Monthly Archives: September 2012

Apple vs Samsung: Protecting Innovation or Damaging their Reputation?

A lot of attention has been garnered by the high profile Apple vs Samsung case in which Apple has come out victorious. The issue involved several disputes over whether Samsung was infringing on Apple’s patented functions or trade dress. For the details of the trial, see the Guardian’s guide to the key issues.

The Jury may have favoured Apple – but what do the people think? A recent poll by market research agency YouGov actually shows Samsung overtaking Apple in terms of positive sentiment two weeks after the verdict. Forbes also reported that, according to research by Media Measurement who looked to Facebook and Twitter to assess people’s opinions about the two companies, the majority of people had taken to criticising Apple rather than Samsung – with many commenting that the case demonstrated Apple’s desire to stamp out the competition. As Forbes stated ‘Worse, for Apple, the reaction against the brand is coming from its own fan base’.

This negative reaction against Apple continued further following its new product release. Although this might have fallen under the wayside in comparison to the announcement of the iPhone 5, the new iPod Nano has also spurred a number of comments online. Many of these comments have noted the similarities between the new iPod Nano and the Nokia Lumia with numerous people wondering whether this will lead to yet another court case (see here, here and here)

Apple’s decision to prevent Samsung using a design similar to its iPhone and iPad products seems to have made people want to see Apple slip up and demonstrate it too can be guilty of copying. Perhaps Apple is not as innovative as it claims to be. Whether or not there is any real issue between the seventh generation iPod Nano and the Nokia Lumia is beside the point- the point is the reaction in the wake of the lawsuit.

Watts Martin argues that Apple’s desire to create products that are iconic and instantly recognisable justifies the company’s determination to protect the trade dress on its products, which is definitely something to consider. As an IP lawyer, I believe in the importance of protecting your innovations and your designs- but when does this go too far? When does this actually have a damaging effect on your brand?

Brand identity is fundamentally important, and as much as the products are important when people are looking to purchase something- the opinion people form about a brand has a huge impact on whether people will buy the products it produces. Apple has managed to have a reputation for innovation and design and as discussed in previous blogs is one of the top brands in the world. But what will the impact of being viewed as stopping innovation have on its brand value?

It has been reported that Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, is far from happy with the outcome of the case, stating ‘I wish everybody would just agree to exchange all the patents so everybody can build the best forms they want to by using everybody’s technology’

The fact that even Wozniak seems to not agree with the dispute further begs the question whether Apple’s pursuit is a bit too aggressive.

This case is a prime example to demonstrate the need for an IP strategy for your brand. IP is important to protect your brand- but you should identify how you want to approach IP infringement and similar situations in your brand strategy so it fits with your whole brand identity.

Apple is known for being different. Take its widely celebrated ‘1984’ ad , which portrays Apple as representing freedom against a totalitarian Big Brother-like state. This image seems to have now been turned on its head which is particularly demonstrated through the sheep-like presentation of Apple’s most dedicated fans in Samsung’s new video ad.

Apple does have a very avid and loyal fan base, so I am not trying to declare here that Apple’s brand image has been completely damaged- but I am more using this as an example to show how every action, even down to how you handle your Intellectual Property disputes can influence how people perceive your brand – people spot the inconsistencies and therefore it is important to strive for a consistent brand image and to leave nothing uncovered.

At Azrights, our approach to branding and IP is holistic where we ensure that IP is not simply one part of your business, but aligned with your brand as a whole.

Whether or not Apple has gone too far or was simply protecting its iconic design is still up for debate-but what is clear is that everything you do can and does affect your brand image and so must be taken into consideration.

Speeches at the Legally Branded Book Launch – British Library 11 September 2012

The Legally Branded book launch at the British Library is now behind us. The night was successful with attendees getting a chance to network, take part in our quiz (extended online version here) and listen to speeches by Shireen Smith, the author of the book, Jeremy Philips founder of the IPKat and George Hadwick to wRap it all up. Tibor Gold, MBE introduced the speakers.

For our virtual launch, the speeches from the night are uploaded here and embedded below. This might be useful for those of you who couldn’t take part in the physical launch. A more in depth blog about the launch is here.

Tibor Gold was the first on stage to introduce the speakers. He described his role as akin to a centre Russian doll and declared that Jeremy, in the field of IP, needed no introduction other than his name which was enough. For those of you who do want an introduction see Tibor’s speech where he lists Jeremy’s achievements such as being the founder of the IPKat blog!

Tibor Gold introduces Jeremy Phillips

Jeremy Philips was up to talk next where he revealed that he was not going to talk about IP, but rather ‘Pawn, Queens and Obscenity’. Interested? Watch his speech below.

