Again, the rights holders can use the work as they see fit in public or private. Which again, serves to illustrate how they should be able to retain the upper hand. It is their property, after all.

But what happens when the copyright owner wishes to remain anonymous, like Banksy does? Because to enforce your rights, you have to identify yourself as ‘the author’ or creator.

How can someone who remains anonymous do just that?

Subverting trademarks for a purpose

Laugh Now painting by Banksy (source: Wikimedia Commons)

That is why, some have speculated, Banksy took an interest in filing some of his images as trademarks. Introducing now another Banksy work, Laugh Now, after the image of a monkey holding a placard stating ‘laugh now, but one day we’ll be in charge’.

Its application through WIPO can be found here and the applicant is Pest Control Office Limited, presumably the commercial entity representing Banksy (and doing so anonymously).

Which is why a trademark in Banksy’s case might have appeal.

But not only that, a trademark in theory can last forever, so long as it’s being used and renewed every ten years by an individual or company who owns it.

This particular application was met with opposition, however. A company objected to the application on the grounds it was filed ‘in bad faith’ in order to avoid the standard copyright requirements of establishing ‘an author’ and that there was no intention to commercially use the mark.

After an initial rejection at the EUIPO trademark Cancellation Division, it was overturned by the Board of Appeal (Case R 1246/2021-5) on the grounds that, ‘the relief from not being required to reveal his identity does not exclude the intention to use the trade mark.’ And, ‘it may not be extrapolated or concluded that Banksy will use the system of trade mark protection as mere substitute of copyright in an unlawful manner. It may neither be concluded that the proprietor has in general a negative view on Intellectual Property Rights which would lead to a filing of a trade mark without any intention to use it’

One – nil to Banksy.

What does this serve to prove?

Making the system work for you

Owning one or more form of intellectual property is on the one hand just good sense, while understanding your rights to usage is another. You don’t necessarily have to have a commercial purpose to still benefit from IP protection, especially if you want to retain rights over how your creations are used. Like Banksy, look at the different options and make it clear what you own and the value you place on it.

Especially those in any creative industry. You don’t need to even be subversive or anonymous, like Banksy. Any creative business or individual should be prepared if they ever have to have their own IP battles.

And with Banksy, at least, he’s doing it in his own style.

 

Written by Jeremy O'Hare, intellectual property information expert at the BIPC.

12 January 2023

2022: Our Year In Business

As we enter a new and exciting year at the Business & IP Centre, we cannot wait to help even more entrepreneurs from all walks of life to start, protect and scale their businesses across the country. Before we jump in, we want to take a moment to reflect on all of the amazing things we got up to in 2022. This was a year that saw the 10th anniversary of the BIPC National Network and the return of in-person events. let’s recap all our achievements from last year.

The London Network keeps on growing

photo from greenwich launch, Warren King Photography

2022 was a busy year for our London network, with three more London boroughs joining our rapidly expanding National network. We welcomed Lewisham and Greenwich in September, and Bromley a month later. Through our existing partnership with Waltham Forest, that now brings our business support services to the heart of five London boroughs.

Reset. Restart returns

reset restart graphic banner

In May we welcomed the return of Reset. Restart, a series of free webinars and in-person events around our National Network aimed at supporting businesses in recovering from Covid and in navigating a post-pandemic world. This year we've had over 1,140 people attend these events and benefit from the free expert advice and support on offer.

Creative entrepreneurs got ready for growth

Zoom screenshot of get ready for business growth attendees

After our previous scale-up programme came to an end in January of last year, a new, national programme for creative businesses launched in August to fill the hole. Funded by Arts Council England, our Get Ready for Business Growth programme is only in it's second delivery round & we are already supporting 50 entrepreneurs across the UK in various creative fields. From artisan homeware to theatre and dance companies, we're here to help those in the creative sector who may have pivoted during the pandemic, or are looking for new ways to to grow sustainably. 

Libraries mean business

photo of camera filming the trailer

Did you know, there's more going on in libraries than you think? After filming our trailer in July, we premiered in December across social media, our newsletter and Sky video on demand. We loved having Cultureville, Paradise Cycles and Okan London, as well as our own British Library reference team member, Seema, be involved. What might you find in between the shelves of your local library?

 

We welcomed you back in person

photo from Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Building the Black Economy event

October saw the return of in-person events in the form of Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Building the Black Economy. We heard from a panel of Black entrepreneurs who are building empires online and discussed the power of the Black economy with Swiss, founder of Black Pound Day.

 

Celebrating 10 years of national business support

 

banner celebrating the national network anniversary

This year we also celebrated our National Network's 10th anniversary and welcomed two new Centres, BIPC Cumbria and BIPC Southampton. Since launching, we’ve attracted 185,000+ attendees through events, workshops and webinars, helped create 19,000+ businesses and 12,000+ jobs, supported 10,000+ existing businesses and helped safeguard 4,000+ existing businesses.

 

In 2023 we've got even more in store for entrepreneurs from all walks of life to start, protect and scale successful businesses both in London and around the UK.

 

24 November 2022

How to research your high street business

In 2021, the number of independent shops on Britain’s high streets increased for the first time in five years.

A net 2,157 new independent retail businesses opened across British towns and city centres over the year, according to the latest analysis by the Local Data Company (LDC). The pandemic has led to many chain retailers reducing their presence on the high street, creating opportunities for independent businesses to grow in the space left behind.

Why would LDC be relevant for me?

LDC uses a team of office and field researchers to collect data on every retail and leisure business in Britain, which is then interpreted by their analyst team to map trends across the retail industry. This insight is offered to commercial businesses of varying types and sizes, from large chain retailers to property consultancies.

Local Data Online can help you research and determine what start-up business you can plan for the regions in the UK, where there is a gap in the market, or where you should be looking to have a bricks and mortar presence. For example, the following analysis gives you real data on the coffee shops on the high street in London. This gives you information on where your competition, and opportunities may be - and shows the demand for coffee shops and coffee.

Coffee shops across Greater London

Source: Local Data Online

You can use Local Data Online to find out about locations, business types and companies all over the country. It has a searchable, interactive map tool which lets you select a specific area and explore the types of businesses currently in operation, both chain and local. The map also shows the addresses of available vacant units in the area.

Local data map

Easy-to-read diagrams show extra information including vacancy rates, the mix of chain vs. independent shops, local demographics and average earnings in a specific area.

Where can I access LDC?

You can find LDC’s Local Data Online (LDO) software, an interactive insights database of the retail and leisure market, including key metrics for areas such as retail mix, vacancy rate and demographic data, for free in the following BIPCs:

  • British Library
  • Birmingham
  • Bristol
  • Cumbria
  • Devon
  • Glasgow
  • Greater Manchester
  • Kent
  • Humber Partnership
  • Leeds City Region
  • Liverpool City Region
  • Northamptonshire
  • Norfolk
  • Nottinghamshire
  • South Yorkshire
  • Sussex
  • Tees Valley
  • Worcestershire

You will need a free Reader Pass to access the reports in the British Library, or your library card for any library outside of London. You can learn more about the database on their website.

If you want to learn more about the retail and leisure landscape in your area, including current occupiers and vacancies, come along to your nearest BIPC which has access and speak to our friendly teams. We can show you how to use LDO to benefit your business, all for free.