Amazon Strengthens Ties With Morrison Presenting Fresh Concerns For Ocado

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bloomberg.com – – Wed, 16 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –

Amazon Online Retailer
simone.brunozzi/www.flickr.com

 Amazon.com Inc. extended its British tie-up with Wm Morrison Supermarkets Plc, presenting a fresh concern for Ocado Group Plc as competition mounts for the U.K. online grocer.

Members of Amazon’s Prime service in parts of London and southeast England will soon be able to order from an expanded range of Morrison grocery products for delivery in as little as an hour. The regions being targeted are right on Ocado’s doorstep and will add to tensions between the supermarket chain and the online grocer only three months after they extended their own partnership. Ocado shares fell as much as 6.8 percent.

“Morrisons is completely cutting out Ocado in this new offer,” Andrew Gwynn, an analyst at Exane BNP Paribas, said in a note. Products for the new service will be picked from Morrison supermarkets and delivered by Amazon.

By strengthening ties with Amazon, Morrison is straining relations with the company that it partnered with to belatedly enter the online grocery market in 2013. Mounting competition is taking a toll on Ocado, which said in September that profits will likely fall below analysts’ estimates. The online grocer is also struggling in its efforts to license its warehousing technology to international retailers.

Ocado has been assured by Morrison that the supermarket “acknowledges and respects the exclusivity provisions in our agreement,” Ocado said by e-mail. These oblige Morrison to operate its own online grocery service within the confines of the partnership.

Ocado shares fell 6.1 percent to 265 pence at 9:58 a.m. in London. The stock is down 13 percent this year, headed for a third straight annual decline. Morrison shares rose as much as 1.4 percent.

The new agreement between Morrison and Amazon means Prime customers can now choose from a range of several thousand Morrison products compared with less than 1,000 previously. They will pay 6.99 pounds for a one-hour delivery slot and won’t be charged for groceries delivered within a two-hour window. Amazon has full control over the prices it charges for Morrison products.

Amazon’s move further underlines its intention to take on Britain’s supermarkets and the looming threat is causing incumbents to raise their game. J Sainsbury Plc, which is also concentrated in London and the south east of England, began trialing a one-hour delivery service in southwest London in September.

By Paul Jarvis and Sam Chambers

Carney face political heat in Britain for BoE’s low interest rates

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Tue, 15 Nov, 2016) London, UK – –

Bank Of England
James Stringer/flickr

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said verbal attacks by politicians on central banks, such as criticism by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump of the U.S. Federal Reserve, were a “massive blame-deflection exercise”.

Carney has faced political heat in Britain for the BoE's low interest rates while Trump, during the U.S. presidential election campaign, accused the Federal Reserve of keeping rates low due to pressure from the Obama administration.

“The President-elect has voiced some views on the Fed and the stance of monetary policy,” Carney said in response to questions from members of Britain's parliament on Tuesday.

Carney said it was “very important” to explain that the causes of ultra-low interest rates in Britain and other rich countries went far beyond decisions made by central bankers

“An excessive focus on monetary policy in many respects is a massive blame-deflection exercise,” he told a committee in parliament.

Carney has previously said interest rates are low because they reflect weaker demand and investment, a trend that has been developing worldwide since the 1980s due to factors such as globalization, the impact of technology and aging populations.

Reversing this long-run trend was not in the BoE's power, Carney said on Tuesday, and he called on governments to step up.

“We could be stuck in this trap, and I use that word advisedly, for decades … if we don't see major structural reforms,” he told lawmakers.

The BoE cut interest rates to a record low of 0.25 percent in August to help the British economy cope with the impact of the decision by voters to leave the European Union in June.

“I WILL LEAVE JUNE 30, 2019”

Carney reiterated on Tuesday that the central bank had a neutral stance on future interest rate moves.

Weak October inflation figures were a blip and the BoE intended to tolerate an overshoot of its 2 percent inflation target as the economy digested sterling's sharp fall since June's Brexit vote, he said.

Carney also said he would not consider a further extension of his time in charge of the British central bank, which is now due to end in June 2019.

