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What Is the Best Patent Strategy?

If you have an invention and wish to obtain protection, what should your strategy be? The easy answer might be to obtain as many good patents as possible, in any and all countries where your invention might be of commercial value. But in reality the scope of protection sought must be balanced against the cost of obtaining it, taking into account the level of profit which can be expected from the invention. From the individual inventor to the multinational company, everybody is seeking good value for money.As you might have expected, there is no single best way to go about protecting your inventions. Your patent attorney should understand your commercial goals and provide individual advice. However, there are some pieces of advice which are applicable to the vast majority of patent applicants and it is useful to understand the options which the patent system makes available to you.Choose where to file your first applicationMany people are understandably keen to obtain worldwide protection, but making a UK national application first makes sense for a lot of British clients, since the official fees are far cheaper. An international (PCT) application can be made after one year, at which point the UK search report will have provided a valuable indication as to patentability – see below.Timing your first applicationTo design and manufacture an actual product which realises your invention, you will of course need to reveal the details to others. Disclosing your invention before filing a patent application can ultimately lead to your application being refused, or your patent being found invalid. However, this does not necessarily mean that you should rush to file.Bear in mind that you can disclose your invention prior to filing if you ensure that the people you are speaking to are under a duty of confidence.After filing your application you have only one year in which to make applications in most foreign countries. If you need investment to make these possible then the clock is ticking, so before you file you would be wise to ensure that you can make the best use of the next twelve months. Plan as much as possible who you will approach and what you will say to them. Filing a patent application and then wondering how to sell your idea is wasting valuable time!Do your research, and let the patent office do research for youSome brilliant inventions, for whatever reason, never realise commercial success. So just because you have never seen anything like your invention available to buy in shops, that doesn’t necessarily mean that nobody has had the idea before. Inventors can be surprised and disappointed when a patent examiner finds a previous patent application disclosing the same invention.Although it should be said that hitherto unknown prior art completely anticipating an invention is in our experience fairly rare, and there is usually something left to patent, it is always best to go into the application process having obtained the best possible information about what has gone before.Patent searching does not have to be expensive. The ‘Espacenet’ service provided by the European Patent Office allows you to search one of the most comprehensive patent databases in the world and is free-of-charge. It is also worth considering a commercial search.Whether or not you commission a commercial search before filing, we always recommend requesting a patent office search when filing your UK application. The official search must be completed in due course anyway, and there is little point in delaying the request considering the low cost involved. A search report will typically be drawn up within around four months of your request, and provides an invaluable early indication as to the likely outcome of your application. Without a search report it is very difficult to make a sensible decision as to whether international applications, which must be made within one year of filing, are going to be worth the money.For similar reasons, it is also worth considering requesting a combined search and examination. An examination report goes into more detail than a search report, providing you with further useful information. However, the advantages of this option must be balanced against the considerations discussed below.Don’t rush unless you need toThe UK Intellectual Property Office offers a certain amount of flexibility in terms of the timing of your application. Many of our clients are initially keen to get a granted patent as quickly as possible, and applications can usually be accelerated if this is useful to you. However, if you are suffering no immediate problems with infringement and there is no other commercial reason for accelerating, then slowing the application down as much as possible can help cashflow without compromising on the eventual quality of your patent. Examination can be requested up to two years from filing.Keeping your options openYour new product probably has a certain number of features which are already well-know. A radical new concept car, after all, is still likely to have a certain number of wheels, and those wheels are likely to be round. Anything which is new though is potentially patentable, and your product may have a number of features which are not found in the prior art. Which of those features should be protected by patents? Ideally, all of them. Your most valuable products should be protected by a “thicket” of overlapping patents to stop determined infringers from working around the scope of a single patent. But how do you know which are your most valuable products? Often this will not be clear when first filing an application.Divisional applications provide for the possibility of eventually obtaining multiple patents from a single filing. A divisional application can be made at any time whilst the “parent” application is still pending, that is, the parent has not been refused, withdrawn or granted. Subject matter is “divided out” of the parent application to form a separate application.However, no new subject matter may be added when filing a divisional application. US readers take note – there is no equivalent to a US “continuation in part” in the UK or Europe. It is therefore vital that your product is described in minute detail on first filing, so that you may keep your options open and file divisional applications for any and all features of your product which are novel and inventive.ConclusionThe patent system offers many options to the applicant. There is no single best strategy, although some advice is near universal – a patent attorney should never usually recommend delaying the request for an official patent search.A patent attorney should do their best to help their clients understand the patent application process. Clients can get the best out of their patent attorneys by similarly ensuring that their business aims are understood. The application process can go quiet for fairly long periods, but you shouldn’t wait for your attorney to contact you if your application has taken on a new urgency, or your invention has changed direction.

