Meet Emma Reeve from Stobbs IP, Farillio's expert intellectual property attorney.
An official Farillio Expert, Emma helps us to make protecting intellectual property simpler, easier and more affordable for small businesses!
Merlie: So who are you and what do you do?
Emma: I'm Emma and I am a brand protection and enforcement expert. What that means is I help businesses - large and small - and individuals to help protect their most valuable asset - their brand.
Merlie: So we are obviously very excited about working with Emma, but Emma what excites you about collaborating with Farillio?
Emma: I am working with Farillio in so many ways.
Merlie: Haha, you are, literally.
Emma: It's brilliant, it's absolutely brilliant. I even worked with Farillio before it was even Farillio.
I am Farillio's trade mark attorney, I advise on their brand, the protection of their brand and the enforcement of their brand.
As well as that, I also provide guides, templates and lots of other information about how people can protect and enforce that brand asset. And to do that we're also doing things like these videos, which is great.
We're on the journey making sure that we can do as much for Farillio as possible to make brand digestible, accessible and available to everybody.
Merlie: Yeah and commercializeable, really importantly. I think what’s been super for us is to take what we've learned from Emma, all the advice over the many years we've been working together and pull it out of Emma's head and off our notepads and your advice notes in the many emails, and digest that in to lots and lots of really scalable help that we can share with all of you.
So we're just as excited to be working with you - but what is it that excited you about coming and working with Farillio in the first place?
Emma: Oh ever since I knew about this as an option, I've been excited about it, it's brilliant. I think the difficulty with legal services is they are really unaccessable, they're really unavailable. they're...
Emma: Yeah, exactly. They're really not nice experiences. Individuals, businesses, everybody thinks they're going to be charged a fortune to speak with a lawyer, to hear about what a lawyer has to say, to help advise them or guide them or talk through things with them.
Farillio strips it back. Farillio makes law simple. It makes the options that consumers have simple, and this is great. It gives you a platform. Technology for some reason isn't in law at all - barely - and it gives people the option to log on, to have a look, to see what they could be doing to really empower themselves to have expert advice, early on.
Merlie: I mean, I love what you said earlier when we were having a chat - "It's making what you don't know, easy and known" - and I think that's what excites me about working with people like you.
It's taking what none of us know - and as a small business, you don't know what you don't know - and none of us start a business to second guess a whole round of people who've been doing technical, legal, business finance, insurance, whatever it might be, these incredible areas of knowledge and expertise for many years. And as a business owner - suddenly - you are almost holding this basket of other things that you're supposed to know about.
On top of actually running what you're deeply passionate about and what caused you to start in the first place. I think for us what's really exciting, being able to take experts like you and push them through a platform where everybody suddenly does know what they need to know. So we're just as excited about working with you.
Becoming a brand expert
Merlie: So how did you become a brand expert in all things trade mark and IP.
Emma: I decided to become an expert in brands and trade marks really early on without realising it. I initially worked in a commercial retail bank - which was really exciting - working in a commercial environment.
And then when I decided to requalify and go into law, I realised after my law degree that actually what I wanted to was be really involved in the business side again.
I wanted to be involved in commercial strategy and the future of those businesses, and to do that I knew the best way to be involved was in intellectual property, trade marks and brand value - that asset and the really valuable part of the business that drives that business forward. So I decided to work in brand protection and enforcement.
Merlie: I mean I have to say, knowing you as I do - and we've known each other some time now - I can't think of any better position for you because you're so pragmatic, you're so commercial and I think you have this tenacious curiosity for what drives a business right from the start.
So, the value, the small starting points - sometimes it's just a company name, sometimes it's just a logo or a graphic on website - that you chase that down and really interrogate around it, to make sure that what's created has the true potential to release value. I can absolutely see way why this area appealed to you. To move from banking...
Emma: I know.
Merlie: What triggered that?
Emma: I know. It was really strange, really bizarre. I just didn't think banking was for me, but I wanted something I could really be involved in and understand.
The law - as every young law student knows - you're driven to working in the legal industry. But then when I was there and I thought - “oh-no, actually, really what I want to be doing is still be involved in that commercial side and have that relationship with businesses that I currently do."