“I will leave June 30, 2019,” Carney said in response to a question during a regular meeting with lawmakers in parliament.
The Canadian said on Oct. 31 that he will stay in his job for an extra year, on top of the five he originally planned to stay in London, to help smooth Britain's departure from the EU, but he will depart two years short of a full term.

Carney came under heavy criticism from pro-Brexit politicians for warning before June's EU membership referendum of the economic risks of voting to leave the bloc.

Some British media have speculated that Carney might stay on beyond June 2019 if the government fails to conclude its exit from the EU by that date.

Carney said his decision to extend his time at the BoE by only one year had nothing to do with criticisms made by Prime Minister Theresa May of the “bad side effects” of low rates.

Asked about the impact of Brexit on Britain's banking sector, he said banks may start to relocate operations from Britain 18 months before it leaves the EU if a ‘hard Brexit' with poor access to EU markets looked likely.

(Additional reporting by Costas Pitas, Kate Holton, Estelle Shirbon and Adela Suliman; Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Stephen Addison and Hugh Lawson)

British government will be “unashamedly pro-business” to forge role outside the EU

 

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Mon, 14 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –

Union Jack
Mikey/flickr.com

The British government will be “unashamedly pro-business” as it seeks to forge the country's future role outside the European Union, but business must also act responsibly, Prime Minister Theresa May will say on Monday.

In a speech at Mansion House in the City of London financial district, May will say Britain must be the strongest advocate for free trade, but also manage the forces of globalisation so that everyone benefits from them.

Discontent among those seen as “left behind” by globalisation was considered a key driver of Britain's June 23 vote to leave the European Union.

“The government I lead is unequivocally and unashamedly pro-business … We will do everything we can to make the UK outside the EU the most attractive place for businesses to invest and grow,” May will say, according to extracts of the speech released in advance by her office.

“But in return, it is right to ask business to play its part in ensuring we build a country that works for everyone. And that British business, which is so often on the frontline of our engagement with the world … is seen not just to do business but to do that business in the right way.”

May will say that while businesses play a key role in creating jobs, generating wealth and supporting the economy, Britain must also recognise that the reputation of business can be undermined by those who “appear to game the system and work to a different set of rules”.

The government is due to put forward proposals later this year aimed at improving corporate behaviour, including tackling excessive executive pay. May has also previously talked about the responsibility of companies to pay their taxes.

The government will seek to use its new industrial strategy to help ensure that families and communities who may lose out from global trade can actually benefit from it, May will say.

(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

How Uber Rival a car-hailing startup came to a Screeching Halt

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bloomberg.com – – Mon, 14 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –

When bills for a corporate credit card used by Karhoo Inc. Chief Executive Officer Daniel Ishag arrived, employees in the London office of the car-hailing startup often spotted unusual purchases. There were designer shoes and clothing, along with veterinarian’s bills for a pet dog. The employees flagged the costs as potentially non-business related, but signs of lavishness continued — first-class flights, a blowout in Las Vegas, Cuban cigars.

Ishag’s spending, described by several employees and those familiar with Karhoo’s finances, came to an abrupt end this week when the company shut down after running out of money. As the extent of the startup’s financial problems became known in recent weeks, Ishag stopped coming to the office and two other executives embarked on a futile attempt to keep the firm afloat, said the people, who asked not to be identified for fear of damaging career prospects. About 200 people lost their jobs.

Ishag did not respond to phone calls, e-mail or LinkedIn messages seeking comment. Some of the money was reimbursed, according to a person familiar with the costs. Employees said they didn’t know where Ishag was currently. In an e-mail to employees this week, he apologized for the company's collapse.

“I deeply regret the impact and inconvenience recent events have caused you all,” Ishag said in the e-mail. “I feel responsible, not only to you but also to your dependents as well, and wanted to extend my apologies to you all. I truly wish things had turned out very differently.”