Retail Operations – Effective Branch Manager Support and Guidance

Performance and behaviour management is by far the most difficult aspect of any manager’s job and the reluctance to ‘grasp the nettle’ when performance or behaviour issues emerge is certainly a concern in many organisations. But at the end of the day that is what managers are paid to do and not doing so will certainly affect service, team morale, sales and ultimately the bottom line.Why does this reluctance exist, why do so many mangers back away from confrontation? The problems and challenges that need to be overcome are many and the common reasons and ‘excuses’ for not doing so are as follows:It is Risky – There is a worry in the back of the manager’s mind that discussions could turn into heated arguments and that they may open themselves up for harassment or bullying accusations. There is also a concern that team moral and motivation may be damaged by tackling an under-performer and that the team may even turn against the manager.It is Complicated and Difficult- Performance and behaviour management is not straight forward, it is very seldom clear cut or black and white. It is ‘grey area’ stuff and often involves opinions, perceptions and subjectivity. As managers feel they cannot quantify and then justify their concerns clearly enough they do not attempt to do so.It is Hard Work and Time Consuming – Many managers feel they do not have the time to sort out under-performers and that it is low on the priority list. “It is not worth the hassle” is a common comment to be heard.Denial – Many managers are either blind to the fact that a person is under-performing or behaving unacceptably or they do not see it is a serious enough issue to address. There are even managers who believe that it is not their job to tackle performance and behaviour issues and that some day, someone will come along and do it for them.Many of the aforementioned points tend to be excuses rather than reasons but there are a number of more important points that need to be taken into consideration:Lack of Training – No new manager has any previous experience of performance and behaviour issues when they move into a manager role for the first time. New managers often inherit performance or behaviour issues from the previous manager and yet are not given relevant training for tackling these issues from the onset. Giving managers basic employment law training and the company procedures to read is not the ‘practical’ training they need and is certainly insufficient on its own. All managers need a thorough grounding in the use of the performance management tools and practice in their use. Job specs, probationary periods, reviews, counselling sessions, appraisals and the disciplinary procedures are all useful performance and behaviour tools when used correctly and at the right time. Yet this vital training is not made on someone’s appointment, often it is made later in their careers when much damage has been done.Courage and Confidence – Doing something risky, difficult and complicated requires both courage and confidence. Unfortunately many branch managers lack both. Even if managers are given the knowledge and skill to tackle performance or behaviour issues, they will not do so without these essential qualities.The problems and challenges are undoubtedly great and many may see the issue as un-resolvable however there is someone available to branch managers who can help them overcome many of the problems and challenges and that someone is their boss the Area Manager.Guidance, Coaching and Support
The area manger is the only person who can guide, coach and support branch managers in the addressing of performance or behaviour issues. They can un-complicate the issues and help managers build a strong case for presenting to an employee. The area manager can also help the manager minimise the risk of harassment or bullying claims by ensuring the correct procedures are being used and that the managers say the right things in the correct way.More importantly a good area manager will ‘encourage’ and give the manager much needed confidence. The area manager is the only one who can do this but unfortunately in many instances this is not happening and by not doing so area managers are unconsciously (or consciously) influencing a reluctance to tackle performance or behaviour issues within their branches.Why is this happening?Asking for support and guidance – Many branch managers are certainly reluctant to approach their area manager when they experience performance or behaviour issues within the team. If the matter falls into the gross misconduct category then managers will contact the area manager (and HR function) in the first instance. But for ‘grey area’ performance or behaviour matters they tend to keep the issues to themselves.
The reasons for this are as follows:Many branch managers feel:* The area manager may see it as a trivial matter and not important enough to bring to their attention.* That seeking advice and guidance will be seen in a negative way by the area manager.* The area manager will go into fault finding mode rather than helping find solutions.* The area manager may start questioning the branch manager’s ability to do the job.Many managers have in the past gone to their area mangers for advice and support on team performance issues but received such a negative, unhelpful reply that many were put off from ever doing so again, even when they changed to a different area manager.There is also a feeling that area managers themselves do not know what to do either. “Bring me solutions not problems” is a common comment heard by branch managers when they have taken a ‘people’ issue to their area manager.Offering support and guidanceIt is a fact that very few area managers actively encourage branch managers to talk about their ‘people’ issues or are prepared to probe below the surface to identify possible performance or behaviour problems that may be affecting the business. There are many examples where area managers have placed managers in ‘problem’ branches without preparing them for the issues they will face or helped or supported them once they have taken up the position. Basically they throw them to the wolves and then leave them to get on with it.Another common issue is when the assistant manager of the branch is turned down for the manager position. Very few area managers are competent in explaining why an individual was not appointed and give excuses rather than valid reasons. This results in the new manager having to experience considerable hostility and resentment from not only their deputy but from many of the team also.Why do many area managers not offer support or guidance or dig below the surface looking for performance issues? There are a number of reasons for this.Unconscious CompetenceThere is a saying that “Good Management will result in good people staying and not-so-good people either improving or leaving. Where as Bad Management will result in good people leaving and not-so-good people staying and possibly getting even worse”.During their time as branch managers, many area managers did not experience risky, difficult or complicated people issues. If they did, they often resolved them unconsciously. They just acted as good managers should, which resulted in the issues being resolved quickly. Ask any manager who is competent in performance or behaviour management “how do you do it or what do you do?” and you will probably receive a shrug of the shoulders and a comment like “I don’t know specifically, I just do it” (Unconscious Competence)Unconscious competence is not acceptable at area management level as a key requirement of the job is to coach and train branch managers in performance management. Area managers can only fulfil this critical function if they know exactly what is to be done and how to do it. (Conscious competence)Conscious IncompetenceUnfortunately there are area managers in existence who ‘know’ they are not personally competent in dealing with performance and behaviour issues and will go to great lengths not to expose this weakness to others. (Conscious incompetence) These area managers tend to encourage branch managers to not make waves, maintaining the status quo and to tolerate rather than develop. They certainly do not dig below the surface in a branch seeking ‘people’ issues that may be affecting the business.One of the most disappointing comments I heard from a seasoned area manager when asked why he was not supporting his managers was “I am not allowed to get involved as I am the next step of the appeal process”.A good measure of an area manager’s competence is to look at the performance and behaviour of the area manager’s branch manager team. It is pretty certain that if they cannot coach and encourage branch mangers in the tackling of performance and behaviour issues then you can be sure they themselves are not tackling branch manager performance or behaviour issues.Possible SolutionsIf a retail organisation needs to tackle performance or behaviour issues at branch levels, I believe they need to develop the skills and competence of performance management at area management level first as area managers alone have the authority and are the biggest influence on branch manager effectiveness.Unconscious competent area managers need to become consciously competent so they can not only develop others but also develop themselves further. Conscious incompetent area managers need to admit that they are not effective in performance or behaviour management and be prepared to learn and develop the necessary skills. If they are not prepared to do so then they themselves need to be performance managed by the company. After all, Executives cannot demand that branch managers tackle performance and behaviour issues one moment and then not do so themselves when they need to. That isn’t leading by example