Jeremy Phillips’ speech

Playing his part as the centre Russian doll, Tibor came on again to introduce Shireen, who he described as an ‘unusual, interesting and challenging person’, commending her bravery in setting up Azrights Solicitors and going into business on her own!

Tibor Gold introduces Shireen Smith

Finally it was time for Shireen to take the stage where she gave a compelling talk on the need for an IP strategy in the Internet age. Want to discover why branding is so important and how IP can play a pivotal and integral role in helping you create a brand that is unique, powerful and bulletproof? Watch Shireen talk about Legally Branded.

Shireen Smith’s speech

The evening was not over, as surprise speaker, George Hadwick, was brought on to wrap up the evening.  He nicely summed it all up concluding that ‘Ideas are more powerful than all the armies in the world/ So ensure yours are protected and you earn what you deserve/ Cos it’s about more than a name- its your gift to the earth’. His rap was very well received on the night, so make sure you don’t miss out on a chance to learn about Intellectual Property through the medium of rap!

George Hardwick wRAPs up the evening

Malware – Your Reputation On the Line

While this post relates to an issue with the website ip-brands.com, that site was displaying a malware warning, and so we opted to post this article as many might have otherwise have been put off reading it. The malware issue on ip-brands.com has however been addressed, though at the time of writing Google had not yet updated its index, so a warning may still be displayed to visitors.

Trust is absolutely essential to your reputation online, and an important aspect of this is whether or not visitors to your website can trust it not to infect their computers with malicious software (or malware).  Awareness of malware is better than it used to be, so more often than not visitors to your site will be somewhat vigilant, using up to date antivirus software and firewalls.  However, new exploits are surfacing all the time, and so practically speaking there is no way to eliminate the risk of infection entirely when browsing the web.

Beyond any antivirus protection they may have installed, Google adds an additional layer of security for visitors to your website.  As it crawls the web, Google carries out checks to see whether websites are acting suspiciously – for example to analyzing them to determine whether they may have been hacked, or whether they embed material from other websites which are known to distribute malware.  When it discovers suspicious activity, it posts a security warning to alert users of the risks before they visit that website.

If this happens to you it can have devastating consequences.  Visitors confronted with a warning that they risk infection by visiting a website are very unlikely to proceed.  So this type of alert can have an effect similar to your website being taken offline.  In fact it can be much worse than that, because these warnings will affect your reputation with customers, and mean they are less likely to trust your website in future.

So, tackling this type of problem early is crucial, and it really does pay to have a system in place.  Our own website was hacked this morning, leading to a warning from Google which put off potential visitors from accessing the site.  Luckily we were prepared.  As soon as we received the alert, we are able to quickly identify the nature and extent of the hack, and restore the website to a secure state, so that the warning was addressed before lunchtime.

Hacks are probably far more prolific than you imagine, and your website could be serving up malware to visitors without your even knowing it.  Some steps you can take to prepare for, identify and address problems are:

  1. Sign up with Google Webmaster Tools
  2. Keep your content management and antivirus software up to date and use strong passwords
  3. Back up both the files on your web server, and your database regularly
  4. Ensure that there is someone always present within your organisation with the authority to take the action necessary to

Google Webmaster Tools allows you to find out some of what Google knows about your site.  Is it infected? Does it have any broken links? When did Google last inspect it? So the information you get from Webmaster Tools isn’t just useful from the perspective of security, it can also help you deal with undesirable 404 Errors.  If you do find an infection, and deal with it, then Webmaster Tools allow you to let Google know, so you can hopefully ensure that any warnings are visible for as short a time as possible.

Increasingly, content management systems, for example Drupal, WordPress, and Joomla, are being targeted by hackers.  It is very likely that if you have a website, it uses a content management system, and the best way to protect it is to keep it updated with the latest security fixes.  On a similar note, any devices used to manage the website, for example via FTP, ought to be secured with the latest antivirus software, and passwords used to access the site should be strong (at least 8 characters, using numbers, caps, and special characters) and changed regularly.

This is good practice, but not a guarantee that you won’t eventually be the victim of an attack.  So what do you do when that happens?  Unless you have a recent backup of your site, there might be very little you can do, because it could be difficult if not impossible to effectively rectify all of the damage. So, put in place an automated system so you always have a recent backup to hand.  Finally, even if you do backup regularly, to minimise the fallout from a hack you need to be sure there is someone with the expertise and authority to restore your site to its former glory as quickly as possible.  If your one and only tech guy is unreachable when your website is compromised, you could be driving customers to your competitors for some time.

The Legally Branded Book Launch

Legally Branded has now been released, and we have had a good time celebrating its launch.

