Tuesday, January 31, 2012

chasing the bad guys

An IP attorney’s life is peppered with dodgy outfits that try to trick unsuspecting clients into parting with their money. Trolling through the notices of acceptance in the official trade mark journals of government registries worldwide, these outfits gather up the addresses of brand new brand owners and send them official-looking invoices for “registration” or “publication” or some other official-sounding but nebulous service.

The government registries carry warnings about this. IP attorneys repeatedly warn their clients not to pay. Some years ago, it was even rumoured that Interpol was investigating. The bad guys expanded their net to encompass sham domain name conflicts in China. Attorneys and trade marks registries continued to warn brand owners. And still the con artists proliferated.

An enterprise in the USA offering publication of new trade marks in a “catalog” hit on the wrong guys recently, when they sent a solicitation to pay a fee to an attorney firm, Leason Ellis of White Plains, New York. Leason Ellis decided to take them on, and are suing for false advertising and unfair competition. Read about it here on The Trademark Blog.

Kudos, Leason Ellis. We’re right behind you on this one.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


A lot has been written about time management - checking emails only three times a day, switching the phone off for an hour, learning to delegate. These are often necessary skills to keep the office desk in order. But there is also something to be said for a whole new approach to time.

Writing today in The Guardian, Roman Krznaric of The School of Life points out that Medieval clocks merely divided the day into hours. Then by the 18th century clocks had minute hands, and a century later second hands. Just over one hundred years ago the wristwatch was introduced, and today we’re all ‘handcuffed’ to time. The speeding up of life that followed the industrial revolution - to say nothing of the nano-seconds of the electronic communication era - mean that life today is famously fast-paced. Haven’t I been blogging about Twitter and recommending that we all join the lightning-fast conversations that are going on around us in 140-character bursts?

But there is a flip side to this conversation. While there’s plenty of quantity out there, we should be aiming for quality. And the best way to improve the quality of what you have to say is to stop for a moment, centre yourself in the present, and let the world around you sink in. You have probably experienced the clarity that comes from taking a walk when a thorny problem stumps you, or too many tasks become overwhelming. If you haven’t - try it. Twenty minutes across the park or around the block - without the phone or Blackberry - works wonders. 

And how about going a day without a watch strapped to our wrist? Krznaric calls this going on a “chronological diet”. Actually, it is pretty difficult to avoid clocks. They’re built into our phones and computer screens for a start. But try taking a walk or reading a book or cooking a meal without a watch or clock nearby. Savour the activity for itself, without any sense of time other than that indicated by the passing sunshine of the afternoon. Surprisingly, you may get more accomplished, your thoughts might just be a little clearer.

As the Zen Master said: “Don’t just do something - sit there.”

Thursday, January 26, 2012

weasel words

'Most educated people don't realise how little impression abstract words make on the average man.'  George Orwell

Don Watson’s book “Death Sentence: The Decay of Public Language” called the bluff of lazy communicators, particularly in the world of corporations and government. Have a look at Watson's site "Weasel Words"  to see how many people are still missing the message.

Are you tired of “going forward” to the “optimum outcome” for the “culture”? Are you ready to “support implementation of program strategies and prioritise project activities across the overall program schedule”, as one actual advertisement puts it? And such mangled language is not the only danger: we’ve all run up against jargon that is only understandable to initiates in a particular industry or profession. The legal profession might arguably be held up as a prime offender.

Whether you’re communicating in a 140-character tweet, crafting a short and snappy blog post, or writing a considered article on a new development in the law, make sure your readers can actually understand you. Amazingly, that’s a reminder that needs to be made.

It’s not always easy to convey legal notions in everyday plain English. Legal terms acquire a freight of meaning that carries precise nuances for lawyers. But that’s the task of the communicator: translate if necessary. And certainly don’t get trapped into weasel words that sound impressive but don’t actually convey any information. Go for precision.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

some numbers to think about

Facebook has more than 800 million active users; more than 50% of the active users log on to Facebook in any given day; the average user has 130 friends. An average of 250 million photos are uploaded every day, and Facebook apps are installed more than 20 million times a day. 350 million active users access Facebook through mobile devices, such as smart phones.

Some estimates reckon that, including Chinese language blogs, there may be more than 1 billion blogs worldwide - this equates to 1 in every 6 people with a personal blog.

Twitter has registered 175 million users since its inception.
Foursquare has 7.5 million registered users.
The Huffington Post reaches 30 million people each month.

YouTube claims more than 3 billion videos are viewed each day. 800 million unique visitors visit each month.

Organization:   IBM
Social Media Stats:
No IBM corporate blog or Twitter account
17,000 internal blogs
100,000 employees using internal blogs
53,000 members on SocialBlue (like Facebook for employees)
A few thousand “IBMers” on Twitter
Thousands of external bloggers
Almost 200,000 on LinkedIn
As many as 500,000 participants in company crowd-sourcing “jams”
50,000 in alum networks on Facebook and LinkedIn

These are big numbers - it’s kind of like trying to imagine the size of the universe. But this is the world of communications today, at least in the developed world. It’s time to join the conversation...and talk about how to have a meaningful interaction with the people most important to you.

Monday, January 23, 2012

finding your clients and customers online

Market to your niche: go where your customers are. Online, this can mean finding the online equivalent of trade publications - what are your current and potential customers reading? Blogs are an obvious choice here: narrow down the sometimes overwhelming blogosphere to those that are leaders in their niche; comment on the discussion, offer to write a guest post, link to your own blog -- join the conversation.

Build a network on Twitter and Facebook and update frequently with interesting info that your network is likely to pass along. Your customer database is no longer a static mail or email list - it’s a web of your contacts who give you potential access to their own web of contacts. Be the first to tweet about a new development, comment on a relevant news story, tell people what's coming up in your field. Follow the trending issues and get involved in those that are relevant.

You can see that content is important. Make your tweets and fb updates punchy and interesting. Those short little posts should be well-written, attention-catching and if possible give a kernel of information. Lead people to your site or blog to find educational material, not merely a hard-sell for your goods or services.

Potential customers may know that you sell the best Italian pasta sauce, but they are more likely to be attracted by a new recipe than a hard sell. They will also be interested in a debate about how to cook pasta - is al dente always best? And what exactly does that mean anyway? Do truffles really add to the flavour? Where do the best truffles come from? ....you get the picture. With great content that is educational, informative, perhaps a little controversial, you will get people reading and talking. And your brand will be out there where the customers are.

The same principal can be applied to legal services, believe it or not. Don’t be afraid to show some personality and wit. ‘Professional’ need not equal ‘boring’. A recent case might have quirky facts, which can provide a witty tweet leading to a blog entry that canvasses the controversial aspects.

Pasta sauce or a judge who got it wrong...talk about it.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

join the conversation

Intellectual property is one of the most dynamic and fast changing areas of legal practice, and it also encompasses the rapidly paced world of branding and marketing. As the brand experts respond to ever-changing consumer tastes, new ways of communicating are constantly tested and often take wing in surprising directions.

Whether you are in-house in a corporation managing a large portfolio of trademarks and other intellectual property, or a legal advisor responding to your client's IP needs, you cannot remain static. The best communication tools today may be outdated tomorrow.

Here on this blog we will explore changes in the IP world and seek the latest trends and tools to manage your brands - and your own business.

Join the conversation.