No-one will sue me or blame me

Posted by 27 December, 2014 (0) Comment

Business is easier to do when people are getting on yet it pays to keep everyone happy when relationships start to falter. This article is about money, the fact that it talks when opinions differ and why it is a foreign language for some.

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I’ve had an idea…..but I can’t do it on my own

 

Inventors are not just stuck in sheds. Some of them are hugely creative and have big idea after big idea. I am contacted by inventors when they want to protect an idea they’ve created. Most of them are in “start-up” mode and it takes time for the income to pour in.

However, they still need services to help them lift off and it is not uncommon to reach bartering agreements or agree profit or equity shares with those that help them out. Wonderful isn’t it? In an ideal World, yes, in the real World it depends. Recently, I’ve been contacted by two different companies who both had similar issues with such agreements . They were both being taken to court when such “contracts” had gone sour, they were very loose unwritten agreements.

We can’t agree about everything

 

But it pays to sit down and agree the basics. The first indication that something was going wrong was the receipt of a legal document outlining a case of a service provided that hadn’t been paid for. In each case the inventor thought they had “come to an agreement” yet the complainant asserted that nothing had been written down and they expected a prompt realisation of profits, which is rare. Both inventors were upset as well as being annoyed. One was being asked for £40,000 in fees for work they had “ordered”. The other was being invoiced for £18,000 fees for time spent “assisting” the start-uo.

Even after the first legal notice was issued, the inventor contacted the person that was “owed” the £40,000 and came to another agreement. They were somewhat surprised to learn, soon after, that the complainant had obtained a judgement against them and bailiffs were chasing them for money they didn’t have. Sometimes, the courts do odd things. Launching an appeal has proved fruitless for at lease one company facing a wind up order. Their business was closed down by a judge before the appeal date arrived. It is beyond belief.

You owe me, I sue you

 

Eventually, the money was found yet it had been earmarked for marketing so the launch had to be delayed in one case. The debts were paid when they may not have been legally liable to pay them. They were forced to settle because they didn’t have the resources to defend themselves.

Defending yourself doesn’t have to be ridiculously costly but it does take up time. High quality legal resources have to be paid for. It’s not only about what you sign, it’s about what you agree.  Verbal agreements are often considered binding by one party and failure to defend a corner means louder voices are likely to be heard. The balance between defending and paying up doesn’t always leave defendants between a rock and a hard place. I have plenty of clients who have successfully defended  spurious allegations.

Wrap up; Contracts aren’t always big documents and verbal agreements are often taken seriously. It’s really difficult to juggle all the tasks when unexpected legal issues arise. Not to mention the upset if you don’t know where to turn.

Top tip; Do not ignore issues that are on the “too difficult list”. They have a habit of resurfacing  and investor shareholders hate that too. It is not fair but the deepest pockets usually win.

Categories : After The Event,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Design Insurance,Domian name protection,Intellectual Property Insurance,Legal expenses insurance,Liability Insurance,Litigation expenses insurance,Patent Insurance,Trade Secret Protection,Trademark Insurance Tags : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Will Intellectual Property lead the UK out of recession?

Posted by 12 July, 2013 (0) Comment

This article is about the true value of intellectual property, the risks and advantages when leveraging it, and the solutions available.

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Intellectual property is Marvellous

 

Every week I meet someone who has had a great idea.  Not all of them will make as much money as Coca Cola, yet some of them are simply amazing. Naturally, these conversations are private and confidential, and I am often asked to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs), before I am party to the secret. I don’t mind doing this because it helps build trust with entrepreneurs and inventors.

I think it is vital to protect the intellectual property in any country, UK Plc. seem to have more nurtured good ideas than most. The gentleman who designs Apple products is British, although he is an employee of Apple, so he is handsomely rewarded for giving them the rights and it makes sense to leverage an idea by partnering with someone who has the means to make the most of it.

The UK authorities are aware of just how much tax revenue they make when ideas created in the UK are well protected in the UK, so they have invested in grants making it worthwhile to protect intellectual property, because they make money when we make money.

Intellectual property risks examples

 

One inventor has designed a new water bottle for athletes. Another has invented one with a filter that means that it can be filled from a puddle, yet still be drinkable. When they initially approached me they had similar concerns, someone might copy it and they wanted to enforce their patent, design and trademark rights. Perhaps another manufacturer would try to flood the market with cheap copies that would damage the brand if people were injured whilst using an inferior bottle.

Social Media searches helped another inventor determine people who were jealous of the invention and were using very similar names to promote their product. In each case they can enforce their rights because they arrange protection to close down the miscreants or, at least, stop the fake or suspiciously named goods reaching consumers.

Sometimes this is achievable by a warning shot across the bows, commonly known as a cease and desist letter; this doesn’t always work. Authorities will act upon injunctions and stop goods leaving a factory, impound them at a distributors warehouse or prevent them being loaded onto a ship if the Intellectual Property owner has the means to enforce their rights. Sometimes this is avoided by the miscreants and the legal costs of enforcement mount up.

