Thursday, 28 March 2019

Business, Big and Small, are Urged to Audit their Intellectual Property Regularly.

Intellectual property is an umbrella term used to cover creations by individuals or businesses which include; trademarks, design, copyright and patents. IP also links to other areas such as confidentiality and trade secrets.

The Intellectual Property Office recommends all businesses, big and small, regularly audit their intellectual property to ensure they are adequately protected.

1. Define Your Work

Understanding what IP you have within your business is vital to protecting it. For example, it is vitally important that you keep your patentable inventions secret at least until you have filed your application. However, keeping your company name a secret is obviously not advisable - the whole point of your brand is to get yourself known!
Make Use of the IPO's IP Equip tool for free to help you find out more about how IP relates to your business.

2. Do You Own It?

A businesses website is often created by a website designer, an app by a software engineer, a logo by a graphic designer, or advertising material by a marketing agency. But if these creators are not part of your business, perhaps they’re a subcontractor or a friend, then you may not own what is being made for you. In these scenarios, and in the absence of employment or a contract stating ownership, copyright will stay with the creator.

To find out the common issues that exist for businesses and what you may be able to do about them, you can use the IPO's IP Health Check tool.

3. Did You Get There First?

It’s not uncommon for a business to say, ‘I own my name, I’m registered at Companies House’. Now, although registering your company name at Companies House is very important, it is not, in fact, the thing that protects your name in trade - that is what a trademark is for.

You can search for your trademark on the IPO website for free!

4. Do You Plan of Selling Abroad

Intellectual Property is often a regional right and can be treated differently from country to country. Your patents, registered trademarks and registered designs will only be protected in the countries in which you’re registered and granted those rights.

Copyright is recognised automatically in most other countries. This means that your copyright will usually have protection without registration from the moment you create it. However be careful, certain countries will have different rules to what exactly is covered by copyright, as well as how long such rights should last in certain circumstances.

The IPO have a series of country guides which can help you understand certain nuances in certain countries. They also have an attaché network in Brazil, India, South East Asia and China which helps UK businesses understand and develop their IP in those countries.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Is Your Business Ready For Tax Going Digital on 1st April 2019?

Making Tax Digital is a key part of the government’s plans to become one of the most digitally advanced tax administrations in the world. The programme will result in fundamental changes to the way the tax system works – with the aim of making it more effective, more efficient and easier for taxpayers to get their tax right.


VAT-registered businesses with a taxable turnover above the VAT threshold will be required to use the Making Tax Digital service to keep records digitally and use software to submit their VAT returns from 1 April 2019.

The exception to this is a small minority of VAT-registered businesses with more complex requirements. This week the government announced that in response to concerns about business readiness they have made the decision to delay mandation for these customers until 1 October 2019 to ensure there is sufficient time to test the service with them in the pilot before they are mandated to join - see the timeline below.

April 2019 
Making Tax Digital mandated for all customers (except those that have been deferred). 

October 2019
Making Tax Digital mandated for customers that have been deferred:
  • trusts
  • ‘not for profit’ organisations that are not set up as a company
  • VAT divisions
  • VAT groups
  • public sector entities required to provide additional information on their VAT return (Government departments, NHS Trusts)
  • local authorities
  • public corporations
  • traders based overseas
  • those required to make payments on account
  • annual accounting scheme users.

Plans to Make Income Tax Digital

Some businesses and agents are already keeping digital income tax records as part of a live pilot to test and develop the Making Tax Digital service for Income Tax. If you are a self-employed business or landlord you can voluntarily use software to keep business records digitally and send Income Tax updates to HMRC instead of filing a Self Assessment tax return.

Talking about the scheme HMRC said "The majority of customers want to get their tax right but the latest tax gap figures show that too many find this hard, with avoidable mistakes costing the Exchequer over £9 billion a year. The improved accuracy that digital records provide, along with the help built into many software products and the fact that information is sent directly to HMRC from the digital records, avoiding transposition errors, will reduce the amount of tax lost to these avoidable errors."

Other Taxes

Following extensive consultation with key stakeholders HMRC has decided to postpone the date for mandating businesses to digitally report for taxes other than VAT until at least April 2020.

Help and Support

HMRC provides a wide range of digital services and support for businesses and the self-employed.
Smarter experience for individuals - click here for more information.

Monday, 11 March 2019

CQC's Latest Report on Independent Ambulance Services Raises Safety and Quality Concerns

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is calling on independent ambulance services, commissioners and the wider system to do more to make sure patients are safe, following concerns identified during its inspections.

While the regulator has seen evidence of good practice and improvements made by some individual services, concerns remain about how safely and effectively independent ambulance providers are caring for people using their services.

In a national report published today (Thursday 7 March) the CQC presented an analysis of the findings from its comprehensive inspection programme of independent ambulance services in England. The programme was completed in March 2018 and involved inspections of independent ambulance service providers registered with CQC at the end of December 2016.