Even by the standards of tech startups that fail more often than not, Karhoo’s demise is extraordinary. Before the company’s price-comparison app for hailing a taxi was released, Karhoo grabbed headlines last year when it reportedly raised $250 million and said it had plans to bring in more than $1 billion. In fact, it never raised that much. According to internal financial documents, it had raised $39 million as of September and was bleeding money as it attempted to take on Uber Technologies Inc. In its two-year life, Karhoo generated about $1 million in net revenue, according to the records shared with Bloomberg.

No Funds

Karhoo employees said they were largely unaware of its dire position until a recent Friday, when managers told them the company didn’t have enough funds to make payroll. There were no severance packages and people weren’t paid for the previous month’s work. People were furious. As the announcement was made, Ishag had been in Singapore in a last-ditch effort to raise more money, two former employees said.

Many employees were left wondering how the company could have blown through what they thought was $250 million in the bank. Some of them joined Karhoo because they were told in interviews that the company had raised that much money, making it more stable than a typical startup. After the figure appeared in U.K. news reports, company executives also cited it in meetings with potential business partners, according to people who attended.

Some workers had been confident in the company’s trajectory, after its app was downloaded nearly 300,000 times since it was introduced in May.

The company spent heavily to expand globally, several employees said. Long before the app was launched, Ishag opened offices in London, Singapore and Tel Aviv and built a marketing staff of more than two dozen. The company rented apartments in New York, including one at a cost of $12,000 per month, said a person with direct knowledge of the cost. The company also had a 10-year lease on an office in New York.

Ishag touted Karhoo as an upstart competitor to Uber. Its app aggregated cars available from non-Uber taxi and car services, allowing customers to pick from them. But the launch, originally scheduled for January 2016, was pushed back to May.

$400 Million

As Karhoo introduced its service in London and several other U.K. cities, Ishag was attempting to raise more money. One person involved in the process said Ishag was at one point seeking a $400 million valuation. To entice investors, he had to show that customers were using the service in droves to hire taxis, several former employees said.

The company began an aggressive promotional campaign in which it gave away codes for free rides, according to former employees. But the service had a bug that didn’t properly process the codes, meaning customers could use them over and over again. Some people on social media said they had taken more than 100 free rides. The company had to pay drivers or taxi companies even though Karhoo didn’t receive any money from customers. In October, about 70 percent of its bookings were with promo codes, according to sales documents seen by Bloomberg.

The app’s payment processing system also didn’t have many fraud protections, such as verifying a user’s address or requiring an e-mail address to set up an account, several people said. At one point, more than 90 percent of passengers’ credit-card payments were being rejected as a result of the problems, three people said.

Customer service was such an issue that Karhoo hired an outside contractor to handle it. The company, ModSquad Inc., is owed nearly $500,000, according to a breach-of-contract suit filed against Karhoo in New York. One employee said Karhoo canceled the contract after it realized the cost of ModSquad's service equated to about $3 per ride each customer was taking — more than it was taking in total after paying drivers. Several taxi companies that are owed money have been calling former Karhoo employees seeking payment, one person said.

Karhoo and ModSquad are scheduled to appear on Dec. 8 in the U.S. District Court in New York. When contacted, Erik Anderson, the lawyer representing ModSquad, said he couldn't comment about ongoing litigation.

Dog, Drinks

Employees described Ishag as persuasive and said he often talked about “creating a reality” for the company. He also gave himself perks like smoking in the office, flying first class and staying in top hotels, while staff members flew in economy and slept at budget inns.

When his dog, a pug, required a medical procedure, about $6,000 was charged for a veterinarian, two people familiar with his expenses said. In Las Vegas for a technology conference, he threw a party with drinks, exotic dancers and party favors that included Cuban cigars with Karhoo’s logo, two people said.

The company approached one of the Las Vegas party attendees later to see if he wanted to invest. Having seen what was spent at the party, the person demurred, according to a person involved in the fundraising attempt.

Ishag’s career started at age 17 when he left his London school and went to India to start his first business. In 2000, he was one of three founders of an online advertising group called Espotting, which used a network of search engines to deliver targeted traffic to advertisers. Ishag’s next move was to become CEO of waste-management company Bluewater Bio Ltd., which went public in 2007 and then got taken private again. He spent eight years there before departing.

