UK business set to benefit from simpler and cheaper patent system for Europe

A single European patent looks ever more likely as ministers reached important agreements on the detail of a unitary patent at the Competitiveness Council in Luxembourg today.

For the first time in 60 years, ministers have agreed on the languages regime for the patent – the number of translations which applicants need to file to get their patent. This is a significant achievement for the UK, the Hungarian Presidency and the Commission. They also agreed on the technical details of the patent itself.

As a result it will be easier and cheaper to register patents, with far fewer translations required than at present. The availability of a single patent for the European market will be an incentive for innovation and will enhance the competitiveness of European businesses.

Speaking at the Competitiveness Council in Luxembourg, UK Intellectual Property Minister Baroness Wilcox said:

“The creation of a single European patent and patent court is crucial for UK industry. We support a European patent system which gives real benefits for business, consumers and the economy. It is vital to offer businesses the same access to patent protection in their home market of Europe, as competitors in the US, China and Japan enjoy in theirs.

“A unitary patent and court system will save businesses time and money whether they are patent holders or those seeking to challenge patents. The savings to UK business are likely to be around £20 million per year in translations costs alone.”

Agreement of these two regulations, one establishing the patent and one on the language regime for the patent, will radically reduce the cost of translating patents in Europe by up to 80 per cent. This will also allow any company or individual to protect their inventions through a single European patent valid in 25 countries.

A recent independent review of Intellectual Property and Growth by Professor Ian Hargreaves found that establishing a unitary patent would remove IP barriers between EU countries and could increase UK national income by over £2 billion a year by 2020.


Change to Use Class Orders: will this spell the end of the High Street?

Planning Minister Greg Clark today said the Government could scrap red tape in order to encourage 'meanwhile uses' of empty buildings, transforming them into new shops, business start-ups, and community projects.

Empty properties can lead to a spiral of decline, spoil high streets, and act as a magnet for anti-social behaviour. Meanwhile uses are a way of putting a vacant space back into good use for the benefit of the whole community while a permanent solution is found.

In London's Exmouth Market, for example, a shop lying empty for two years has been transformed by social enterprise Meanwhile Space into a hub offering space to business start-ups and community-focused projects. Shop space has already been booked by a furniture business and a vintage wares store eager to try out their business idea.

Mr Clark believes that it should be easier for businesses and communities to arrange meanwhile uses for empty buildings without having to jump through unnecessary hoops in the planning system.

The Minister today signalled that the Government could scrap rules requiring costly and time consuming planning permission in order to temporarily change the use of empty buildings, as part of a future wider review on deregulating the used class orders system.

This could help reinvigorate local high streets, encourage community enterprises; support entrepreneurs to start-up, contribute to economic growth; and help build stronger, more vibrant communities.

Mr Clark said:

"Empty properties can drain the life away from town centres and are a waste of a valuable social and economic resource.

"We want to make it easier for businesses and community enterprises to reanimate vacant spaces, helping to revive struggling high streets and kick-start local growth.

"Removing bureaucratic barriers in the planning system could play a major part in encouraging meanwhile uses of empty buildings, transforming them into new shops, business start-ups and community projects."

Eddie Bridgeman from Meanwhile Space, a social enterprise which brings empty spaces back into use, said:

"We welcome the fact that the Government is considering getting rid of the need for planning permission for the temporary use of buildings.

"This could give a big boost to getting business and community enterprises into empty premises."

Removing the need for planning permission to temporarily change the use of empty buildings could be a key part of a future Government consultation on deregulating the use class order system. The Government wants to hear similar ideas and views on how the 'change of use' part of the planning system can be improved.

The Government is already working to cut down planning bureaucracy and has announced a full review of national planning policy by 2012. For example it is already consulting on allowing commercial property to be changed into residential property without needing planning permission. This could create 70,000 new homes over 10 years.

The Plan for Growth, published alongside the Budget in March, set out a radical plan of reform to help deliver strong, balanced and sustainable growth in the long term. Reform of the planning system is a key element of that, and today's announcement is another step to creating the right conditions for businesses, to start up, invest and grow.


Breeze & Wyles Solicitors received accreditation to the Conveyancing Quality Scheme

Conveyancing Quality Scheme Accreditation

Breeze & Wyles Solicitors LLP are delighted to have received accreditation to the Conveyancing Quality Scheme. The CQS is the new quality mark issued by the Law Society that is designed to give clients, vendors and lenders a recognisable kitemark for conveyancing firms. It is based on a new Law Society protocol which aims to achieve consistent standards across the board in order to speed up the conveyancing process and provide more certainty for buyers and sellers.

The scheme is to assure homebuyers and lenders that conveyancing firms have met strict quality criteria and it offers a visual indication that they are dealing with a genuine firm.CQS is also an opportunity to recognize high quality conveyancing firms and it highlights a firms professional excellence and their commitment to providing a high quality services.

