With the Christmas and New Year celebrations over for another year, preparations were underway to sell my fictional business: Patently Panchromatic Ltd*. We’d done most of the paperwork, but a diligent auditor was independently evaluating my company’s IP portfolio. After a good night’s sleep, I woke to a frosty morning e-mail. Apparently, certain things weren’t quite in order, and I had some work to do.
When initially setting up Patently Panchromatic Ltd almost a year ago in January 2016, I knew I needed to protect my intellectual property. However, I was reluctant to spend large amounts on IP protection at the time. So, instead of using an attorney, I filed my own UK trade mark application for “Patently Panchromatic”.
Brand protection sorted, I focussed on developing our product range. At the same time as the renewed public interest in instant film photography, I found a unique way of creating special photographic film which developed even more quickly than the original types of film, and with exceptional colour depth and clarity. I didn’t want anyone else to copy us, and to save a little bit on costs I wrote and filed my own UK patent application to protect the method of production and film I’d developed.
Growing the business
I hired others to run the production line as we expanded, and taught them how to prepare the films and relevant chemical formulations. With ever-increasing interest in our films for instant high-quality pictures, and our new compact design of camera, everything was beginning to look rosy (commercially speaking).
Unfortunately, similar products from our competitors started to hit the shelves. Our sales haven’t been as promising as expected, and I’m sure it relates to the copies. I learnt that one of our main competitors is a former disgruntled employee who left us in the summer. His camera and films are now directly competing with mine, and his brand is frustratingly similar (“Pleasingly Panchromatic”). I am certain he is using the same method to make the products, but I just haven’t had time to confront him.
Given that an auditor was looking over my IP portfolio, you’d be right in thinking that Patently Panchromatic had received a great purchase offer. Back to the icy tones of his e-mail.
To verify the value of the business, he is checking if everything has been done to protect the relevant IP. I want to complete the sale of the company before the month end if at all possible, but our buyer wants comprehensive IP protection before completing the purchase, with assurances about our IP protection.
Unfortunately, I haven’t kept track of the trade mark or patent applications since filing, and apparently there are now official fees to pay and forms to file. The buyer has insisted that a patent attorney reviews the strength of my patent application before proceeding, which has made we wonder if I should have engaged an attorney from the start. Having filed the applications in my own name, I’ve additionally got to assign the rights to Patently Panchromatic for the sale to go through.
The buyer also wants us to file registered designs for our camera design, and to pursue our former employee for copying. And finally, the buyer wants us to protect the products and brand internationally, and it seems there’s a final deadline for filing equivalent patent applications in a couple of weeks. The auditor dryly noted that using a patent and trade mark attorney would have saved me a lot of trouble, because they would have reminded me about these sorts of things.
With the deadlines and sale right around the corner, I’ve got a lot of work to do! For my next business, I’ll definitely be keeping a closer eye on my IP protection, rather than deferring it to the next day, or week, or month. It’ll make selling my next business much simpler.
*Patently Panchromatic Ltd does not exist (yet).