Ishag said in a July interview with the online publication Startup that he got the idea for a comparison app for ground transport while in California and then decided to develop a prototype in India before raising money for Karhoo from investors. A cousin, David Ishag, joined the company’s board as chairman. David Ishag didn’t respond to a LinkedIn message seeking comment.

The company has dozens of backers, including Eric Daniels, the former CEO of Lloyds Banking Group Plc, who said his investment was “modest.” Other reported backers include Nick Gatfield, former chairman and CEO of Sony Music Entertainment; Jonathan Feuer of the private equity firm CVC Capital Partners; and David Kowitz, co-founder of Indus Capital Partners. Feuer declined to comment. Gatfield and Kowitz couldn’t be reached.
Shutting Down

The company closed down owing $30 million to creditors, employees, property managers, advertising agencies and other contractors, according to one person who has seen the figures.

Ishag wasn’t seen around the company’s offices as employees boxed up their belongings and left. In the e-mail, he thanked them for working without pay.

In the interview with Startup, Ishag discussed the challenges of building a tech venture.

“If someone wants to do something special or difficult, that person has really got to focus all their efforts,” he said. “It takes a toll; it takes a toll on the people around you. It takes a toll on your partner if you’ve got one, or on your wife. That’s why I’m saying, as an entrepreneur, it is a way of life because it does affect everything you do.”

By Adam Satariano and David Hellier

Mark Zuckerberg: How He Built His Facebook Empire

Bloomberg's “Game Changers” goes from Harvard dorm rooms to NASDAQ trading floors to reveal the Facebook CEO's sheer and sometimes stubborn determination. (Source: Bloomberg)

An original documentary series, Bloomberg Television's “Game Changers” provides a compelling look at the business leaders and entrepreneurs who climbed to the top of their fields and changed our world. How did Warren Buffett become the most successful businessman in America? What drove Jeff Bezos to make Amazon.com the world's largest online retailer? How did Reed Hastings transform the world of movies with Netflix? These in-depth profiles and those of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Harry Potter's creator JK Rowling, entrepreneur Mark Cuban, fashion designer Ralph Lauren, Zynga CEO Mark Pincus, tell their stories with candid, exclusive interviews and personal accounts from the people who helped these business leaders along the way.

The Pound has climbed to it best week in Aftermath of U.S. Election

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bloomberg.com – – Fri, 11 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –

Images Money/flickr.com
Images Money/flickr.com

Investors’ concern about political shifts outside Britain is benefiting the pound.

Sterling has climbed against all of its 31 major peers since last Friday. It’s the surprise winner during the week of Donald Trump’s electoral upset in the U.S. that threw markets into turmoil as traders reappraised populist movements and inflation. The pound’s recent surge marks a reversal from last month, when it was the worst performer, trailing behind 150 peers.
As Britain’s currency heads for its best week in more than seven years versus the euro, investors are cooling on the shared currency before votes that may demonstrate the strength of anti-establishment movements in the region, particularly Italy’s constitutional referendum.

“It’s very much about risk elsewhere: We have the Italian referendum in early December, we have very important elections in Germany and France,” said Niels Christensen, chief currency strategist at Nordea Bank AB in Copenhagen. “Maybe approaching the U.S. election, some people kept their long euro-sterling positions, and now we see this positioning being closed down,” he said, referring to wagers that the euro strengthens versus the pound.

Sterling climbed 0.8 percent to $1.2660 as of 10:15 a.m. in London and was headed for its second week of gains versus the greenback. It strengthened 1.2 percent to 85.77 pence per euro, set for a 3.8 percent increase against the single currency in the week, the biggest since January 2009.
Less Bearish

Traders reduced their short bets against the pound as they wait for a Supreme Court hearing scheduled for Dec. 5-8 that potentially may result in a ruling that delays Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Short-pound positions versus the dollar, or bets that the U.K. currency will fall, receded this month, after reaching a record-high level in October, according to Commodity Futures Trading Commission data from the week ended Nov. 1.