Key Findings

  • The quality and safety of independent ambulance services varies greatly. 
  • Many services inspected had a poor understanding of governance which often led to weak recruitment processes. Checks to ensure that staff had the appropriate employment references, Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) certificates, and driving licence categories (for example to operate heavier vehicles) were not being enforced consistently.
  • Many providers offered either no or very limited staff training. This was particularly apparent in relation to emergency driver response training to ensure the skills required to transport a patient using blue lights or sirens, training to equip staff to recognise and escalate safeguarding concerns, and to effectively support patients with mental health needs.
  • The standard of medicines management was extremely variable. While some services had robust policies to support the safe administration of medication, others showed a lack of understanding, especially around controlled drugs and the need for their safe administration and secure storage. Some services did not have the required Home Office licence for the procurement and storage of controlled drugs.
  • In some cases they found vehicles that had not been regularly serviced, with missing or faulty equipment (including paediatric apparatus for transporting children in emergencies) and an absence of regular equipment checks.
Looking at the sector more widely, the CQC’s report also raises concern about those independent ambulance services that are not subject to CQC regulation, such as where medical cover is provided at temporary events.

Ellen Armistead, CQC’s Deputy Chief Inspector of Hospitals and lead for ambulance services, said “We have found and highlighted pockets of good practice in individual services, with compassionate one to one care from ambulance staff, and evidence of improvements in some services when we have been back to reinspect. But we remain concerned about the overall standard of care across the independent ambulance sector.

“Providers have a responsibility to ensure that people within their care receive appropriate treatment, that the vehicles used to transport patients are fitted with the right equipment, that staff are appropriately trained and supported to carry out their roles, risks and incidents are reported and addressed, and that medicines are stored securely. This was not the case in many of the services we inspected.

“It is wholly unacceptable for people using these services to be put at risk and where we have identified concerns we have held those providers to account by making clear where improvements must be made - using our enforcement powers where needed to protect people.

“Those who deliver and commission care must learn from the services that are getting it right so that people are protected from risk and can have confidence in the quality of care they receive from independent ambulance services across the country.”

As well as improvement from providers, the CQC is calling for NHS England, clinical commissioning groups and others that commission independent ambulance services to ensure they make safety and quality a priority, and that they use the quality ratings that the CQC can now award to independent ambulance services to help them make robust commissioning decisions.

The CQC will be strengthening its assessment of how those NHS hospital trusts that sub-contract ambulance services from independent providers ensure they have continued oversight of performance and quality. It will also continue to work with the Department of Health and Social Care to close the gaps in the regulation where it means independent ambulance services that fall outside of the CQC’s remit could pose a risk of people being exposed to poor care.

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Over Half of UK Retail SMEs Selling Online Sell Through 3rd Party Marketplaces

According to a study, commissioned by Royal Mail, almost six in ten (58 per cent) UK SME online retailers now sell their products through a 3rd party online marketplace, such as Amazon or Etsy, even if they have their own website selling direct to customers.

Over half of the SMEs talked to for the study reported that they are looking to expand in 2019. With a variety of options for reaching customers being looked at:
  • 41 per cent are looking for space in another physical store to sell goods,
  • 39 per cent are considering listing on additional marketplaces,
  • 27 per cent plan to sell via exhibitions or trade fairs.
The research found that almost half (47 per cent) of UK SME online retailers have a physical store as well as a presence online. For those that sell in a physical store, 80 per cent reported selling through their own outlets and a third reported selling through others outlets either exclusively or in tandem with their own stores. Other popular ways to sell goods for these retailers include:
  • over the telephone (22 per cent), 
  • via exhibitions (13 per cent),
  • and via a catalogue (12 per cent).
Just under one in five (19 per cent) UK SME online retailers import goods, 16 per cent export goods and 52 per cent do both.

Over eight in ten (81 per cent) of those that sell overseas target Europe, 42 per cent sell to the USA and 29 per cent to Canada. Asia (27 per cent) and Australasia (23 per cent) are also common destinations to target.

A spokesperson from Royal Mail said “Entrepreneurial UK SME online retailers are increasingly turning to online marketplaces to sell their products. The rise of online marketplaces is impacting the way consumers shop online and how retailers sell to their customers but the physical store still has a role to play. As the ecommerce sector becomes increasingly global, UK SME online retailers should look at opportunities to expand the international side of their business”.

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

EU Copyright Directive Set to Strengthen Authors Rights

Following several months of negotiation and weeks of political deadlock the European Parliament, Council and Commission have reached agreement over the wording of the new Copyright Directive.

The passage of the Directive has not been straightforward. It was first presented by the Commission in September 2016 and has faced numerous setbacks, including being rejected by the European Parliament last June.

The Directive still needs to be confirmed by member states and MEPs before it is formally adopted but passing this stage of the drafting process is a significant step in the right direction.

What is the Copyright Directive?

Currently authors, creators and rights-holders are not adequately protected or remunerated when their work is used online, the Directive is designed to address this imbalance.

