24 January 2018

LAMMA 2018 – All Patents Great and Small

James Pitchford (Partner) and Clare Collins (Technical Assistant), members of Mathys & Squire’s Agri-Tech team, recently attended this year’s LAMMA agricultural machinery show in Peterborough. As a firm we are regular attendees of the show, and were pleased to go again this year  and to visit the exhibition spaces of a number of leading companies in the farm equipment field.

James commented, “The vast array of companies exhibiting at LAMMA offered us a good opportunity to discuss intellectual property matters with a wide range of people from across the Agri-Tech sector, and to learn about recent developments in this field. It was also great to see a number of patented inventions on display.”

For Clare, who is training to become a patent attorney and has a background in engineering, the diverse range of patented products on display was notable. She commented that “The scale of this event makes you realise that innovation in this sector is not just about the big machines such as tractors and combine harvesters, but that it extends into more niche areas such as lighting, tool parts, and even the inside of hose pipes!”

James added that “It was also interesting to hear exhibitors’ thoughts on the value of patents. The majority of people we spoke to took a robust approach to protecting their intellectual property, and understood the value of patenting their inventions – in particular, to deter competitors from copying, to enable them to take action if infringement does occur, for potential licensing purposes, and as a marketing tool. Indeed, many pieces of machinery at the show were clearly labelled as ‘patented’, to emphasise the unique features of the products.”

James continued, “A few people we spoke to were concerned that patents with relatively narrow claims (as can be the case when inventors file their own patent applications) can easily be designed around. This reinforces the need for patent applications to be drafted by professional patent attorneys, who are skilled in drafting broad commercially-useful claims that not only cover the inventor’s current product but are broad enough to encompass a wide range of modifications and alternative designs.”

Clare commented, “Understandably, some exhibitors believed their machinery was too simple or commonplace to be patentable. Whilst this can sometimes be the case, we often find that seemingly straightforward products actually have one or two new and inventive features that a patent can be based on – particularly if the product has been designed to solve a problem encountered with earlier products. And if it does transpire that a product is not suited to patent protection, it might nevertheless be worth considering registered design protection as an alternative and relatively inexpensive way of securing IP rights for the appearance of the product, along with registered trade mark protection for the brand name.”

We look forward to going to next year’s LAMMA show at its new venue, the NEC in Birmingham.

For more information about our Agritech team please click here, and for more information please contact James Pitchford.

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