A couture hat designer commissioned to produce a bespoke piece for a high profile event, an accessories designer with a rather risqué concept, a tailor with an original method and an illustrator unperturbed about where their designs might end up. These were the four talented, ambitious and slightly enigmatic students that I had the delight to meet and learn about, but also advise on their intellectual property rights under the supervision of Robert Lands (Head of IP & Commercial) at a recent ‘Own-it’ clinic.
‘Own-it’ provides Intellectual Property (IP) advice to the creative sector. It is run by the University of the Arts, London and costs a nominal admin fee for those who sign up. For the University’s staff, students and recent graduates the service is free. Howard Kennedy is one of the leading law firms which provides 45 minute clinics for face to face advice on IP issues. Some of the students I met were just starting out in their careers whilst others had been working in their industries for years. The clinic is followed up with a detailed note summarising the advice given. It is therefore as much as a learning experience for the trainee solicitor as it is for the attendees who sign up.
The students sent us an overview of their issues and queries about a week in advance so I had some time to research the relevant law. I also had the opportunity to meet with Robert beforehand to make sure I was on the right track and to talk everything through which helped with my confidence as I had no prior knowledge of IP law.
With each student we had at least one IP issue to tackle, as well as a few more general commercial issues. The advice given was therefore on diverse topics ranging from design rights, copyright, brand ownership, and trade mark registration; to partnership agreements, non-disclosure agreements, setting up a company, articles of association, profit sharing, exit strategies, contracts and licences. Many of these issues were mentioned for the first time in the clinics so it was a great opportunity to think on my feet.
Robert let me take the lead with the students at the clinic which I really enjoyed. I had conduct of the interviews but his presence meant I could turn to him for support when I needed to. It was a balance which worked really well. Robert also did his very best to interject when the following pun disasters began to escape from my mouth: ‘It’s important that we tailor this contract to your needs’, ‘You should put a cap on how much they can charge’, ‘The agreement needs to be made to measure’. Although he was an excellent mentor and teacher, he couldn’t do much to remedy my appalling sense of humour.
I would recommend taking part in these clinics to anyone who wants to get a flavour for IP and who also gain insight into other professions. It’s a great opportunity to meet some interesting people doing exciting things and develop key skills for your career.