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Member Profile – Talking Tables

Mark McCormack, Managing Director, Talking Tables
Prosecco Pong - Talking Tables Vs. B&M
Prosecco Pong (Rear) - Talking Tables Vs. B&M

Talking Tables was launched in 1999, just in time for the millennium. In an interview with Mark McCormack, Managing Director, we asked, “Could you tell us a little about the history of this engaging and fun-focused company and when & why you first started creating your products/designs?”

 In 1997 Clare Harris saw a gap in the market for fun, design-led, party accessories, gifts and games. She was unable to buy co-ordinating paper tableware for Christmas, Birthday or Weddings. The typical products on the market were dull, mismatched and did not create the wow-factor required! This was the very early days of mail order, so the business went for a wholesale approach, targeting retailers such as Paperchase, Heals and Conran, as well as UK-wide independent gift retailers. Now we have stockists like John Lewis, Selfridges, and Waitrose plus thousands of independent shops and retailers here in the UK, and internationally. The company name came about because Clare wanted our products to get the table talking.

Did you have any knowledge of intellectual property, or how to develop an effective IP Strategy when you started your business?

Unfortunately, we had no prior knowledge of intellectual property when Talking Tables launched in 1999. Although we trademarked the company logo, we had already been operating for a few years at the point that we started to take steps to protect our intellectual property.

Talking Tables have been a member of ACID for many years, which ACID Membership services have you used and how have you benefited from being a Member?

Although we have product developers and designers in-house, we also work with freelance designers so we have used the ACID Freelance Designer Template Agreement and adapted this for our own company. The ACID Legal Affiliates have been a useful resources and ACID has helped us with advice and support over the years with a number of cases of IP infringement against our brand or products. We feel the best aspect of membership is the support and advice you are given as part of your membership. Lawyers can be very expensive, and the free advice you are given can be invaluable in understanding when an issue might need taking further, or how to act when faced with a potential infringement. We also value the campaigning work undertaken by ACID, I was pleased to attend the House of Commons with ACID CEO, Dids Macdonald, OBE., and the Alliance for IP, to take part in a number of events to lobby MPs around the IP Act.

Talking Tables work hard to ensure products are fun, unique and on-trend. After launching the company with just eight products there is now an enormous range of tableware available. Have you brought anything new to the marketplace recently that you would like to share?

We have been working hard over the last few years to make our product offering as sustainable as possible. We have been proud this year to launch the World’s first home recyclable paper cup. We worked in collaboration with our European supplier to remove the plastic lining from the inside of the cup, and replace it with a waterproof varnish instead that means the cup is watertight, but can also be easily recycled once used. We have also launched a fully plastic free range of paper party products – both the product and packaging is free from plastic, and all can be recycled.

Talking Tables are committed to demonstrating ethics, sustainable practices and protecting the environment. How do you put these commitments into action?

We develop our own products and work with like-minded suppliers to ensure planet-friendly procedures; from the materials we use, the production process and removing plastic from packaging. It is an ongoing journey for Talking Tables to reduce its plastic. We’re not perfect but we are on this journey and working hard to make changes that matter for our products, our gatherings and our planet.

You have already been proactive in making the most of ACID membership and in implementing an effective IP Strategy by using the ACID IP Statement on your website, the ACID IP Databank to prove design origination, and utilising template legal agreements with your designers. What advice would you offer to a new designer in terms of protecting their IP?

We would advise that you take your time to do your research, check the market and ensure everything you produce is truly original. It is easier than you think to unwittingly copy another design or infringe an existing design registration. Make sure you have agreed your terms upfront before starting a project, never assume your conditions will be your client’s conditions. Take the time to read and understand as much as you can about intellectual property law in design – it makes it much easier to follow the steps to ensure your work is protected.

ACID is campaigning for stronger enforcement for design infringement and we value the support of our members to enable ACID to campaign for design law reform. Do you have any messages for Government/Policy Makers on IP issues?

Listen carefully to UK designers and lobby groups such as ACID. There are plenty of large operators out there who are quick to rip-off small companies with little fear of recourse.

To find out more about Talking Tables visit their website. Talking Tables were featured in a recent ACID IP Protection Webinar with a focus on the Giftware sector, you can read more by clicking here, or to view the webinar slideshow click here.