Possibly the best invention never to be commercialised…

April 24, 2014

starlite egg

Few have heard of the story of inventor Maurice Ward, a hairdresser from Yorkshire and a keen amateur inventor. His ingenious invention arose as a result of Ward seeing the aftermath of the Manchester runway disaster in 1985 when a number of aeroplane passengers perished due to inhalation of toxic smokewhich had seeped into the fuselage.

The accident made amateur inventor Maurice Ward think as it was the toxic fumes from the smoke that killed the passengers, and not the actual fire. Maurice was inspired to devise a painted product that didn’t burn.

He very soon invented Starlite which could withstand temperatures of 1000°C and could easily be painted on to a variety of surfaces.

The invention gained publicity after it appeared on Tomorrow’s World.  Peter McCann, the presenter, held a blowtorch directly to an egg that had been coated in Starlite. After five minutes under direct contact with the flame, he picked the egg up telling viewers that it felt ‘warm’ and then cracked the egg open to reveal a completely raw egg inside.

After appearing on TV, Maurice was contacted by numerous private companies, defence researchers and even NASA. Starlite was subjected to a simulated nuclear onslaught and what can only be compared to 75 Hiroshimas.It survived everything!

Although Maurice entered into negotiations, he did not formally contract with any party and never explained the details of the invention to anyone – nor did he patent it. Newspaper articles say that Ward wouldn’t sign confidentiality agreements, which made government and defence companies uncooperative. He insisted on keeping 51 per cent in any joint ventures and could not agree to license as he believed they would attempt to reverse engineer the invention.

Maurice Ward died in 2011 and it seems he took his invention to the grave with him.

We don’t expect everyone to have a ground breaking invention like Maurice.  However, any invention, design or idea that you have is important to you and your business. The only reasons for devising something new and ground breaking has to be to either make money from it, or let it help mankind in general. Either way eventually you have to share your secrets or risk them never being used. At Virtuoso Legal, we can help you with whatever your motives you to create something unique.

Give us a call on 0844 8008871 for a no obligation chat to see how we might be able to help and advise you.


Lending against your IP assets – fact or fiction?

April 1, 2014

how-to-work-out-the-true-cost-of-borrwingMany businesses recognise that their patents, trade marks and copyrights are hugely significant to the business and that these issues are important Board room topics. A well known brand has enormous pulling power and in today’s consumer lead society, it pays to be associated with the right brands. Technology protected by a proper patent portfolio will deter the competition from copying; and in today’s content driven society, a good website and copyright material can make or break a business. Why is it then that IP is so over looked when it comes to attributing a value to it or lending against it?

Many businesses don’t put a value on their balance sheet for IP for the simple reason that accounting standards don’t allow it unless the IP has been “bought in.” As a result of this historic standard, many SME’s are now choosing to hold their IP in an IP holding company, thereby acquiring the IP in from the trading company, and attributing a proper value to it. This has the added benefit of holding the IP at arm’s length from the uncertain trading conditions of a trading or manufacturing arm of the business. Transferring the IP is a relatively straight forward procedure but care must be taken to:

  1. Obtain a proper valuation of the IP to be transferred.

 

  1. Ensure the IP is legally assigned by a specialist IP lawyer.

 

  1. Ensure the IP is licensed back to the trading company for the purposes of protection from copying, the patent box etc.

One of the main issues at the moment is finding a valuation that is robust enough to withstand scrutiny, without spending a fortune. This is possible with some on-line valuation tools. More complex valuations are also undertaken but are generally only used where there is a damages calculation to be done for the purposes of litigation.

The good news however, is that the UK Government is pressing lenders hard to take account of IP assets in business. This means that some lenders are now seriously looking at lending against IP portfolios. This firm has in the last 2 years undertaken securitisation of a £1.5 million trade mark portfolio and has advised pension funds lending against brand assets. We’re also aware of specialist lenders who will lend to businesses against IP licensing streams. We completely welcome this change of attitude by lenders. In fact as IP is now usually the major contributor to company value in our view it can’t come soon enough.

Elizabeth Ward

Virtuoso Legal www.virtuosolegal.com

Contact liz@virtuosolegal.com or 0113 237 9900 and 0207 406 7490