Following our previous campaign against the Fair Guide, produced by a company called Construct Data Verlag GmbH based in Austria, we are aware of a similar exhibition guide called Expo-Guide, produced by a company registered in Mexico, which appears to be virtually identical.

Exhibitors at major exhibitions are sent a mailshot for ‘free’ advertising space in an ‘exhibitors directory’.  They are asked to check that the accompanying order form has the correct data on it after which ‘your free listing will be activated’  However, some people use the attached form to make corrections to their ‘free listing’ and submit it, unaware that they are using the form which requests a ‘payable insertion’.  As the offer is sent at roughly the same time as official exhibition documentation, the confusion occurs because the Expo Guide offer letter is headed ‘Exhibitors Directory in the Expo-Guide’ and also states the name of the exhibition where a stand has already been booked.  Many people sign the document believing that their name will appear in the actual exhibition ‘list of exhibitors’ guide for the exhibition.

The cover letter has clear notification that the ‘Expo Guide’ is ‘independent, objective and not related to any organiser or marketing association.’ However, this information is set out in the body of the text, and is not immediately obvious to the reader.

The order form itself, where you are encouraged to ‘please confirm the accuracy of your details’ also states ‘This form is only for your correct listing as an individual advertisement entry’ and this is also misleading. The actual payment terms and length of the agreement are in smaller print at the end of the document. 

There it states that the cost of the listing in the Expo-Guide will be 1181 Euros, that it is a 3 year contract and will continue for that period unless ‘cancellation notice is given in writing by letter at the latest 3 months before order’s expiry’ which is not a clear statement and liable to misinterpretation.

If you sign a contract without having thoroughly read all the small print, you are legally responsible. You cannot argue that you were unaware of any of the obligations that will then bind you. Your only option will be to argue that there is something fundamentally wrong with the contract, such as a failure of consideration, or a breach of the contract. Even then, the contract may be deemed only ‘voidable’ and not totally void or invalid.  Click here for a downloadable version of this advice and an example of the form and the cover letter.







 if you don’t read the small print!



 LESS COPYING, MORE IP AWARENESS! This was ACID’s verdict after Interiors 2010. “Having supported this ACID Accredited exhibition for nearly a decade” said CEO Dids Macdonald, “We are cautiously optimistic that there has been a significant reduction in the number of complaints handled by ACID and generally, an increased awareness about the need for respect for intellectual property. Now, more than ever, there is a real need for all brands, whether micro enterprises, SME’s or well known brands to create an IP strategy.”

Presenting the Lighting Association Awards Dids said, “Whether a design is a portable luminaire, a non portable luminaire, best energy saving product, best innovation or indeed the lighting show design of the year –it will be underpinned by intellectual property.  This could be a patent for a unique invention, the trade name under which it will be marketed, design right in the creative design and the tangible form, or copyright in the way that it is described on packaging and  marketing material or on the company’s website. All this is valuable intellectual capital, which will be the differentiator between success and failure in today’s competitive market for  micro enterprises, SME’s and well known brand names.”

Speaking to some of the UK’s leading designers and manufacturers Macdonald added, “We are no longer a nation of shop keepers, we are a knowledge economy and, as such, intellectual property is the lifeblood of successful companies in the UK today. The creative industries (and the lighting industry is very much part of this) collectively contribute a significant 8.2 %, or nearly 120 billion pounds, to the UK’s GDP. The rest of the world looks to the UK lighting industry to lead in innovation, safety, technical expertise/standards, sustainability and best practice and they have every reason to. One of the most difficult challenges facing those who bring new (and subsequently successful) ideas and products to market is the constant threat of them being copied. So key to success in the 21st century will be to create an IP strategy to protect, exploit and commercialise your new products.”

ACID has been supported by the Lighting Association (described as a very credible mouthpiece for the industry) for many years now; in fact they were one of the first to embrace ACID’s aims and objectives. One of their top priorities, as an ACID trade association partner, is to continue to promote education and awareness about the importance of respect for intellectual property. Theft is theft, whether it’s a wallet, a watch or a new design. Design theft costs livelihoods.

