|Fluffy didn't mind giving advice on commercialisation,|
but she wasn't so keen to take advice on how to give it ...
(cat by Erin Albert)
Being a non-practitioner himself and with relatively limited experience of commercialisation, the IPKat was a little concerned about his own competence to assess BS 8358. He was therefore heartily relieved when his friend, fellow SOLO IP blogger Barbara Cookson (Filemot Technology Law Ltd), agreed to take a close look at the new standard --and this is what she says:
"The British Standard for the Specification for the Provision of Services Relating to the Commercialisation of Intellectual Property Rights caused a certain amount of furore when the final draft was published with a request for comments back in June 2010. See the IPKat post here, the SOLO IP post here and the UK's Intellectual Property Office announcement here.
Now the standard has been published, accompanied by a press release and comments from the intellectual property minister, Baroness Wilcox, on 4 March 2011 (here) and, as announced on Twitter. we have a review copy.
The initial reception from inventors' support group A Better Mousetrap was somewhat muted, but based only on the press release. The response from professionals similarly informed has also been sceptical.
The IPO has now confirmed in a disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (see below) that their involvement on this project began in January 2007 and that they contributed £20,000 from their budget towards it. The IPO attended six of the seven meetings that finalised the standard.
The standard itself arrives on 24 eco-friendly PDF pages, neatly watermarked down the left-hand side to show to whom they are licensed. The introduction contains a broad-brush description of the range of intellectual property service providers. While many of the concerns of the regulated professionals made during the consultation stage have been taken into account, it is unfortunate that the standard is still being promoted as suitable for lawyers. It is not. We would have been better served by the BSI if they had focused this on the invention promotion companies and evaluators.
There are no lurid descriptions of the IP crime and misappropriation of inventors’ ideas that worried A Better Mousetrap in earlier drafts. The Standard specifies principles of ethical behaviour. It now defines both idea (result of mental activity that is a process, product device or artistic work) and intellectual property (legally protectable products of mental activity) separately.
A Standardised service provider must put the originator's interest foremost. The requirements then follow the usual desiderata about timeliness, skill and competence. Patent attorneys regulated by IPReg will find that some of the clauses have a certain resonance with their own rules of conduct (no copyright infringement, of course!)
One novelty that the Standard requires is a statement of competence to include the length of time that the provider has been operating, experience and qualifications and the basis of any claims of success. It is at this point that it becomes clear that the Standard is really only going to be applicable to prototypers and invention promotion companies, but not regulated professionals. A binding non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is to be executed and it must not be an assignment. Two typical NDAs are included as Annexes to the Standard.
The Standard then goes on to set out procedures which are consistent with an invention evaluation and promotion business -- a service that patent attorneys seldom provide, even if inventors tend to assume that they do. There is no obligation on the service provider to become engaged in evaluating the prospects of the commercial exploitation of the idea. However, if that's what the service provider does, he must do it in a timely manner.
There is a detailed section on the commercial agreement offer. This seems to be the appointment of the service provider as an exclusive promotion agent. This presumably reflects the business model of Trevor Baylis Brands plc, which proudly proclaims that it complies with the Standard.
So where does that leave us? If you are a regulated lawyer, then you don't need this Standard -- and trying to comply with it would add to your client care burden by introducing a written NDA. On the other hand, if you are an inventor looking for evaluation, prototype-making services or promotional services, it's quite comforting to know that the service provider must put your interest foremost. It seems to me that that imposes an obligation to tell an inventor when his hopes are overblown.
Who has adopted the standard apart from Trevor Baylis? Checking through my little black book of prototypers I found that Innovate Design advertises that “their business and documentation is formulated to be compliant with the Standard”. If there are others, perhaps they would like to add some comments.
The idea of the Standard is to provide reassurance to inventors. However, its confidential nature could be said to limit that benefit quite considerably. There is no enforcement provision. Service providers just buy the Standard and assert their compliance in order to reassure potential clients that they are good eggs.
Should an inventor deal with a non-standard evaluator? At present, that would be most names that come up in his Google search. If there's an NDA and a reasonable fee, does he need the comfort of the Standard? If he's thinking about engaging a full-scale exclusive promoter, then the presence of the Standard in the provider's literature does offer some comfort and, if it all goes wrong, there is some basis for a proper complaint procedure. However, going wrong doesn't mean failure to get the product up-and-running. Standardised service providers are not required to publish success rates but, if they do, the basis for their claims must be stated. It might be worth looking for some".
1. How much did BS 8538 cost the taxpayer? This information is not held by the IPO, but you may redirect your request to the BSI. As a public body they will be obliged to answer you if the information is held and if no exemptions apply to it. We can say that the IPO contributed £20,000 towards the cost of the standard, but as the IPO is financed by fees paid for its services, none of that money came directly from taxpayers in general.
2. How much of that cost was paid to BSI? We do not hold this information; again, it is a question for BSI to answer.
3. How much was paid to persons/firms outside BSI? As above.
4. Approximately from what date did you commence dealing with BS 8538? The IPO commenced dealing with BS 8538 in January 2007.
5. Approximately from what date did you last deal with BS 8538? This is an on-going relationship.
6. Approximately how many meetings did you attend? The IPO attended six meetings. (There have been a total of seven meetings which includes the comments resolution meeting November 2010).
7. Who drafted BS 8538 as it appeared on the web up to last date for submissions? We do not hold this information; again, it is a question for BSI to answer.
8. Please provide a list of persons on the BS 8538 panel after the closing date. Again, this is a question only BSI can answer.
9. The aim of BS 8538 was to protect the public and inventors from unethical, unscrupulous rogues who prey on inventors. Do you personally feel this has been achieved? We regret that the FOI Act provides a right of access to recorded information [The IPKat wonders whether this is precisely the note which the IPO sought to strike]. Statements of personal opinions and speculation are not covered by the legislation, from either a personal or corporate standpoint.
We realise that this response is of very limited use to you, but would remind you that BSI are obliged to respond to any similar requests for recorded information. They may at least be able to provide you with more factual detail than the IPO is able to do.