The pound completed its best week against the dollar since 2009 on Nov. 4, amid speculation Brexit will be delayed or watered down after a court ruled the government can’t start the process of leaving the EU without a vote from lawmakers. The currency is still down about 15 percent since the June 23 referendum.

“There is just a bigger theme now and we just don’t have a trigger for more pound downside here,” said Manuel Oliveri, a currency strategist at Credit Agricole SA’s corporate- and investment-banking unit in London. “Hard-Brexit fears were falling already, and you have a market that is positioned one-sided. When there’s no more impulse, these positions get taken off at some point.”

By Marianna Duarte De Aragao

 

Businesses in London proposed granting visas to EU Nationals to Avoid Brexit Skills Shortage

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bloomberg.com – – Fri, 11 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –

Visa
Chris Fleming/flickr.com

Businesses have proposed granting visas to European Union nationals in the London metropolitan area to prevent any migration curbs after the Brexit vote leading to a shortage of workers.

The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry said Thursday that about 25 percent of London’s workforce is foreign, while EU nationals account for a huge proportion of workers in industries including finance, construction and hospitality. If they suddenly needed work visas under current immigration rules, London would lose 160,000 workers and face a 7 billion-pound ($8.7 billion) negative economic impact, the LCCI said, citing a report by the Centre for Economic and Business Research.

The call follows a PricewaterhouseCoopers study last month that said the U.K. should adopt a regional visa system to allow it to deal with staffing needs once it leaves the EU. That report was commissioned by City of London Corp., which oversees the financial district. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has also called for a visa system for the British capital.

London voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU, and Khan has said that, as much as he “might like the idea of a London city state,” he was “not planning to blockade” it. He is lobbying Prime Minister Theresa May for increased autonomy and access to talent.

The Brexit vote, and indications the government may prioritize controlling immigration, has exacerbated existing concerns about staff shortages. According to the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, the supply of workers has been declining for more than three years.

“In the approaching post-Brexit scenario, for London to remain competitive, we need to not only recruit the very best but also to be able to identify where we have skills shortages and act,” said LCCI Chief Executive Colin Stanbridge.

The lobby wants a one-off, single-issue London Work Visa granting current EU nationals indefinite leave to remain. It said the government could decide eligibility — such as employment in London on the June referendum day or the triggering of Article 50 — to mitigate against a sudden influx of new arrivals.

By Fergal O'Brien

After Brexit vote UK construction output weakest in four years in third quarter

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Fri, 11 Nov, 2016) London, UK – –

Construction
Omar Bárcena/flickr.com

Britain's construction industry had its weakest performance in four years in the first three months after June's vote to leave the European Union, official figures showed on Friday.

Construction volumes fell by 1.1 percent in the third quarter as large falls in repairs were only partly offset by small rises in infrastructure and public building work, the Office for National Statistics said.

However, the fall was less severe than an estimated decline of 1.4 percent which was included in a preliminary reading of overall British gross domestic product for the quarter announced last month.

“Construction output has remained broadly flat in the last year, both before and after the recent referendum,” ONS statistician Kate Davies said.

After rising steadily between 2012 and 2014, output in the sector has largely flat-lined since then.

British finance minister Philip Hammond is expected to announce an increase in public spending on infrastructure projects on Nov. 23 when he is due to give the country's first budget statement since the Brexit vote.

In September alone, volumes were up by a monthly 0.3 percent after a 1.1 percent drop in August. A Reuters poll of economists had produced a median forecast for a fall of 0.2 percent.

Compared with a year earlier, volumes in September were up by 0.2 percent, slowing from an increase of 0.8 percent in August, the ONS said. Economists in the Reuters poll had expected an annual fall of 0.4 percent.

Friday's figures came after a weak reading of industrial production in September earlier this week. But the ONS said it did not plan to revise its estimate for overall economic growth in the third quarter – which came in stronger than expected at 0.5 percent – after the two reports.

Britain's construction industry makes up about 6 percent of the economy.

A closely watched survey of purchasing managers in the sector has shown a more upbeat picture of construction than the official data.