Another first for the Lighting Association was the announcement that this year the 2010 Student Design Awards will include, for the first time, an intellectual property requirement and criterion. The aim is to ensure that all design students are aware of the intellectual property they create and are better equipped to come to market. Entrants will need to be able to demonstrate that they identified different types of intellectual property relevant to their designs and be seen to have taken steps to protect their IP rights.

The list of Award winners are shown below.

Best Portable Luminaire

Winner      Pacific Lifestyle ( Aimbry)

                     Fleur Ceramic Range

Best Non Portable Luminaire & UK Lighting Design of the Year

Winner       Illuminati SRL

                      Meta Swan Series

 Best Energy Saving Product

 Winner      Oaks Lighting

                      7933-6 Messia Range

 Best Innovation

 Winner      Endon Lighting

                       EL10055 Halogen / LED downlight

Presentation of Best Innovation 2010 Endon

The awards for Best Stand were as follows;

Best Small Free-build Stand    Winner   -    Crimway Limited

Best Large Free-Build Stand    Winner   -    Valsan (UK) Limited

Best Shell Scheme Stand            Winner   -     Carlos Remes Lighting Co.

 Dids Macdonald presents Best Innovation Award to Endon Lighting



interiorslogocbACID were delighted to be asked onto the judges panel at Interiors, Birmingham to decide between many talented young designers whose work was on show last week.  The judges panel comprised of Barbara Chandler from the Evening Standard, Damian Walton from the House of Fraser and Dids Macdonald, ACID’s CEO.  Each judge concentrated on a different area, from design creation to manufacture, with ACID’s role being to assess the students knowledge of IP rights and how to commercially exploit their designs.  IP was at the forefront with one student who had taken out a RCD (registered community design) to afford protection for their design.

The New Design Britain awards, in cooperation with the Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers and sponsored by Willis and Gambier (a long-standing Member of ACID) were the culmination of months of hard work by the students and the organisers UBM, to find the very best product designs the UK has to offer, with over 150 entries from over 80 universities.  ACID supplied 1 year’s free ACID membership to all the winners and free merchandise from ACID Trading.

Helena Carelson

(L to R) Dids Macdonald, Damian Walton and Barbara Chandler judging Helena Carelson, who has been the first to take up her free ACID membership.

For information on the other award winners click here.

BDI Logo3British Design Innovation (BDI) represents many of the leading industrial designers, service designers and innovation professionals in the UK. Among other initiatives, BDI developed the Open Innovation Challenge™ (OIC), an innovation process model utilised to support knowledge-based propositions originating in the commercial design sector which contain inherent value in both hard and soft IP. OIC not only supports designers’ trading activities with corporate brand owners seeking external innovation, but also reinforces the status and differentiation of their propositions from crowd-sourced ideas.

It was back in 2004 that BDI introduced the concept of Knowledge Transfer to its members and those seeking to engage with them, highlighting the crucial role it plays in professional practice and commercial transactions. The knowledge transfer principle now regularly crops up in creative industry initiatives and communications, and paid-to-think design firms are grasping the value of knowledge as a trading commodity. However, brand owners seeking to bring external innovation into their businesses are still struggling with the concept of paying for it, or separating knowledge- and solution-based propositions from those that are simply ideas unsupported by in-depth knowledge or know-how.

Unfortunately, in order to communicate the value of a proposition based on customer- and sector-led knowledge and know-how, it is often necessary to demonstrate or pass on a good deal of the knowledge supporting it. Even under stringent conditions of commercial confidentiality there exist otherwise intelligent individuals who believe it is fair to claim someone else’s knowledge and rationale as their own, and utilise it to produce very similar – and sometimes identical – propositions under their own label.

If the text were a story and the product a book, such activities would be denounced as plagiarism in the publishing world, and source credits would be a minimum requirement in the digital and visual industries if copyright infringement claims were to be avoided. However, innovations translated into new market applications for products and services are invariably knowledge- and research-based. Such pre-patent concepts (including unprotected designs, 3D applications, service design, business models and processes) are consistently purloined by others on the basis that ideas cannot be protected. But these are not merely unsubstantiated ideas – they are tradable knowledge-based solutions developed by professionals with know-how. Under these circumstances, utilising and commercialising someone else’s work is surely knowledge theft?