What businesses do you work with?
Merlie: You obviously work with so many brands. It's quite intimidating actually sometimes looking at your client portfolio and thinking "wow, Farillio is a small part of this!" Can you name some of the brands and how you work with them, how you help them?
Emma: Stobbs works with some fantastic brands. We're really lucky. We work with big, big organizations that have great brand value. I personally, work really closely with Marshall Amplification, and I also worked really closely with [inaudible] who own McVities.
Emma: I know, a great client to work with, who have such great brand reputation.
Who I also work with, is companies like Farillio and other start ups. What I found really exciting about the companies that I work with is that I can learn quite a lot from start ups myself which is really exciting. I can be on that journey. I'm usually working really closely with the CEO, with the COO. Somebody who is really involved in that business and I can actually learn quite a lot and apply that to when I'm working those bigger organisations.
With Marshall Amplification, I've worked with them for about five years and on that journey they've changed quite a lot. They're a real licensed brand and I'm helping them protect and enforce their brand in other licensed ways which is really exciting.
And McVities, I'm working with them to make sure that their trade marks are protected across their international markets. Which again, is really new and different from what other people are doing.
But it's nice that you can pull themes from all those businesses and put them together, and use elements from different businesses and apply them elsewhere, when you're working with different ones.
Merlie: That's something that's very reassuring to brands like ours which is very much a startup and very new to the world of protecting, and I guess unlocking, the value of what you're creating.
To know that there are very few questions that, if any, I don't think I've ever asked you something where you haven't said "Oh no, I know how to do that" and "that's what happens..." or "That's a problem that someone else has experienced", to know that we're sort of following a well trodden path that you've got lots of experience of.
Both at home and internationally because many of us have international expansion plans and want to sell abroad or we simply just want to stop somebody in a different country from copying or free riding off the back of what we do.
I think that's quite reassuring to do that, it's also quite aspirational, looking at where we could be maybe.
Emma: But also, not those businesses in particular, but big businesses, are also exceptionally aspirational and want to innovate and they can learn from start ups like yourself which is really exciting.
Merlie: Hmmm, so you're a bit of a glue between all of us I guess with some common themes.
Emma: Yeah, absolutely.
Emma's advice for startup business
Merlie: You were advising Farillio before we even had a name and you've been absolutely on the journey with us.
Obviously, there are loads and loads, hundreds of thousands of other businesses in exactly the same position as us today or will be in a few months time if they're thinking of starting out now and that could be people who are making the leap into self employment and freelancing for the first time. Teams. Founders coming together to collaborate and maybe make some very exciting startup product.
What's your key advice to people at this stage when it comes to what they're creating?
Emma: So the first thing to do when you're creating a name, when you're thinking about how you’re going to put your brand together, usually starts with a company name or often starts with a domain name.
For some reason domain names always come quite high on the list.
Merlie: You have to have a website right.
Emma: Yeah absolutely, and then also coming up with a logo and what your brand's going to look like.
The first thing you really want to do is make sure that nobody else has an identical company name or an identical domain name (that would be impossible anyway) and also something that looks or feels or sounds similar to what you're doing, so you really need to use Google.
You need to have a look in dictionaries, you need to have a look in the trade mark databases and you need to have a look on the whole of the internet really, to see if your company name, if your domain name, if what you want to identify as yourself, if that is available.
When we say available, what we really mean is, it can’t just be available, as in, "oh yeah no one has that company name or nobody else has that domain name".
What you really need to see is nobody has that, or anything similar in the field you want to operate in now or in the next 5 years, or also operates closely within any sort of sense.
So that means if you are running a legal services platform like you are Merlie and then you want to do something where you know, you may want to provide business advice or accountancy advice, or you want to provide more broader advice, make sure that nobody else is using the Farillio brand in that space as well or anything similar.
So once you've checked all that out and you feel like your safe that nobody else is using anything, then you can proceed with registering it.
Merlie: And then I think one of the big learnings for me, not with this brand but on a brand that I had previously, that we also worked on, was that similar doesn't just mean similar in colour, it doesn't mean similar in word or logo, it actually means similar in sound too.
