So, having left home early this morning on the three-hour drive to Northampton I have to say I found myself in the traffic reflecting on the wisdom of having accepted an invite as a Visiting Professor at the University of Northampton to a Professorial Development day. It was on Intellectual Property and its use in engagement with industry. I have a busy diary; did I really need to fit all this in?  

In fact, a useful subject for those linking academia with the leather industry. It is a whole area where the leather industry takes little notice, while both our customers and competitors are as notable for their intense activity as tanners are for their abject silence. That is not to say that we should patent every new leather that comes, but we should be considering the correct way to protect our intellectual property. Mostly new leathers are best secured by sensible control of know-how since patenting a leather is a costly exercise too often defeated by reverse engineering. At the chemical and machinery side of the industry patenting is more important and routine.

Registering trademarks and brand names is more important and not nearly so financially demanding. All tanners should really look at what they have and how it is protected. As we were reminded in our meeting trademarks aim to prevent deception and confusion. So, if there is one takeaway for tanners from these thoughts it is to look over your business and think about protecting intellectual property be it know-how, trademarks or copyrighting your written material.

What we write about leather is typically copied by the plastic, textile and coated fabrics that are sold to try and replace leather. Always inferior they use our terminology and try and find ways to incorporate the term leather so the consumer is intended to be unsure what is being purchased. This is a significant part of the battle that Leather Naturally is engaged in, but it will only be won if all regions, organisations and participants in the industry join in to make their voices heard. Thus, the very positive work being done in places such as Brazil and Germany is vital.

Not fake leather, but fake animal abuse

Another aspect of this that we did not expect to find is fake videos being used to manipulate public opinion against the meat, dairy and leather industries. PETA are well known for deliberately cherry picking and distorting the facts to produce an anti-leather narrative, and the leather industry’s silence until recently has left this unchallenged. Their budget and fanaticism makes them formidable opposition.

Having just written those words I suppose we should accept that nothing is too gross for them to try if they think it will further their cause. This new move is on a whole new scale. They appear to have had a video made of a cat being tortured. A quite horrendous video, except that it is 100% computer generated. Totally CGI but just as equally totally fake. They have been trying to get it to go viral by persuading media companies to publish it either in the belief that it is real or “just for the fun of it” and they will admit that it was all false sometime after it has spread across the world.

The plan was, and probably still is, to plant the video on YouTube and then get it referred to by as many reputable organisations as possible before “owning up”. So, if you see something called “NEVER RELEASE: Cat Tricks” you will know what it is: despicable.

The link to the Mashable item on this is below. It would be good if it were all fake news.

 And I am very pleased I said yes to the meeting in Northampton.      

14th June 2017

Follow Mike Redwood on twitter: @michaelredwood

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