Britain's economy has so far largely coped with the initial shock of the vote to leave the EU and last week the Bank of England said it expected a much softer hit to construction output this year and in 2017 than it previously thought.

Britain's government launched a 5 billion-pound homebuilding stimulus package last month, its latest attempt to address a chronic housing shortage which has helped to push up prices.

(Reporting by William Schomberg and Andy Bruce)

Trump invites Theresa May in first telephone call to visit

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Thur, 10 Nov, 2016) London, UK – –

Brexit talks
Number 10/flickr.com

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump invited Theresa May to visit him as soon as possible during their first telephone call since his election victory, the British prime minister's office said on Thursday.

May and Trump agreed that the U.S.-British relationship was “very important and very special, and that building on this would be a priority for them both”, a statement said.

“President-elect Trump set out his close and personal connections with, and warmth for, the UK. He said he was confident that the special relationship would go from strength to strength,” it added.

May, who was appointed prime minister shortly after Britain voted to leave the EU in June, also told Trump that she hoped to strengthen bilateral trade and investment with the United States as the country leaves the bloc.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; editing by Stephen Addison)

Branson’s daily habit for doubling his productivity

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.finance.yahoo.com via CNBC.com – – Thu, 10 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –

Daily Habit
dtiet/flickr.com

Billionaire Richard Branson wakes up at 5:00 am everyday to start on the right note: by exercising. He's an avid runner and cyclist. In fact, the Virgin Group co-founder completed a marathon and has his own charitable triathlon .

Branson says that working out helps significantly boosts his productivity and has helped him get to where he is today.

“I definitely can achieve twice as much by keeping fit,” Branson tells FourYourBodyPress. “It keeps the brain functioning well.”
Science shows that exercise can help you out professionally.

If you feel like work is a struggle, but can't pinpoint what is off, working out can help significantly. Working out releases brain chemicals key to better memory, concentration and mental sharpness, according to Harvard Medical School's journal.

When you work out, your brain releases a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which improves brain function.

If stress is a daily part of your life, know that you're one of many nationwide. Seventy percent of adults in the U.S. say they deal with stress or anxiety daily, reports the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Studies demonstrate that physical activity, like a brisk walk, jog, game of basketball, or time spent at the gym, will help you better manage stress by releasing endorphins.

A research team based at Princeton University found that physical activity actually “reorganizes the brain so that its response to stress is reduced and anxiety is less likely to interfere with normal brain function.”

For Branson, exercising regularly “keeps the endorphins running.”
Even a short walk gets your creative juices flowing.

Stanford researchers found that the act of walking boosted a person's creativity by an average of 60 percent.

So if you're stuck on a work problem, take a few minutes to get moving. You'll be boosting your productivity the way Branson does.

By By Marguerite Ward

Company Behind Rubik’s Cube Lost its Trademark after EU Court Ruling

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bloomberg.com – – Thu, 10 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –

 

Rubiiks Cube
Stephan Schielke/flickr.com

 

You might not be able to solve Rubik’s cube, but now you may be able to make one.

The multicolored puzzle that’s kept small and big hands busy since the 1970s lost the final round in a fight to hold on to a European Union trademark protection for its shape

EU trademark law seeks to prevent a company getting “a monopoly on technical solutions or functional characteristics of a product,” the EU Court of Justice ruled in Luxembourg on Thursday.

The legal battle in Europe has seen almost as many twists and turns as the iconic cube. A lower European court two years ago backed the puzzle’s makers by deciding that the shape’s distinctive surface with black lines and the grid structure on each surface justified the right to a trademark valid across the 28-nation EU.

An adviser to the higher court in a non-binding opinion in May disagreed, saying EU judges should back the argument by German toy maker Simba Toys GmbH that the protection isn’t justified because the cube’s shape performs a purely technical function.

The judgment “sets a damaging precedent for companies wishing to innovate and create strong brands and distinctive marks within the EU,” David Kremer, president at Rubik’s Brand Ltd., said in an e-mailed statement.

The Rubik brand still has other rights, including other trademarks and copyright, to rely on “which will continue to ensure its exclusivity,” Kremer said, but he said the brand owner is “baffled that the court finds functionality or a technical solution implicit in the trademark.”