The publicity around the Directive has mostly centred around Articles 11 and 13. Article 11 will oblige US tech giants such as Google to negotiate licensing agreements with rights holders before publishing links to their content (for example on Google News). Article 13 will require internet platforms such as YouTube to acquire licences for the content they host and ensure that there is no copyright infringement on their sites. These Articles have been fiercely discussed and negotiated. We are awaiting the final texts but it seems that what has emerged provides a fair balance that will benefit creators and users without being unduly onerous to hosts.

What Does it Mean For Authors, Scriptwriters, Translators and Illustrators?

Under the terms of Article 14, creators will be entitled to transparent information on how their works are being exploited by their publishers. This will make it easier for authors, scriptwriters, translators and illustrators to negotiate future contracts and to receive a fairer share of the generated revenues. If publishers or producers fail to exploit the rights that the creators have transferred to them, authors and performers will be allowed to revoke their rights. In addition, Article 15 introduces a contract adjustment mechanism (or “bestseller clause”) allowing creators to claim additional remuneration when sales are much better than expected.

Nicola Solomon, Chief Executive of the Society of Authors, said: “This is excellent news for all creators and rights-holders. the Copyright Directive is a vital piece of legislation which affirms the rights of creators whose work is used online.

“The ‘bestseller clause’ will ensure that our members receive the remuneration they deserve when their work does better than expected. And if it isn’t being exploited, creators can get their rights back.

“We aren’t celebrating just yet, as the Directive still needs to be confirmed by member states and voted on by MEPs. But this breakthrough following weeks of deadlock comes as a huge relief, and we are optimistic that the Directive will soon be passed into EU law - and then into UK law within the following two years.”

Friday, 22 February 2019

CQC Campaign to Encourage Patients and Families to Raise Concerns Over Quality of Care

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is calling for people to speak up about their experiences of care, as new research showed that almost 7 million people in England who have accessed health or social care services, in the last five years have had concerns about their care, but never raised issues with staff.

The most common reasons for not raising a concern were:
  • not knowing how (20%) or who (33%) to raise it with, 
  • not wanting to be seen as a ‘troublemaker’ (33%) 
  • and worries about not being taken seriously (28%). 
Over a third of people (37%) felt that nothing would change as a result.

However, when people did raise a concern or complaint, the majority (66%) found their issue was resolved quickly, it helped the service to improve and they were happy with the outcome.

The research has been published as part the CQC's ‘Declare Your Care’ campaign. The campaign is encouraging people to share their experiences of care with CQC to support its work to improve standards of care in England.

The majority of people who did raise a concern or complaint were motivated by a desire to make sure that care improved for others. This included wanting to improve the care they, or a loved one, had received (61%) and improve care for everyone using the service (55%) with a smaller number also hoping for an apology or explanation (26%).

The main reasons given for raising, or wanting to raise a concern, were delays to a service or appointment, lack of information and poor patient care. Additionally, over a fifth indicated that they have raised or wanted to raise concerns about the lack of communication between health and care services.

Ian Trenholm, Chief Executive at the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said "Our annual State of Care report shows that most people are getting good care, a real testament to the hard work of the many people working across Health and Social Care in this country.

“We know that when people raise a concern they have a genuine desire to improve the service for themselves and others. We also know that the majority of services really appreciate this feedback and make positive changes, as this new research shows.

“Hearing from people about their experiences of care is an important part of our inspection work and contributes to driving improvements in standards of care. Everyone can play a part in improving care by directly giving feedback to services, or by sharing information and experiences with us so that we can take action when we find poor care. Sharing your experience also enables us to highlight the many great examples of care we see.”

Friday, 15 February 2019

Universities Urged to Boost Number of Students with Disabilities in Higher Education

Chris Skidmore, Universities Minister, is urging universities to boost the number of students with disabilities going into higher education and to do more to help them succeed when they get there.

Although the number of people going to university from this underrepresented group has increased to a record amount they still only represent 13% of entrants this is well below the proportion of working-age adults with a disability.

Chris Skidmore has asked key stakeholders to meet with him to discuss how the higher education sector can continue to break down barriers and secure improvements for students with disabilities.

Talking about the issue the Universities Minister, said "No-one’s background or circumstances should hold them back from the opportunity of a university education and there is no reason why disability should be a barrier to fulfilling someone’s potential.

I want to see the access and participation plans that universities are beginning to produce increase the ways they can support this group."

"Institutions such as Brunel University, with their award-winning Disability and Dyslexia Service, and the University of Worcester, who have built their entire campus with accessibility in mind, are leading the way – there is no reason why other universities can’t follow suit and match their provision. Working with key stakeholders and disabled students, I believe that we can do more to break down access and participation barriers in higher education by focusing on spreading good practice and listening to disabled students about their needs."

The Department for Education has published research showing that the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) has helped to break down barriers that can exist for disabled students at university. The research shows results from a survey of disabled students, which found that 69 per cent felt confident about completing their course and 68 per cent felt confident about passing their course.

Universities that charge fees above the basic level must draw up an access and participation plan agreed by the Office for Students and higher education providers have legal responsibilities to support disabled students under the Equality Act 2010.