When you come up with a ground-breaking idea – and find the confidence, passion, skills and team to make it a reality – you want to share it, but you also need to protect the intellectual property in it. The story of our work with Warwick Music Group and their revolutionary development of affordable brass instruments manufactured in recyclable ABS plastics shows how we can give businesses the ongoing support they need to keep brilliant ideas secure.
Originally a brass sheet music supplier, the team at Warwick Music Group were aware that, as musicians, they had spent a lot of money learning how to play as children using heavy, expensive and easily damaged brass instruments that required significant care.
With the numbers of children and adults taking up brass instruments falling, and orchestras worldwide reporting a shortage of players, the team came up with the concept of the world’s first plastic trombone. What was needed, they felt, was an instrument that would be lighter in weight, more durable, less costly than a comparable traditional instrument – and more colourful making it especially attractive to children. Their goal was to make the joy of music both accessible – and fun.
After extensive development work over several years, their first instrument – pBone – was launched in late 2010/early 2011. Since then, it has become the world’s best-selling trombone proving as popular with children as it has with musicians who want an instrument that is fun to play and ideal for travelling just about anywhere.
Since those early days, further instruments have followed: pBone mini (ideal for smaller hands), pTrumpet (with all-plastic valves), pTrumpet hyTech (combining metal and polymer), pCornet and a new low-cost instrument ideal for schools - pBuzz.
In 2019, this success was recognised when Warwick Music Group won the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise for Innovation – for its development and success of pBone.
However, it has not stopped there. The company has introduced a wide range of award-winning teaching resources, lesson plans and assessment trackers such as education bundles to cover the entire National Curriculum for Music at KS1. Meanwhile, the original company – Warwick Music Publishing – has converted its entire catalogue of more than 1,000 titles to digital covering a variety of genres, styles and abilities and representing composers from across the globe.
With such an innovative product, and a raft of unique content, there are those who want to imitate the product, so intellectual property and licensing rights has been a major concern for Warwick Music Group. That’s where Harper James have been able to help.
In 2016, Warwick Music Group signed up to our Enterprise plan, which allowed them to access affordable legal advice for a small monthly fee. Since then, as well as helping with employee contracts and finance law, Harper James has been undertaking wide-ranging intellectual property support, including an audit to determine the breadth of its IP and defending the company against international imitators.
As well as helping to secure IP by shutting down any instances of copying their instruments and successfully fighting a major patent infringement, Harper James’s expert legal advisors have met with the team to discuss their IP strategy and sales profile as their network of distributors and suppliers grows across the world. As the production of sheet music and tuition materials continues, there have also been matters to resolve regarding licensing music for exam boards, and rights clearance for music used at brass festivals.
As Warwick Music Group is a long-standing client of Harper James, there are many other areas where we have supported their work, which both reflect basic business needs and the impressive sales of the product. As well as support in routine areas such as HR and best employment practices, Harper James has helped in initiatives such as EMI schemes for shareholders, and loan and distribution agreements.
Speaking about Warwick Music Group, Rob Cobley, IP and Commercial Technology Partner for Harper James, said: “Coincidentally, lots of the solicitors, myself included, who have worked with Warwick Music Group are musicians themselves, so we know just how exciting it is that the company are making products which are transforming the way children and adults access the joy of music.
“We are really passionate about encouraging the growth of our clients and ensuring that their hard work and ideas are protected by thorough legal documentation and processes. We look forward to continuing to support Warwick Music Group and their assets as they increase their network and provide highly accessible, low cost music to the world.”
Steven Greenall, Chief Executive of Warwick Music Group, said: “We’ve really felt the benefit of our partnership with Harper James over the last three years – their affordable and flexible approach has given us the opportunity to access legal advice and support that not only fits with our schedule, but with our growth plans too.
“Our intellectual property is vital to our business and to know that the team at Harper James is working to protect our assets is reassuring and helps us to focus on creating and delivering great products.”