The ruling isn’t really a surprise, said Geert Glas, a lawyer at Allen & Overy LLP in Brussels, who specializes in intellectual property cases.
The EU court “has become very wary of trademarks which it fears could become competitive obstacles for others,” he said.

The EU’s IP office, which will now have to weigh adopting a new decision will be bound by the latest ruling.

“I’m afraid it’s game over for the owners of the Rubik’s Cube,” he said.
Apart from the effects this will have for the Rubik’s cube, the toy and games industry more generally will likely “be considering their portfolio of 3D trade mark registrations to assess how viable those registrations are,” said Alexandra Brodie, a lawyer at Gowling WLG in London.

Hungarian inventor Erno Rubik in 1974 created a solid cube with colored stickers that twisted and turned without falling apart. It was “an object that was not supposed to be possible,” says the official Rubik’s website. Rubik himself took one month to work out the solution. There are “42 quintillion possibilities, but only one correct solution” so that all sides are aligned in an evenly colored manner, according to the website.

“The essential characteristics of the cubic shape in issue must be assessed in the light of the technical function” of the product, the EU court said in Thursday’s ruling.

By Stephanie Bodoni

Trump-led America could undermine the prospects of a planned transatlantic free trade agreement

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Wed, 9 Nov, 2016) London, UK – –

 

EU Trade Deal
Gage Skidmore/flickr.com

A protectionist U.S. president and increased European suspicion of a Trump-led America undermine the prospects of a planned transatlantic free trade agreement between the European Union and the United States.

 Trump has argued that international trade deals hurt U.S. workers and the country's competitiveness, but it is not clear to what extent Trump the president will resemble Trump the campaigner.

“If the world's biggest economy follows a protectionist course, its effects will be felt around the world. We can only hope that his words are not followed by corresponding deeds,” said Thilo Brodtmann, head of Germany's VDMA engineering association.

EU and U.S. officials have for more than three years been negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), with Brussels and Washington recognising it will not now be completed under Barack Obama's term as earlier envisaged.

EU trade chief Cecilia Malmstrom said it was too early to assess the impact of Trump's victory, but a break was inevitable whoever had won.

“How long will that break be? Impossible to say … There's a lot of uncertainty,” she said.

Anthony Gardner, U.S. ambassador to the EU, told Reuters TTIP remained important for economic and strategic reasons, recognising that the challenge was to convince more people that free trade is an opportunity, not a risk.

Malmstrom has previously said both sides should make as much progress as possible so that the work can be quickly picked up under the next president.

However, it appears unlikely that trade will be high on Trump's list of priorities or that TTIP will be top of his trade agenda.

Trump has instead talked about getting tough with China, withdrawing from the unfinalised 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and renegotiating or scrapping the North American Free Trade Agreement.

European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen noted that Trump had at least not singled out TTIP for criticism.

Hosuk-Lee Makiyama, director of trade think-tank ECIPE, said U.S. presidents typically took some time to forge trade policy and in the case of Obama and George W. Bush only really pushed trade policy deep into their second terms.

“TTIP is probably one of the last agenda items and I don't think we will see a trade policy until year two or year three,” he said.

Trump will likely appoint a trade representative in March or April. His choice could be key, with possible appointees ranging from the protectionist Dan DiMicco, former CEO of steelmaker Nucor Corp (NUE.N), to libertarian PayPal (PYPL.O) founder Peter Thiel.

A further problem TTIP has faced is opposition from trade unions and environmental and other protest groups, particularly in Europe, who say TTIP undermines democracy by giving multinationals the power to dictate public policy.

Critics would have an added argument in their fight against TTIP, able to paint the deal as one with a bogeyman president.

“Opposition to TTIP is strong, particularly in the light of the results of the election last night,” Jeffrey Franks, director of the IMF's Europe office, told a trade conference.

(Additional reporting by Alastair Macdonald in Brussels, Georgina Prodhan in Frankfurt; editing by Giles Elgood)

By Philip Blenkinsop

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