It is accepted that knowledge transfer has a tradable value. Universities consistently trade and transfer knowledge commercially with industry (an activity encouraged, promoted and funded by the government). Knowledge-based professional Originators are no different to universities apart for the fact that they have the know-how to take knowledge a step further and translate it into market applications in the form of user-led products, services and propositions.

Good business ethics, a strong personal morality and best professional practices alone cannot protect professional Originators (who include scientists and industrial designers) from those with few qualms about replicating others’ work, for recent history has shown that such attributes do not always reside in rogue individuals employed by commercial businesses. And plagiaristic activity – intentional or otherwise – is rife within a public sector that appears to predominantly employ individuals of high intelligence but little or no commercial experience. Many naively believe that the words ‘public domain’ mean ‘free to all’. They don’t.

In a global market where the internet and ‘crowd power’ now hold sway, the existing copyright system is a long way away from providing the protection required to stimulate an open innovation society. Current IPR protection is incapable of drawing a distinction between undefined early-stage ideas on the one hand, and fully-rationalised knowledge- and solution-based propositions on the other. We need a new IPR category in order to protect the latter.

In innovation, all skills have a value. Don’t they…?.

If our society were solely populated by creative Originators with equal skill sets and the money to bring new innovations, services, products or propositions to market, nobody would need partners and everybody could more easily protect their ideas, knowledge, know-how and commercial positions. In the real world, of course, skilled Originators are a minority who need route-to-market partners to assist in the commercialisation of their work. (We at BDI call this a ‘division of labour’ model, based on the precept that no product, service, process or proposition ever comes to market without the shared expertise of several key parties.)

So why do some with route-to-market skills find it acceptable to exploit the Originator before the idea, and expend so much time and money doing so at the risk of their reputations? Such futile behaviour blocks true innovation because professional ‘ideapreneurs’ – the innovators, originators and creative businesses – are at the mercy of those who are not themselves innovative.

I mentioned knowledge theft earlier. This is a difficult subject to conjure with. The majority approach has arguably been to give knowledge away for free in order to demonstrate expertise, in exchange for professional status, commercial engagement or public relations coverage. However, it becomes an issue when knowledge is used to support the rationale, narrative and validation of an innovative concept (be it a product, service or business proposition), and that knowledge is then ‘lifted’ and applied to the commercial benefit of another individual or organisation – who rarely attribute source credits and all too often repackage it as their organisations’ internal creation.

The arguments for such knowledge theft invariably include the line: “Well, ideas can’t be protected, so if they’re presented in the course of seeking commercial engagement they’re fair game!” But continuing along such a dismal path can only result in the existing barriers to innovation between Originators, route-to-market partners and industry becoming even more difficult to break down.

In order to dismantle these barriers, knowledge and know-how value needs to be addressed in the paid-to-think marketplace – in other words, by those who have proved their value and earn their living as professional Originators. But it also needs to be supported by a new trading model (and IPR system) that enables the appropriate trading of fully-rationalised knowledge- and solution-based propositions between Originators and route-to-market exploiters, to their mutual benefit. Which ultimately benefits the customer and consumer, of course.

Knowledge alone has little value unless it can be translated into innovative products, services and propositions by those with the know-how and skills to do so. When they do, professional Originators should not be continually exploited and undermined – and yes, cheated – out of commercial benefit. Such behaviour can only stifle innovation and crush the spirit of the very people the government professes to support in an attempt to turn the UK economy around.

If the powers that be, from the government and the Intellectual Property Office on down, really want to build a strong knowledge economy, they need to take these issues on board and find the ways and means of resolving them.

© Maxine J Horn 2010. All rights reserved.

MaxineJHorn_bw1Maxine Horn is CEO of British Design Innovation and lead author of Delivering the Innovation Dream: The BDI Report, delivered to HM Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills on 18 March 2009.

Dids CP 022

– How can they protect themselves from theft?