Some inventors have told me that they believe people will think twice when they have signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement, and that is certainly true for the vast majority of people. Large companies and corporations have taken advantage of the little guys and will stop at nothing to make a buck. Just a little research unearths companies who brought their manufacturing process back to the UK from abroad to find that aggressive companies in England started copying their top four selling items and promoting them on the internet.

Whoever let the copycat have the designs probably signed an NDA. It will take time to find out who the culprit was or if the data was stolen by hacking, employees or “external forces” have been known to do this. Without legal costs protection in place, even though they had protected their unique features and registered their designs, it costs a considerable amount of money, time and effort, to stop this happening.

The same applied to an Irish game designer, doing business in the UK, who was courted by a US publisher with a hawkish side. It cost $380,000 to get the game they “copied” removed from the shelves and they eventually gained a licence agreement for a share of the sales of his original ideas.

Intellectual property advantages

 

It is understandable that some companies do not want to register a patent because they know that there are really aggressive companies, especially in the US, who have a habit of copying ideas as soon as they are registered.  I don’t mean registered as a patent, I mean patent applied for. How they find out about such things is fraudulent, of course, and I share tweets noting those that get caught or the sectors that are at the biggest risk.  Savvy intellectual property advisors often recommend that registering be left until the last minute, yet this also carries the risk that someone else may have come up with the idea on a completely opposite of the world, and register it first, obtaining Worldwide rights, if they have the ability to do so.

When discussing these issues I let people know that there are ways of protecting such inventions without them being fully registered.  Get a registration in first, and inventors or designers can enforce their rights before they are registered. This makes patent attorneys and intellectual property lawyers very happy because it gives them a significant tool in their armoury and also enables them to generate fees when the protection process takes too long.

Large companies do not wait for small companies to enter the market before they attack them. A client is in the UK and bought a US Company and made it their branded subsidiary. The players who had the largest share of that particular US market instantly issued “malicious” proceedings against the UK Company before they had even started promoting their products.

 

Wrap Up: Intellectual Property is a real bargaining chip, if it is adequately protected.  Aggressors often try to tie new entrants up in legal process – which is a huge cost – especially in the US, to prevent them from spending their money on marketing and eroding the established leaders market share.

Top Tip: Having a non-disclosure agreement is great, yet you will need to enforce it if someone breaches confidentiality or trade secrets. This is simple yet not easy. Registering patents, marks, brands, domain names, or other unique features of a product or service, and the way it is marketed, can all form part of Intellectual Property protection.

 

 

 

Categories : Accountants Insurance,After The Event,All Risks Insurance,Building Contractor,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Contractors Insurance,Customer Service,Design Insurance,Domian name protection,General Requirements,Health & Safety,Intellectual Property Insurance,Legal expenses insurance,Liability Insurance,Litigation expenses insurance,Patent Insurance,Personal Insurance,Solicitors indemnity,Solicitors insurance,Trade,Trade Secret Protection,Trademark Insurance,Uncategorized Tags : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

When complainants get tough, the tough respond cordially

Posted by 14 August, 2012 (0) Comment

Business owners dread a call from an unhappy client. This post is about what happens when a meeting causes panic. Read on to find out who is on the receiving end, why it happens, and how to avoid setting dangerous precedents.

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I’ve just had my business arse kicked! Am I covered?

 

Computer keyboard - Press the "any" keyMike phones me at 4pm on a Monday. It’s immediately clear that he’s flustered. It transpires he has just  left a meeting with a client for whom he has been providing IT services for nearly a year. “I feel like I’ve had a good kicking. We’ve been accused of making mistakes and fraud. I really need to know – am I covered for this, especially if they take action?”

This is not an everyday occurrence in my world, but it happens with enough frequency that we are used to it. We plan for it by making ourselves available every day because we want to help when it’s most needed. Mike was “covered” and I let him know immediately. He wanted a good night’s sleep, and the finer points can be ironed out when full details are known.

So what are the chances of keeping everyone happy all of the time?

 

I remember when Mike and I first sat down 3 years ago. His business was, and still is, growing rapidly, and clients expectations change all the time too. The main concern at the time was this type of issue, because IT changes as quick as customer expectations. The unfounded allegation of fraud was the result of a “competitor” getting involved.

It is a real blow when a client becomes unhappy. Yet this particular complainant had been egged on by another company, who probably wanted to usurp Mike. The competition went as far as producing a damming report, with a host of allegations that the client could wave in front of Mike, which the client did, with relish.

Apart from shock and horror, are there other issues?

 

Time. It takes time to answer any complaint. Time should be taken to avoid making the matter worse. What is vital is to take a massive deep breath, work out what has actually happened and make sure communications are clear.

This has since been achieved, and the angry party have calmed down, after they received a considered response. Even so, complainants make unrealistic demands when they’re angry and meetings without agendas set a dangerous precedent.

Wrap up: When a business is growing, learn to expect the unexpected, and plan for it. Keep in mind clients expectations change all the time too, and giving in to unrealistic demands of angry clients is not the most sensible response. Take time out to consider the situation from all angles and ensure all outgoing communications are cordial.