So, if phonetically, we chose a brand that if it was written down, looked completely different and seemed to be okay in a Google search or in a search of the intellectual property office's trade mark database. But when you say it out loud sounds similar or identical to another established brand, then we would we would have a problem protecting that too wouldn't we?
Emma: Yeah absolutely. What you're looking for, for similarity, is look, sound and meaning. Sounds something that you just completely forget. So Farillio, if it was spelt with a 'V' for instance by a 3rd party...
You know, ‘Varillio’ or ‘Farillio’ Would people consider that to be similar enough to cause a likelyhood of confusion?
And actually, some people, if their businesses are operating very much over the telephone or if they're operating by word of mouth and people are getting recommendations from the trade mark that they're using. Then actually yeah, there could be confusion.
And what's really important is that you don't want to be recognized as a brand that you haven't been able to quality control and you don't want other people to then refer to you from a quality control perspective. You really want to know, and to really own your brand.
Merlie: So the big learning for me, working with small businesses and looking at what's going right, what's really working and obviously that's a learning experience for us too, going through it at the same time, but also what's not working is that that vital step of thinking “well I've started, so I'm just going to get on with it” often overlooks the importance of just taking stock of what exactly you've created.
So, whether you’re a freelancer or thinking about freelancing for the first time and making that decision, you know, “what am I going to call myself”, or you're setting up a website, you check whether the domain name is available, but if the domain names available then you just think “great that's it I've got the website, I can crack on”.
You don't, particularly if you're a sole trader, go through those steps to find a company name at Companies House, so that's a flag you might miss. So the domain name might be available and you might have your .net, .io, whatever it is... “Great, I've got it" but one of the very important flags, I think, for brand, is the name not being available at Companies House.
You then may or may not register a trade mark. A lot of us think you just barrel in and make sure it works and sell your services, get the money rolling in, and then the distraction of managing that business, again overlooks the value of getting that marker in the sand.
But it really doesn't matter what your aspiration is as a business, right? You know, whether you want to provide services to big enterprises, so freelancing your legal accountancy, whatever your great skill sets are - graphic design, photography, whether you want to build a startup, whether you want to franchise or collaborate or license whatever it is. If you don't have that core value, it's actually really difficult for people to work with you or to buy from you.
And I mean, one of the other things that we've learned also, just on a recruitment point of view is that if you don't have a brand and you don't have something that's tangible that you can prove is yours. How do you inspire people to have confidence that this is a business that's going to be around?
Emma: Yeah that's exactly right. You know having a brand, having a company, obviously the ideal is money right? That's what everyone's looking for.
Whether it's money for you know, for the purpose, for the profit, or for the charitable sector, money to do something good - Everyone needs that. And you're going to be receiving money, you want to have a brand that you know people are spending money or providing to, for a purpose.
It's really interesting that you don't have that available company name, or you decide "Oh, I'll just change it by putting a descriptive term on" so, Farillio Legal Services for instance. People could still go to another Farillio thinking that they're you and potentially spend money or go to it thinking "oh, this isn't the advice I was expecting" or "this isn't the quality I was expecting" and may actually be quite disappointed, and your brand could be tarnished from it.
So it works both ways. By initially starting a brand, but also once you've got your brand, how do you make sure that that quality is protected. And it is really important that you have an ownable name, something that belongs to you, something that people can refer to you and know where that name comes from or what it's going to give them. What are they going to get from that name?
Merlie: So it's a big part of your credibility. I know it's one of the first questions an investor ever asks a startup is "do you own all your IP?" So being able to answer yes to that with real confidence is kind of crucial, right? Because you won't get the money if they don't think that you are organized, responsible or have something of value in the first place.
So it's a big reflection actually on how viable your business is, how investible it might be, or how credible you are as an individual, and it sort of reflects on everything else that you might offer too and I think, my experience, is that often does get overlooked and then it can be as you say, a whole load of trouble afterwards, if suddenly you can't protect it and you can't say yes in answer to that question.