In order to be awarded the CQS, a firm must meet certain criteria in areas like competence, probity of staff, administrative processes and financial standing. Accredited firms are checked annually to ensure that they have maintained their standards and continued to follow the Law Society guidelines.

John Appleton, the director in charge of Residential conveyancing at Breeze & Wyles said “The accreditation of the firm to the CQS scheme highlights the consistent high quality of work and advice that we strive to give and which clients can quite rightly expect. I am delighted that the firm has been awarded this accreditation”.


BIS announce that Consumer Protection in need of reform

New proposals to simplify the confusing and overlapping provision of consumer protection are needed to better protect consumers, Consumer Minister Edward Davey announced today.

Under proposals set out in a new consultation ‘Empowering and Protecting Consumers’, ministers want to see a new simplified ‘consumer landscape’ with public funding concentrated on two bodies that consumers trust and already turn to for advice – Trading Standards and the Citizens Advice service.

Consumer Minister Edward Davey said:

“This government believes in giving more power to people. Our consumer policy is all about empowering consumers to make the right decisions for themselves when they buy goods and services.

“But we also need to ensure we have the right system of help, advice and protection when consumers need support. For too long people have been faced with a confusing landscape of different, public, private and voluntary consumer bodies, with overlapping roles and responsibilities. It is not always clear where to turn for trusted advice and information which consumers need to make good choices or a champion to support them when they have been ripped off.

“The proposals which I have published today seek to put an end to such confusion and make sure consumers are empowered and have champions. The Citizens Advice service has for a long time offered trusted advice, information and advocacy. So it’s right that it sits at the heart of our plans.

“Likewise, Trading Standards are trusted by the public to do a good job in enforcing consumer law and standing up for consumers. But there are barriers which get in the way of effective responses to rogues who operate across authority boundaries. Our proposed reforms will strengthen their hand in tackling these threats to consumers.”

Strengthening consumer power helps drive competition, making businesses more efficient and innovative. Reforming the consumer landscape was a key part of the Government’s Plan for Growth, published at the time of the Budget, and its focus on creating the right conditions to deliver strong, sustainable balanced economic growth.

The consultation paper sets out proposals for the Citizens Advice service – the familiar bureaux on the high street and their supporting national organisations - to become the single service that consumers can turn to for information and advice. It will also act as their champion across a range of sectors. In turn, this will help empower them to make more informed decisions about the goods and services they buy.

It also sets out plans to strengthen the leadership and coordination of Local Authority Trading Standards Services in tackling difficult cases that cross local authority boundaries.

The ‘Empowering and Protecting Consumers’ consultation will run for 14 weeks until the end of September and government is keen that consumers, the voluntary and private sectors share their views on the proposed reforms.


Breeze & Wyles Solicitors LLP acquires Conveyancing Quality Scheme Accreditation

It has been announced to0day that Breeze & Wyles Solicitors LLP has acquired the Law Society Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) Accreditation.

the Law Society says about the scheme:

"The Conveyancing Quality Scheme will provide a recognised quality standard for residential conveyancing practices. Achievement of membership will establish a level of credibility for member firms with stakeholders (regulators, lenders, insurers and consumers) based upon:

  • the integrity of the Senior Responsible Officer and other key conveyancing staff.
  • the firm's adherence to good management standards.
  • adherence to prudent and efficient procedures through the scheme protocol.

the scheme will create a trusted community which will deter fraud - year on year we will drive up standards."


Turkish Business Opportunity. Interested?

COMPANY OVERVIEW

A “fast casual dining” restaurant chain with 20+ stores that has good branding and a strong position in the marketplace. Currently the chain is experiencing cash flow difficulties and is urgently seeking a strategic partner/investor.

The concept was based on extensive market research and surveys to identify customer profile, and it has been well accepted by consumers. The chain is modelled on several overseas chains and was successfully introduced into its south-eastern European home country.

A typical restaurant is 100 sq m and serves in store or via delivery. The chain has a different menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner and closely manages customer habits by an online a centralized database of customers and call centre, based on a “Customer Relationship Management” (CRM) system which supplements the in store sales by providing delivery. Over 50,000 regular customers are now profiled in the database, which has increased the frequency and loyalty of these customers. The food is prepared at a centralized kitchen and delivered daily to the chain’s locations.

MANAGEMENT

The company was founded by four partners, one who was the founding CEO of a leading high end restaurant chain, a successful US businessman who has returned to the country for this project and an owner of an international kitchenware manufacturer.

CURRENT SITUATION

• Central Kitchen Closed: To save operational costs.

• Severe Cash Flow Problems: Caused by aggressive development program.

• Infrastructure: Facilities and infrastructure for 40 stores including operating manuals, software, call centre, accounting, ERP, point-of-sale

• Develop Wholesale Business: Wants to expand into wholesale

If you are interested in this please contact me on brendan.obrien@breezeandwyles.co.uk.


