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Silver Cross inspires innovative Yorkshire manufacturers

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Alan Halsall, owner of Skipton-based Silver Cross, was the key speaker at a seminar attended by more than 70 senior business leaders, focussing on innovation and the importance of protecting it with robust Intellectual Property.

Other speakers included Leigh Martin, partner in our intellectual property team, and Steve Holmes, Tax Consultant at Armstrong Watson. The seminar was attended by ‘ideas led’ companies from many sectors including retail, healthcare, technology, academia, and construction. Along with Silver Cross, directors from Gripple, Surgical Innovations and Chillipeeps brought examples of cutting edge technology to share with delegates. Other attendees included support organisations such as UKTI, Manufacturing Advisory Service and Pera.

Mr Halsall explained how, having bought the struggling Silver Cross business out of administration in 2002, he had leveraged the strength of the iconic brand to transform it into a successful global business. He explains: “Silver Cross had a long and illustrious heritage – back in 1877, its founder had used the design of a postal cart to create the first baby carriage designed and made in Britain. Since then, the company had built a reputation as the leading name in prams and it was the strength of the brand and its IP that represented the company’s most valuable assets.

“Over the last ten years, we have stretched and leveraged the Silver Cross name, creating one of the most trusted brands in retail with distributors throughout the world including Russia, China and Japan. Not only is our range of classic prams regarded worldwide as a premium product chosen by royalty and celebrities, we have used the strength of the brand to extend into other product areas such as car seats, furniture, bed linen and more recently toys. The Silver Cross name has tremendous resonance with today’s consumers, incorporating traditional trusted values combined with contemporary cutting edge British design.

“Having invested heavily in design throughout our history, from the development of the revolutionary ‘C-spring’ used in our traditional baby carriages to the unique chassis designed for our market-leading ‘Surf’ range of prams, protecting that investment with rigorous IP is vital. Entering overseas markets does open up your brand to greater risk and it is even more important to ensure it is protected, whatever the jurisdiction. Having experienced various threats to our products over the years, taking advice to ensure that our IP is always, always protected has become a priority.”

Mr Halsall continues: “We do not rest on our laurels, but see innovation as a continual process and one that goes beyond product development into broader business processes.”

Leigh Martin, partner and head of Clarion’s IP team, added: “Not investing in IP can be an extremely costly mistake - given the ‘copycat’ nature of the global market, innovative brands cannot afford not to protect themselves. What’s more, building a reputation as a brand that is prepared to enforce its IP can also have major benefits in discouraging competitors from attempting to infringe your rights.

“It is crucial that companies seek professional advice from the outset of developing a new product in order to ensure that as many aspects of the product as possible are protected and, with as broad a scope as possible, enabling the product ranges and even possible licensing opportunities tobe extended in the future. What’s more, many companies are unaware that IP in many products can be protected cost effectively through ‘registered designs’ which offer a much less expensive alternative or addition to patents, and which can also be obtained far more quickly – European Community-wide registered design registration can be obtained in a matter of days compared with several years for patents. Increasingly, businesses are waking up to this and using registered designs strategically as part of their IP portfolios to block or delay competitors from getting their products to market.”

Steve Holmes, Tax Consultant at Armstrong Watson, highlighted the benefits of the Government’s Research and Development tax relief which allows for an additional 125% tax deduction against taxable profits of the qualifying R&D expenditure with loss making SMEs able to surrender tax losses for a non-taxable cash refund. “The most recent government statistics show that less then 10,000 UK businesses are claiming this generous relief. Many companies are not making a claim because of a misconception, believing that the relief is only relevant for ‘guys in white coats’ and that their R&D work would not qualify for relief. 

“A lot of companies also think that claiming the relief is complicated, but this is not the case. If one seeks good advice, making a claim can be easy and can result in fantastic tax savings. ”

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Shot (L to R): Alan Halsall, owner of Silver Cross; Steve Holmes of Armstrong Watson; Mark Edmonds of Gripple; and Leigh Martin of Clarion