Top tip: In all cases, insurance companies must be kept fully informed of all progress and have lot’s of experience in what works and what doesn’t. It makes sense to lean on them rather than trying to avoid the issue or worry about unlikely premium increases.

Share this with: business owners, service providers, IT people, contractors, and anyone else who gets involved in providing a service to the demanding.

Names have been changed to protect the truly innocent.

Categories : Accountants Insurance,After The Event,All Risks Insurance,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Customer Service,General Requirements,Legal expenses insurance,Liability Insurance,Litigation expenses insurance,Personal Insurance,Solicitors indemnity,Solicitors insurance,Trade,Uncategorized Tags : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What is the dirty little secret of Insurance?

Posted by 1 November, 2011 (0) Comment

There are hidden clauses that loom large in policy documents and some are more sinister than others. Here I explain what the secret is, why it is dirty and how it’s still a secret.

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What is insurance companies dirty little secret?

The insurance market has a reputation of escaping from legal contracts using small print.

When businesses have a dispute they often seek legal recourse. The complainant will sometimes have insurance to cover such disputes. They ask their insurer to cover the cost of taking action yet policies prevent insurance buyers from taking action against insurance companies. Not much help if an insurance  company has refused  to honour the policy they issued.

Insurers do not make this clear. It’s difficult enough when commercial disputes arise, it’s galling to find that you have been given a false impression by the people you had invested in. Insurers paying claims want to reduce the most obvious or exclude them.  It’s unfair when the exclusion prevents you taking action against a supplier that has obviously got something wrong – as is often the case when claims are badly handled. But for insurance companies to close ranks in this manner, that’s pretty low. Whatever their reasons.

Why it is dirty?

Because it’s industry wide, it’s tantamount to a cartel. Have all insurers secretly agreed that they will support claims against any industry except their own? If not, why hasn’t an entrepreneurial insurer stuck their head above the parapet and issued a policy that covers taking such an action?

Insurance disputes are common and it’s not always the broker that makes a mistake. Insurers are often culpable yet it costs almost £20,000 to take action against them. That is bad for UK business. Of course, it could be down to the fact that the insurance actuaries have worked out that insurers nearly always win cases. I suspect this is because complainants often run out of money to fund their legal case. If I’m right the figures will always be skewed.

Why it’s a secret?

I doubt if insurance companies place this exclusion at the back of their policies by accident. It’s not front and centre as you would expect such a sweeping exclusion to be.

There are other secrets in policies that are difficult to unearth and comprehend. Yet the dirty little secret of not allowing your client’s to take action against your competition is the most sinister show stopper.

Wrap up: Insurance companies do not pay claims when the insurance contract between them and their policyholder has been breached. If they refuse to pay a seemingly valid claim policyholders need to dig deep to ensure they get what is due to them. 

Top Tip: Spend time assessing the key risk to your business and make sure you understand your insurance policies which are legally binding contracts. Make sure that important contracts and agreements are not excluded from your policies.

Don’t forget, if you want to reduce risks to assets, income and reputation sign up to our RSS or email feed to the top right of this page to receive insurance tips, new posts plus details of events and promotions that could help you or your network reduce the risks facing them or their organisation.

See our top tips section for simple ways to help yourself today.

Categories : Accountants Insurance,After The Event,All Risks Insurance,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Contractors Insurance,General Requirements,Legal expenses insurance,Liability Insurance,Litigation expenses insurance,Personal Insurance,Solicitors insurance Tags : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Professional Indemnity Insurance – Discover how to avoid losses

Posted by 25 January, 2010 (0) Comment

Professional advisers are not always protected by their insurance

 

Want to know why some indemnity insurance claims are declined? I have two examples of claims being declined, one more extreme than the other, yet both prove small errors can prove costly. And I’m going to tell you why they were declined and how to avoid it happening.

The first is the most recent, only a few months ago an insurance company refused to cover a claim for a company that was being sued for £47,000. The claim related to an incident that occurred in July 2005 when they had translated a document (allegedly incorrectly) yet it would have been covered if the insurance company had been made aware of it earlier. Read the rest of this entry

Categories : Accountants Insurance,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Customer Service,General Requirements Tags : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Customer Service – Where did it all go wrong?

Posted by 1 September, 2009 (0) Comment

 

I recently read an article in a newsletter from marketing expert Dave Croydon, Hilltop Consultancy. David was voicing his concern that automated telephone systems were of little benefit to customers, going as far as to call them a “customer disservice”.

The article mentioned that we wouldn’t accept it from the emergency services yet we’re already having to. My Mum broke her ankle last year and called me. Being made of stronger stuff than some of the celebrity icons of today, Mum didn’t want to bother the Ambulance service until she was sure it was broken. It was and I dialed the famous three digits, something we all dread.

How annoying to be put on hold by an automated system that informed me I was in a queue, at 9am on a Thursday morning.  I was very, very Read the rest of this entry

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