Last night was the official Book launch which took place at the British Library. Months have been spent planning and organising the event. There have been so many details to attend to, such as who to invite, than I could ever have anticipated or imagined. And then speeches had to be written. After all the effort that went into the evening, it was great to finally see the culmination of our efforts coming together to produce a night that I will certainly never forget.

Getting the night underway- mingling, networking and quizzes

The event started fairly low key with guests filtering in gradually from 6.20, mingling with each other and networking a bit. As a way to test everyone’s IP knowledge and to share some interesting IP related trivia, we gave everyone a quiz to participate in, splitting up our guests into teams where each team was named after a famous brand. Team M&S came out on top, showing that they were IP savvy.  Each team member won a copy of the book and a one month free membership at a client’s gym, Stars Gym. So well done to everyone on the team!

There was some doubt cast over one of the answers from the quiz about whether Abraham Lincoln was the only US president to hold a patent or if Thomas Jefferson had one too. After some further investigation to ensure that we were not giving people false information, we found that whilst Jefferson was a pioneer of patent law, and indeed was a great inventor, ‘his feeling that all should have total access to new technology was one of the reasons he never took out a patent on his own inventions’.

The Speeches

The night was a blur of activity, and no sooner was the quiz over when it was time for the speeches. First Jeremy Philips took the stage, after an introduction by Tibor Gold, and interestingly chose not to talk about IP but rather ‘Pawns, Queens and Obscenities’. He likened small businesses to pawns in a game of chess, where they can be easily sacrificed, but if they reach the end and survive they can be promoted to the equivalent of a queen- becoming the big businesses and the stars of tomorrow. 

After Jeremy’s enlightening talk it was then time for my own speech where I was glad to be able to fully explain the importance of Intellectual Property in the Internet age and share my vision with all who attended. After the main speeches were completed we had a surprise in store for our guests, as George Hadwick did a wonderful job of capturing the essence of the evening and my book in the form of a rap. 

The rest of the evening

With the speeches completed, apart from signing copies of my book and having my picture taken with guests, I was given a chance to relax and fully enjoy the evening. It was lovely to talk to those with whom I did manage to speak. The time spent devoted to each and every aspect of the book’s creation felt like the book had become rather like a very demanding baby in constant need of my attention, so it has been wonderful to see it take its first steps into the world, and show it off like a proud parent. 

To have a physical launch or not to have one?

So why did I decide to have my book launch? For a long time I weighed up the pros and cons of whether or not to have a physical launch, constantly going back and forth about the idea- would it be worthwhile? Should I just have a virtual launch? But essentially I decided to have a physical launch partly as a way to thank all those involved in the process of writing the book and helping to promote it, but also as a way to celebrate the release of my book into the world. I am very pleased with my decision, and despite the time devoted to running the launch, I feel that it was well worth it.

Virtual Launch

I hope that everyone who is interested in Legally Branded will take a look at the pictures and videos from the main event- which include videos of all the speeches including George’s rap, interviews with audience on what they thought about Legally Branded, a chance to participate in the quiz our guests competed in last night, with some additional questions and facts added, and also the opportunity to ask me any questions on our Legally Branded Facebook page or on twitter using the hashtag #LegallyBranded.

I would like to again say a big thank you to everyone who attended last night and helped make the evening a success, and also to all those who have assisted with the planning process, such as the team at Azrights, Jeremy Philips, and Tibor Gold.

I hope that those who could not attend will raise a virtual glass of champagne today to help celebrate our virtual launch!

Legally Branded Virtual Launch Party

At Azrights it is all go getting ready for the launch of Legally Branded which is now under a week away! Along with the fast approaching launch comes our exciting virtual launch which will take place on September 12th, the day after the book’s release.

The day is due to be packed with fun things to watch, see and read about with a chance to even participate in our Legally Branded quiz where you can get your Intellectual Property thinking cap on.

On the day of the virtual launch, the action will primarily take place here on the Legally Branded blog and also on our Facebook page.

Throughout the day we will be uploading photos and videos from the main event which will take place the night before.  Please like the page  to make sure you view all this great content. The videos will feature interviews with the guests as well as mine and Jeremy’s talks and more so don’t miss out!

For those who participate in the Legally Branded quiz and test out their Intellectual Property knowledge there will be a chance to win a signed copy of Legally Branded.

And if all that is not enough, I will be available throughout the day if anyone wants to ask me any questions either here on this site, on the Legally Branded Facebook page or on Twitter using the hashtag #LegallyBranded.

We’ll be starting the event from 10 am (GMT) and will be online all day updating our various pages.

As the event is virtual this means that anyone anywhere in the world can participate and you can pop over at any time to keep an eye out on what is happening.

In the meantime you can order a copy of Legally Branded on Amazon and we look forward to raising a virtual glass of champagne to celebrate!