Professional – Best Spas and Best Facials

We all deserve to pamper ourselves once every so often. Many women do keep up with best spas and best facials at home. Sometimes, it is really nice to have the facial done for you. Facial treatments do not have to be expensive to make you feel nice.What are the different kinds of facials out there, you may ask? Well, there is an awesome facial to launch called the Triple Oxygen Treatment. This facial is tested by laboratory and had achieved great results! In fact, the facial was laboratory tested, and had got good results. It is rated very highly among those who had experienced it.While the Triple Oxygen Treatment costs more than a normal facial, the actual process takes longer as well. The treatment process is timed to two hours and costs 160 sterling. The user gets a high cleanse, deep scrub, Vitamin rich wash, gauze wrapping treatment, mask therapy, and finally an oxygen booster. Although the two hours may seem long, the therapist will also massage the face frequently preparing it for the next mask,Many women like this treatment because they can have a spa and a facial. They could last for eight weeks or longer. While you still feel the effects of the facial, the longer the effect takes to wear of the fitter you are. It is not good to have this type of rich mask very often. May be twice a year is fine. But in between use some less concentrated versions at home.Another recommended type of beauty treatment is the infra-Red portable spas: Beauty is not skin deep and many men and women also take an interest in the inside of their bodies. Taking a spa on a regular basis is good. If you are a busy person then sparing time might make it difficult. But if you were to buy an infrared spa then in the evenings you could have spa. There are untold health benefits to be gained from this type of therapy. It can cure and detoxify you without nay difficulty. It is ideal for the whole body and the face, and regular workouts will help to keep body weight down.The time it takes to organize a visit to the public spa, with an infrared spa you can be more private. You would save on fares, petrol costs and even parking. The spa is only 400 dollars for the basic model, and 1900.00 for the one with more gadgets. It is portable, use it anywhere. But most people tend to keep it in the basement.If you are going to buy one of these, then a steam shower is also nice for your health. The plumbing mechanism is so easy to use. If you already have a shower, then you need a transom to do the job. They are cheap enough to buy and can work out more economical than anything else. Just remember, having routine spa and facial sessions will be tremendously beneficial in maintaining your natural and youthful appearance!