Solicitors Defend Access to Justice for Vulnerable

The Government is shortly expected to publish the outcome of its consultation process in which it proposed to dramatically overhaul the availability of legal funding by reducing the types of matters covered. In terms of family disputes it means that funding will no longer be available to cover divorce. In addition funding for financial or children matters will not be available except to a victim of physical domestic violence.Public funding was introduced with the aim of ensuring that all people regardless of means would have access to legal advice and assistance when required. Its introduction recognised that justice was a basic right for all people and should not be restricted to those who could afford to pay. Currently Legal Aid remains available for a range of matters including; housing, debt, immigration and family disputes (including divorce, disputes involving children, financial disputes and domestic violence).

Karen Johnson an Accredited Specialist Family Solicitor and Mediator at local firm Breeze & Wyles Solicitors LLP said; “We have seen the Government proposals and are extremely concerned abut the impact the proposed cuts will have on local people and families. Our family team remain committed to providing the full range of advice and services in family matters whether clients pay privately or are eligible for public funding.

It is a sad reality that many relationships do fail and if this happens, the couple are left to pick up the pieces so that they are able to move forward. In an ideal world any issues regarding children and finances can be agreed without involving anybody else. However, this is not always possible. The current availability of funding allows people who have been unable to reach an agreement between them to access legal advice. As members of ‘Resolution’ we would always do what we can to settle a disagreement and minimise the acrimony at an early stage and would only consider advising a client to make an application to the court as a last resort.

In the event that clients are denied the opportunity of early legal advice, we consider it inevitable that there will be an increase in applications being made to court, an increase in unfairness in outcomes to the detriment of the people involved and the children for example fathers wrongfully denied contact with their children, mothers denied their appropriate financial settlement on separation. What is of particular concern is that the absence of access to legal advice and support may result in people taking desperate measures, a concern all the more poignant given the recent shooting of a mother and her young child in Braintree following a child residence dispute”

The governments aim is to reduce spending by £350million. Whilst this is a large amount of money it is actually only 16% of the Government’s legal aid budget but will result in 68% reduction in the number of people who can get help and the concern expressed by the Law Society and supported by many involved is that these cuts are both disproportionate and affect only the most needy and vulnerable in society.

For anybody who wants to know more or wishes to sign a petition which will be sent to Ken Clarke opposing the proposed cuts they should visit www.soundoffforjustice.org. If any would like advice on family matters they can contact Breeze & Wyles Solicitors Ltd on 01279 715330 (Bishops Stortford). The Firm also has offices in Enfield, and Hertford.


Agency/Temp Workers: Are you ready for the changes?

An article in the Independent yesterday makes worrying reading for Employers. In a market place where the previous flexibility provided by the use of agency workers was essential to survival and growth, legislation comes into effect from 1 October 2011 more closely aligning the rights of agency workers to that or employees where the agency worker remains in employment for twelve weeks or more.

It is therefore unsurprising that the majority of businesses (particularly SMEs) are against the legislation.

Share your views by return of e mail to me at brendan.obrien@breezeandwyles.co.uk


Business must keep a Close Eye on Web Law

The cookie monster holds off for now, but he’ll be back for business soon...

Everyone is talking about privacy laws and the need for Parliament to legislate for the problems raised by the new online communities such as Twitter, but we haven’t heard much about the EU’s Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive, with new amendments that were set to have full force from the end of May.

And although the very mention of ‘Brussels directive’ has the potential to turn-off any listener, these new regulations are set to radically change the way companies do business and market themselves on the internet.

Stringent new rules require web-site owners to obtain consent before installing so-called ‘cookies’ on the computer of visitors to their site.

Cookies are small files which enable websites to store data relating to users. At its most innocent and basic, a cookie enables the website of an on-line shop to record what is in your basket as you surf the virtual shopping aisles, or to know what scene you have reached if you are watching a drama on-line. But cookies can also be used to record your preferences and behavioural patterns for targeted advertising, and data collected by one website can be passed on to another business.
In future, if a cookie is not essential, the website will have to obtain the user’s consent to install it on their computer. But how this consent is to be sought and given is a question that nobody can answer at present.

The Department for Culture Media and Sport says that it will be consulting with the industry and that rules will be phased in. In view of this delay against the original timetable for the legislation, the Information Commissioner has said that everyone will be given twelve months to get their house in order.

But this does not mean that the Information Commissioner’s Office will let everyone off the hook. The Commissioner has warned: “Those who choose to do nothing will have their lack of action taken into account when we begin formal enforcement of the rules”.

Said Head of Business Services, Brendan O’Brien : “The 12 month breathing space is just as well, given that a business could be fined £500,000 for failing to obtain consent in accordance with the rules.

“But there’s a clear warning that business must get ready for the introduction of the new rules on cookies and they must be on the alert for statements and advice from the Department for Culture Media and Sport over the coming months.”

He added: “Websites and sales procedures are going to have to be reviewed comprehensively ready for when the rules are in place and evidence of prompt action will be essential if a heavy fine is to be avoided.”

Web site content note:

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.