Merlie: And a lot of us are getting it wrong
Emma: You don't know what you don't know, or I have got a misguided sense of what should happen and what needs to be protected. That's where I really want to come in and, I suppose, open it up to the masses, and information is key.
So, you can decide, what do you want to do with the information, but as long as you have the information. And that a great thing that Farillio does. Giving people the information to make those decisions themselves.
How to protect your IP
Merlie: We've kind of talked already about the first steps to take when you're protecting your IP, but it's probably worth drilling down just a bit more in to that. You mentioned Google searches and we've talked about checking at the Intellectual Property Office's (IPO) web site database too. But if you're starting right from the outset, how do you go about identifying that IP and then registering it?
I have to say this is probably one of the processes that I found the most stressful starting out. Choosing a business name is really, really hard. It sounds like such an exciting thing to do, but it's really tough to get something that people like Emma can tell you you can have. And thank goodness you did, otherwise we would have had some right <INAUD(BLE> experiences I think.
But walk us through what we should be doing, whether we're a freelancer or whether we're a startup, even if we've done it before and we need to double check that the steps we've taken already were the right ones. What should we be doing?
Emma: Yeah it is really difficult. Most people, when they're coming up with names, they're thinking of names that are potentially quite descriptive, or explaining what people are doing. So you may come up with, let's say, a baker's shop, you may go "ooh actually, what can I call myself?" You want to tell people, to save money on marketing and things like that.
Maybe I could just call myself 'The Baker's Shop' or I don't know 'Georges Baker's Shop' or something like that. But what you are doing by coming up with those names, is you're using really descriptive names. Names that you can't necessarily protect and you can't own, which is really important.
So what you need to be thinking about is ownability first of all, and in that ownability you want to be thinking about having a distinctive brand that recognises you from another business. So something that is not identifiable, as being the best, or the most premium, or the quickest, or the easiest. You want something that is unique in that way.
Merlie: But unique is really hard, I mean that's what's stressed me out as you know, having seen the notebooks that I was filling with all the ideas that we were coming up with. I mean every name that we loved somebody else really had. So I realised I'm completely unoriginal when it comes to choosing a name.
Then you get into the realms of the ridiculous, the completely made up words. You know, the process we went through with a completely made up word. I was like "yes, no one's got this and I've done all the checks that Emma's told me!"
But the fundamental problem we had then was that most of those words that were completely meaningless bore no relation to our brand, so you couldn't possibly have been able to tell what we were doing from them. Also in some cases, just wouldn't have been credible to the people that we wanted to sell to. Which is the major problem.
So it's actually much, much harder. So plain, descriptive words, 'The Baker's Shop' even 'George's Baker's' - you're not going to get that registered as a trade mark.
Emma: Yeah, because other people would be able to call themselves that. So what you're really looking for is a trade marks that have some ownability, that aren't descriptive in any way and are distinct. What you also are looking for is trade marks that you can have some ownership over so that nobody else out there has them.
Don't give your IP away
Merlie: So we've talked a lot about the first steps, about understanding what you've created and understanding how important it is to protect it regardless of what type of business you are.
I guess there's another risk that we fall into the trap of, as small businesses, quite early on, and that's in giving our IP away and possibly seeing somebody else imitating it, taking it, using it as a sign of either flattery or a compliment and not really reining it back or stamping our marker properly in the sand and then risking having it all kind of run away and commandeered by somebody else.
Emma: That's really difficult actually, because, as you say, imitation is flattery and when people are using your work, things that you've created and you know that people think it's great, whether that be your brand, whether that be your designs, the brand name or the design elements or it's the software that you've created, the code that you got or the pictures that you've taken or all the documents that you've written.
It's great if people are doing that, but it's such a shame because that's your asset, that's what you've created. That's your valuable, intellectual property. So what's really important, if you create any of these things, is that you make sure that you have ownership of it. You don't give it away for free, because that's such a shame, and there is a risk that by giving it away to people, allowing other people to use it that you won't actually be able to use it going forward.
So if you are a freelancer and you have this great code and you came up with a great platform for somebody, or you came up with this wonderful website, and you gave this away to somebody because you commissioned to do it, but then you aren't able to use those elements that you have, that template if you like, to be able to carry on with the next person, your next customer. Which is a shame because you want to be able to use it.