By Dids Macdonald, CEO of ACID (Anti Copying in Design)

In what seems an interminable “grey bulb lifetime”, policy makers have at last realised that we are no longer a nation of shopkeepers, we are a nation of entrepreneurial originators or “ideapreneurs” as BDI’s Maxine Horn (link ) so aptly describes those of us who earn our living by idea generation. The UK has now transformed into a credible knowledge economy with thousands of us using our brains, our minds and our intellectual capacity to a greater or lesser degree to translate ideas into tradable propositions.  So much so that the Creative Industries contribute to the UK’s GDP pot by some £120 billion pounds and rising. The term Creative Industry is an anomaly in itself because we have the intangible, “creative” (inventive, original, ingenious, inspired, and artistic) i.e. idea generation partnered with “industry” (manufacturing, business, commerce, trade, engineering, production). Both are interdependent on each other and form the intrinsic value, the intellectual capital that resides under successful brands (whether micro or mega) within this sector.

And so there seems to be a gigantic fault line, or chasm,  in Government policy making which does not recognise or support the notion that ideas alone have a value, only their tangible form and therefore protectable under intellectual property law. We see this enshrined in current IP law where there is no abstract right to protect an idea and yet it can be protectable by the manifestation of that idea into a 2d or 3d format. But what happens in between the seed of an idea and market reality? In the journey or “route to market” often the knowledge provider or original thinker’s know how is pinched and adopted by another for their own commercial gain. Thus far there has been a fierce reluctance to develop anti competitive laws. But why? Surely we should be guarding our competitive edge, generated through ideas now more than ever?    

We don’t think twice about paying for other professional advice from more traditional routes. If we go to one of the hallowed silver circle of IP lawyers, there will be little change out of several hundred pounds per hour and those who can afford to pay rarely bat an eyelid. Somehow paying for advice means it’s worth it. In the same way those who seek advice from a professional consultant in another sphere will do so on the clear understanding that they will pay for another’s knowledge. So why not Professional Originators? In the current culture of valuing creative thinkers (being only one above yodelling experts at the moment), passing off others ideas under one’s own carefully recrafted cloak is fair game. Responding to a pitch or tender, only to find a distilled version making someone-else’s headlines is rife and creative input is often viewed as a “real opportunity” to share innovative ideas and network with those supposed key influencers whose fresh ideas are stale.    

So what is the solution? Idea generators need to value their creativity more, those who collaborate to help germinate ideas into tangible tradable commodities should show more respect for IP originators and, in time, it is hoped that policy makers will make a paradigm shift in their thinking by regarding idea entrepreneurs as Professional Originators. If this is to succeed it will combine impetus and a joined up approach from The Treasury, BIS and the Ministry of Justice. The former’s lack of IP generated tax incentives at best, disappointing and the latter’s scant regard for exemplary damages for IP theft, remarkable.

In his appraisal of the current IP climate for creative thinkers, Nick Kounoupias, ACID Lobby’s Chief Counsel said, “It’s not just political history that tends to repeat itself but also IP legislative history. Time and time again important sounding groups or committees are set up to investigate IP, lengthy reports and consultation papers are issued and detailed recommendations are published. But time and time again the recommendations get stuck in a political quagmire and do not see the light of day. The lot of designers has been particularly unhappy and it is difficult to see what financial incentive there can be for a designer to make a living from designs and idea generation without adequate enforcement tools.”

Interestingly, for 2010 the (WIPO) World Intellectual Property Day theme this year (its 10th Anniversary) is Innovation – Linking the World! Unless there is an upgrading of the value of the ideas generating population, innovation stands to be compromised by the growing and seemingly accepted notion of ideas theft.   Whilst current IP policy urges originators to register their intellectual property to protect the intellectual capital in their business, this does not go hand in hand with a cost and time effective enforcement policy. The stark reality is that most micro enterprises and SME’s haven’t a hope of redressing their own intellectual property theft whether it is tangible or intangible – a current status quo which is woefully out of date with the pace at which ideas are fuelling progression in the 21c. Inevitably innovation will be one of the key drivers in local and global economic recovery, it’s about time we recognised this and put a value on the ideas generated by Professional Originators.

 Andy 2

ACID’s  latest article from the IP Doctor, Andrew Lee of McDaniel & Co., covers  another of  the subjects for which we receive frequent queries and ACID Generic Agreements are featured this month. ACID and their Accredited Law Firms worked together to produce a range of legally binding standard agreements which are simple to use and can be saved on your system as an electronic document for use on further occasions.  They are extremely economical and available to all.  If you are an ACID member they are discounted and you can also telephone the legal hotline for advice on which agreement you need and how to use it.

