Intellectual Property, beer and Kylie Minogue….
Intellectual Property (IP) in all its many and varied forms, is the foundation of successful business – but like all property it needs thoughtful maintenance from its creation right throughout its lifetime to develop, increase and protect its value. Depending on the type of product or service, it may have a number of complimentary aspects of IP, each requiring careful consideration as to how it should be protected managed and even disposed of to create and add value to the overall product/service.
A couple of recent news items illustrate this.
A trade secret can be an incredibly powerful property – unlike a patent, it has no finite lifespan but equally, there is no protection if somebody copies it or otherwise acquires it. Examples include the KFC secret blend of 11 herbs and spices, the formula for Coca-Cola, reportedly held in a secure vault in Atlanta and known only to two people who are forbidden to travel together, and closer to home, it’s a similar story for Irn-Bru, where the “secret ingredient” is passed down as a family secret. So why would the owner of such valuable IP willingly give it away?
Brewdog is a craft brewery that was started in Fraserburgh by literally two men and a dog in 2007. By the end of 2015, they’ve grown the business to a turnover of £45million, turning a profit of £5.5million. 580 staff produced 41million bottles of beer….and this week they published all their beer recipes and brewing instructions! So why might this be a smart move for Brewdog, when it would be commercial suicide for Coca-Cola? Well, Brewdog is currently crowdfunding investment from its enthusiastic followers. It thrives in its market by continually innovating (over 200 beers), rather than focussing narrowly on a single product range, and it will continue to do so all the time it brings out new brews. Giving away the recipes also fits well with Brewdog’s brand values, whereas Coca-Cola’s brand is inextricably intertwined with the mystique of being based on a secret formula. Finally, Brewdog have developed their brand to the point where it has a strong and loyal following, and complimentary IP protection in the form of the skills, knowledge and experience needed to turn the recipe into a product (as anyone who has ever bought a celebrity chef cookbook will be all too aware!) and a strong Trademark position.
Talking of Trademarks brings us to Kylie Minogue. For those of us of a certain age, the diminuitive aussie singer and actress has been entertaining us since the mid 1980’s, along the way achieving worldwide record sales of over 80 million. She has also been incredibly successful at developing the Kylie brand to cover a range of products from perfumes to tour memorabilia including mineral water. This branding is protected by a number of trademarks.
Global branding can be highly valuable, but it only retains its value if it can be successfully defended. This week her agents filed a notice of opposition to a US trademark application for the trademark “Kylie” by Kylie Jenner, “a secondary reality television personality” claiming approval will confuse audiences and dilute her brand. The case makes fascinating reading, and no doubt I’ll look at developments in future blogs.
Dr. Cait Murray
Time out for reflection in Aix
Early in the year it is traditional to hold a "kick-off" meeting to gather a company together to talk about how to execute the plan for the coming year, and a little to review the past performance.
SSC is no different, and the whole team headed off to Aix-les-Bains close to the French/Swiss border, to discuss and analyse how best to use 2016. For SSC this is a watershed moment. A "Gathering of the Clans" point in time. SSC has grown and developed, just like the companies we work with, and now we have reached a critical mass point where it makes sense to review our progress to see if we are still actually headed where we set out to reach, and if that destination is still correct for the team who are now involved and the skills we can offer.
The review was then used to inform the plan for the future. We have set ourselves goals, we have made decisions about how to fulfill the goals and outlined activities that we believe will take us there. We have ambition, we have strategy and now, 6 weeks later we can still look at the discussions and decisions and see that we are, indeed, still on track for what we have set out to do.
As CEO of this organisation I feel very pleased and relieved that I can say that we have a great team. We know where each of our own skills lie, and how that intertwines with the skills - technical and non-technical - of the rest of us. We are not all leaders, or ideas people, in fact, right now our team is in great harmony and balance with our aims and our ambitions. It's a feeling that fills me with great optimism for 2016.
Dr. Cait Murray
This past week has been busy.
Exciting, interesting, challenging and definitely busy.
Anna-Marja and Cait have been touring Southern Finland visiting key partners and some very interesting potential clients. They have made 5 corporate presentations, attended 12 meetings and 1 event (excellent launch of Spark-Up business incubator in Turku), met with more than 35 new people and some old friends and travelled many kilometres in varying November weather.
Interestingly in many ways the challenges facing innovation support and companies in Finland are the same - they want more skills and confidence in presenting their company and products/services to International clients and investors and they want more and easier access to new contacts in their market areas.
Thankfully SSC are ready for them - we have SSC Internationalisation and Business Jumpstart courses, much of which has been specifically developed for Finnish needs and have already been successfully road-tested.
Lots more to talk about!