Merlie: That could fundamentally pull your business apart couldn't it? I think you touched on one of the biggest risks for contractors and freelancers especially. Sometimes, unless you've made it very clear that you own something, even in your contractual documentation, then the risk is that the client you're working for actually may benefit from what you've created.
And I know it's slightly different between employees who work for their employer and their IP ordinarily automatically belongs to their employer. But with freelancers and contracts, often there's such a blur between who owns what in their terms, and it's not just a case of registering the IP right itself which is a very clear indication - I intend to own this - but also then if your contract terms don't make that clear, then there's a real risk that your client can say "no, you can't do that for us, we own it and we want exclusivity over that". Right?
Emma: Yeah, and I advise both sides. So I'm advising the freelancers that don't want to give their intellectual property away, and I'm advising those companies that have commissioned the work and paid a lot of money in some cases and worked in a collaborative way with freelancers or consultants or anybody that they have worked with. But they want then, to have that ownership, so nobody else can do it.
So it's a balance to make sure that nobody can do exactly the same as what you've done, but that you can't be prevented from building on it with different clients... or not building on the top part, but the bottom part, the foundations. You want to make sure that you can use these foundations again.
Merlie: So good contract for services and great licensing provisions. Making clear who owns what is really key too. But again making clear that you've got the ownership in the first place so that that helps the cause when you're negotiating, "this is my IP and this is what I do".
Emma: Yes, and it's just worth bearing in mind, so when you're meeting with people, when you're providing your service contract, you're saying "this is what I can deliver for you" that you just outline that, actually, some part, the final product maybe, the final design, or that final software code, that actually belongs to the person that's commissioned you. But maybe there's some elements that you've created in the lead up that actually belong to yourself.
Merlie: So I guess that's what we really want then, that clear, transparent environment, where everybody knows what's fair and who owns what.
Emma: Exactly. You want both people to be able to have a good commercial relationship and not have any intellectual property issues getting in the way of that.
Merlie: I guess social media has blurred the lines for us a little bit in terms of how we think about what we protect and what we own. I mean hashtags are sort of up for grabs by just about anybody. And social media encourages us all to jump on the same hashtags and I think sometimes there's that real blurring between what you may typically own as a hashtag, we use #go far or #Makeithappen" which is a very commonly known one.
We don't own that and we don't assert ownership, but I think it has that almost trade-marky feel that people always get into that sense of "ooh if lots of other people are spreading the word, using our hashtag or our brand name, that's great for brand awareness." Right?
Emma: Absolutely. So companies really want to make sure that they have protection for their slogans. So if you were Nike and people wanted to use hashtag 'Just Do It.' People could potentially use that in a descriptive way - "We're just doing it". But if they are using it in a way that damages the brand, their reputation, if it causes them any concerns, then obviously that wouldn't be something that Nike would be happy about. And that's exactly the same with any organization.
If you created the hashtag, you've created that slogan, that you want people to jump on the bandwagon of. But if you want to control it in any way you, if want to ensure that the quality is what you want, then there's a risk that that won't be able to happen if you are encouraging everybody to do it.
Merlie: Yeah. So again don't turn your slogan or your trade mark into a hashtag because it does almost give that indication of a free for all.
Emma: Yeah, what you really want is that brand to be used, that slogan, that name or anything really to be used in a way that you can really control and make sure that people don't do anything that is detrimental to you.
Keep IP protection at the front of your mind
Merlie: Why do you think IP is often not front of mind for small businesses.
Emma: I just think small businesses have got so much going on. You're looking at where your consumers are going to come from and where your investment is going to come from...
Merlie: It all comes down to money right.
Emma: Absolutely. Budgets are tight and of course intellectual property isn't the first thing and something about not knowing, means that it's not an issue, and I completely get it. I understand that you've got other things to be concerned about, and intellectual property isn't the first thing on your to-do list at any given point.
