Thursday, 25 April 2013

Don't leave empty premises vulnerable

Squatters are now targeting empty commercial premises after a change in the law left them vulnerable, and  property owners should take action as soon as possible to protect any vacant buildings - that's the warning from Stuart Haynes, who is the head of our Commercial Department.

“A change in the law means anyone squatting at a residential property could now face six months in jail and a maximum fine of £5,000,” said Stuart. “But the law covering commercial premises was left as a ‘civil wrong’, which means property owners have no choice but to go through a drawn-out court case to evict the squatters and reclaim control of the property.

“This means of course that squatters are now deliberately targeting empty commercial properties and it’s vital that owners do all they can to discourage anyone from choosing their building as their next home.”

Stuart said squatters tended to prefer properties that were furnished or had services which were easily accessible.

“So if possible, take out all free-standing furniture such as desks and chairs, so that life would be very uncomfortable for the squatters. You should also turn all services off at the mains, including gas and water, even if the property will only be empty temporarily. And if it’s likely to be vacant for a longer period of time, you could consider capping them off altogether.”

Stuart suggested installing locks or steel boards on the doors and windows, which would need to be heavy duty.

“Remember that squatters can claim a legal right of entry if they get in through open or previously vandalised entry points, and don’t forget to secure the roof as that’s always a popular way to get in.
“Make sure the property is inspected regularly and think about installing a temporary wireless alarm that records video footage which will provide hard evidence if you ever need to evict someone.”

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Digital age brings a challenge

Martin-Kaye's senior partner says today’s digital revolution is creating a whole new raft of challenges when it comes to personal accounts. 

Graham Davies said many people now had large collections of “digital possessions” – iTunes, films, e-book downloads.

“The cost of these assets can run into hundreds of pounds, but have you considered what would happen to them if you died? In this digital world, it’s quite possible that you’ll have an extensive collection, probably all held as digital downloads. And while no-one likes to talk about it, death is inevitable for everyone.

“Business people will probably have taken professional advice on estate planning and prepared a will, but does it cover anything you have in a digital format?”

Graham said currently the law says any books, music, or films held in this way (maybe in a cloud server or a service provider’s account) do not actually belong to the person who has downloaded them. “You only buy permission to use them personally, not to pass them on to anyone else – either while you’re alive or otherwise.

“So when you die, these possessions and any associated accounts die with you. Service providers usually automatically shut down accounts when they are notified of the account-holder’s death and they won’t release the password to a third party, even if you are the executor of the will.

“The best option is to copy your files onto a laptop or external hard drive – that way you can pass on the equipment to someone else, or include a list of all your online accounts in your will and store your passwords with your accountant or solicitor.”

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Red tape cut is welcome move

Businesses will now find it easier and cheaper to protect themselves from competitors thanks to a new ruling.
Our senior partner, Graham Davies, said the new revised mediation service launched by the Intellectual Property Office was a “breath of fresh air”.
“Many businesses, particularly the very smallest, underestimate the value of their ideas, systems, services and products, and they may not even realise protection is available. But I have seen businesses ruined as a direct result of a competitor or a former employee plagiarising their ideas, when all the time they could have had protection in place.”

The new-look mediation service has been designed to make it cheaper and quicker for small businesses to resolve their intellectual property disputes, and is an alternative to the often costly and lengthy court cases that companies face. It will offer access to a greater variety of mediation options including short telephone sessions, a wider range of specialist accredited mediators and reduced mediation fees.

“Previously businesses may have been wary about taking action because of the time and cost, but this announcement is a breath of fresh air which should make things much quicker,” said Graham. “Intellectual property is a complex legal area and expert advice is crucial before your business gets involved in a dispute – resorting to court action should be the last resort, and not the first step.

“This cut in red tape will certainly make the resolution of disputes much easier, and we welcome any initiatives that help small businesses to operate more freely and cost effectively.”

The IPO Mediation Service was originally established in 2006 to help resolve intellectual property disputes as quickly, effectively and efficiently as possible, but traditionally businesses have been reluctant to use it. Now it is hoped the modernised service will prove more user-friendly and more popular with the businesses who need its support.