You can find the whole range of agreements by visiting or by visiting the main website at and clicking on the ACID Trading tab at the top of the screen.


Intellectual property rights are like any other form of property. They can be dealt with in a variety of ways. They can be sold, licensed, mortgaged, for example. Quite often however, when two parties enter into an agreement in respect of intellectual property, they do so without legal advice or without documenting the agreement. That can have a number of consequences and there is a raft of intellectual property case law which has at its foundation the problem that the parties conducted their arrangement informally and did not reduce it to writing. So, clarity of ownership is key!

Below are examples of common questions asked where the use of an ACID Generic Agreement would have helped to avoid a subsequent problem.

acidlic1cpI am a fabric designer and I have designed a new print. A manufacturer of furniture wishes to use that print and apply it to furniture for sale. I do not want to sell the print outright as I would like to have the option of using it myself in the future.  How can I best protect myself?

In this situation you are looking to allow another to use your design but retain ownership and receive financial benefits from doing so. The best option therefore is to licence the use of the design to the manufacturer. The starting point should be to have a form licence agreement drawn up, the foundation of which could be the ACID royalty/licence agreement. It is important that the agreement is reduced to writing for a number of reasons:

  • It provides commercial certainty to both parties as to what the agreement between them is.
  • There is no ambiguity as to what the manufacturer is licensed to do, how long it is licensed to do it for, on what types of products it can use the design and whether you will be at liberty to grant licences to others.
  • The terms of payment can be specifically set down such as whether you will be paid a one off licence fee or a percentage royalty per sale made by the manufacturer or a combination of both.


I am a freelance designer who is regularly commissioned by clients to produce a wide variety of products and designs. I have a problem where a client is alleging that they own the rights in the product I have created. We did not have a written agreement; the deal was concluded informally over the telephone. How can I ensure I am better prepared next time?

The issue of the ownership of commissioned works is complex and these were outlined in previous Q & A’s. It is always advisable to deal with the issue of ownership of commissioned works before any work is undertaken when preliminary negotiations are underway. In that regard the ACID Freelance Designer Agreement is extremely useful. This document will allow you to expressly provide for the issue of ownership. In addition, if you already have your own written terms of business, the content of the freelance designer agreement can be incorporated into those terms as additional clauses dealing expressly with IP ownership.

You may wish to retain legal ownership of the intellectual property in the designs you produce but grant the customer a licence to use the design. The customer would, in any event, have an implied licence to use the design for the purpose it was commissioned. Alternatively, you could be happy to agree that the customer will be the owner of all intellectual property rights once payment for the work has been received. Again, by reducing this agreement to writing, there is no ambiguity.


A manufacturer has asked to see some prototypes and samples of my work so that they can give me an idea of the costs of producing the product for me to commercially exploit. Is there anything I should be aware of and what can I do to ensure I am protected?

This is a relatively common situation and the risk is that an unscrupulous manufacturer could decide to  take your product, produce it themselves and sell it as their own. Many people approach commercial situations with good intentions, however, it is wise to err on the side of caution. There is a simple way of maximising your protection in this situation with the use of the Acid Intellectual Property Agreement. This is a short agreement that you would give to the manufacturer and ask them to sign before sending them any prototype, or sample of your designs.

The agreement outlines that you are the owner of the samples and any intellectual property rights. The manufacturer by signing the agreement would acknowledge that and also agree not to do anything with the samples without your written consent. Of course, even if they sign the agreement this does not mean they will not do anything wrong. There is no guarantee. However, if they have signed the agreement then you have in writing their confirmation that you own the designs and that they will not misuse them.   Without such an agreement they could complicate matters by alleging you gave them permission.

I am starting a new business, is there anything I should have in place for trading with customers?Agreementsymbol5

Acid offer the Standard Terms and Conditions template generic agreement. The template is a basic set of trading terms and conditions with additional clauses that can be added or taken out depending on the circumstances, but with emphasis on ensuring any intellectual property issues are covered. This will allow you to clearly set out to customers the terms upon which you do business. For example, how long will a customer have to pay for the goods or services? What happens if they do not pay? What is the procedure for returns? Are you to retain ownership and title until payment is made?