Merlie: Although it probably is, you're just not classifying it as intellectual property. "What's my name?" "How am I going to present myself?" and "What domain name I'm going to have on my Website?" So it is front of mind, but you're not seeing it as that kind of valuable protectable asset that needs that step now.
Emma: Exactly. Most people who come to me from startups, either they've got this great idea and they want to protect it, or they have this great idea and somebody else has it or I've had this great idea, it's been like this for two years, somebody else has it, how can I stop them?
Emma: Yeah, i know. It's horrible and the worst situation to be in. So people generally come to me when there's an issue and you want to get ahead of it.
You want to make sure that it's top of your to-do list, to make sure that you have that information, that you can then determine where it best sits in your overall strategy. And when the budget is allocated, when you may want to do something or when you actually want to make sure that it's protected.
So, it's important be considering all those elements, making sure that you have a protectable name, making sure that you have that Website set up and that Website has your look and feel. But then also, in those elements, that you own it.
Merlie: Yes. So that has to be front of mind. So, it's not front of mind necessarily for enough of us today in the context that you'd like us to be thinking which is "yes it's great, and yes, you need this, but you also need to be protecting it too, right from the very start."
Emma: Yeah. I mean that's the ideal position. I understand that that won't always be the position that people take.
So then what people do need to do, by protecting themselves in the best way possible, by making sure that they have documents, that they have evidence that they can show when they created this company, when they created it, where they've sought investment, who they've spoken to, where their revenues coming in. All having some sort of trade mark separate files somewhere, that you can use it to rely on in evidence if you have to.
How expensive is IP protection
Merlie: So tell me, how expensive is it? What should we be budgeting for from the outset if we're going to register our brand name or a logo or whatever it is that we need to do to set that marker down in the sand. Because some of it, we can do on our own can't we.
Emma: Yeah absolutely. You can self-file a UK trade mark application and the UK Intellectual Property Office has a great form that you can complete.
So to do that, there's a trade mark application fee and that's 170 pounds, but that's for the first class, where it isn't complicated at all, but it may sound complicated. So class is where your goods and services are described so there's 1 to 45 classes.
So, if you're a legal services platform you will be in one class, if you were creating craft beer you'd be in another class and if you are a clothing brand you'd be in a completely different class. But the UK Intellectual Property Office has a great platform of demonstrating where when you need to apply and what you need to be thinking about.
So, first of all you need to understand what your goods and services offering is and you need to be able to do that in a really simple way, so legal services, financial services, accountancy services, business services... And then what we do is, by applying for each one of those classes, so each one, not each individual turn, but each class, is an extra 50 pound charge.
Merlie: I think our first one worked out at something like £400-£420 and that was for everything that we thought Farillio could be used for today. But, it also covered classes that we might evolve into as well, because if I remember this right, you can't necessarily amend the classes once the trade marks registered.
Emma: That's absolutely right. So once the applications on file, so once you've submitted it to the UK trade mark office, you can not add to it. So what you could do if you accidentally forgot a class, is file a whole new application and pay £170, with that new class.
The reason why you want to really make sure that you've got these classes protected from the outset, is so nobody else jumps in the meantime. So for instance, if you did have a delivery service offering, say you were a Deliveroo for instance, but actually in time you thought 'oh-no I'd really want to do some great Deliveroo sauces that I can sell alongside takeaways services. You would need to make sure early on, that you have the takeaway services protected, the delivery services protected, as well as the sauce is protected.
Otherwise somebody else come in, in meantime and protect something like 'RooDeliver' for sauces, and that could be...
Merlie: They might get away with it.
Emma: Yeah, that could be quite difficult to prevent.
Merlie: Emma, this has been super, super helpful. Thank you very much for talking to us and giving us the benefit of your expertise as well as telling us more about you and Stobbs IP.
It's obviously going to be a great, exciting journey for all of us, I think, as Farillio evolves but you can find out a lot more about Emma and her advice as you go through the platform. So our video sessions on how to register a trade mark, Emma takes us through step by step so, it's a lot of information crammed into this expert interview that we've chunked it up in very digestible sections as you walk through the platform.
So lots and lots of real life guidance from a brilliant expert that you'll have as part of your subscription to Farillio.