Without a set of written terms and conditions it can be difficult to know on what terms you are conducting business, which makes any disputes costly and time consuming to resolve. This way, by having a set of Terms and conditions, the terms are clearly set out. The generic agreement can also be amended to be tailored specifically towards your business needs.

safe pitch logocp

I am worried that by asking the company I am dealing with to sign agreements that they will refuse to deal with me or assume I think they are not trustworthy. Should I still insist they sign the documents?

Yes! The first sign of concern in such a relationship should be when the other party is not keen to have formal agreements in place. This should raise your suspicions immediately. After all, if they are a bona fide company who do not intend to rip you off, then there should be no problem with formalising the agreement. Remember that the agreements are also for their benefit. By having everything in writing it also allows them to conduct the relationship with clear boundaries. Furthermore, it should be of comfort to them that you take intellectual property rights seriously and wish to do things correctly.

FOCUS ON CHINAOur very good friend the IPKat has flagged up a useful website for all those either working with Chinese companies or planning to work in China The China Intellectual Property Help Desk for SME’s. The best thing about this website is that you can email a specific question pertinent to your business and you will get a tailored reply. In the same way that you focus on strategy for other aspects of your business, HR, marketing, sales it is equally important to create an intellectual property strategy, after all it is the lifeblood unperpinning most businesses in the UK.

An effective IP strategy will result from an IP Audit and involve all staff in terms of IP awareness and the introduction of systems and procedures related to the management of IP which will affect the roles and responsibilities of most employees. Adequate protection through all the development processes from the seed an idea to market reality is a key consideration. Effective communication of an IP strategy through all communication platforms across the whole supply chain as well as internally and to competitors will reinforce your company’s stance on IP. There is no better communicator of an IP strategy than when accompanied by the Member of ACID logo.   Click on the link below to view the website.

The China Intellectual Property Help Desk

british-library   February – External Events




The ICC Business Breakfast Club   

The Islington Chamber of Commerce

February 9th, 16th and 23rd

7.45am(8am start)-9.00am 

Bolt Burdon Solicitors, Providence House, Providence Place, Islington, London N1 0NT

£5(Members) £7.50 (Guests) -– Enjoy networking over breakfast with the new ICC breakfast club. A great way to start the business day


The ICC Business Networking Lunch 

Islington Chamber of Commerce 

February 11th 2010 


Montmartre Bistrot 144 Essex Road, Islington, N1 8lX£15 (Members) £17.50 (Guests) 

The first of our regular business networking lunches at this Award-Winning restaurant. The restaurant offers genuine French regional specialities, served in generous portions in an informal and relaxed atmosphere. Bring plenty of business cards and an empty stomach

FREE “Last Thursday” Social Networking 

Islington chamber of commerce

February 25th 2010


Lucky Voice, 173 – 174 Upper St, Angel, Islington

Join ICC Members and fans at the Lucky Voice bar from 6pm – 9pm (cash bar) with 2-4-1 cocktails for Islington Chamber members on the night and the chance to explore your hidden singing talents don’t miss the perfect way to unwind at the end of the month. To register interest for this free event please email

British Library – Internal Events For March 2010

Stepping into Success conference

Women Unlimited

Monday 8 March 2010

9.30am registration – 5pm

British Library Conference Centre

Come along and join us on March 8, International Women’s Day, at the Women Unlimited Conference Stepping into Success conference for an event that will inspire, motivate and invigorate you and your business.  Women Unlimited have put together an all star line-up including Liz Warom, founder of Temple Spa, Camila Batmanghelidjh, founder of the Kids Company, Liz Jackson, secret millionaire and CEO of Great Guns Marketing and MT Rainey, CEO and founder of  This day is guaranteed to be fun and inspirational.  It is about celebrating being a woman in business and will give you the chance to learn and network with some of the UK’s leading female entrepreneurs. 

Visit to book your place (the last 2 Women Unlimited events sold out 2 weeks early, so if you want to come along make sure you book quickly).

BL discount: £20 off full ticket price only

Discount code: BLUK

Discount link:   

‘Have You Got News for Us? DIY PR for the smaller business.

Integra Communications

Monday 8 March 2010

2pm – 6.30pm

British Library Business and & IP Centre, 96 Euston Road, London