Elizabeth Davidson reports

INTELLECTUAL property firm Briffa & Co has launched a self-help CD Rom for clients who are great at design but "gaga" about the law.

The London firm is promoting its initiative as following Richard Susskind's vision in The Future of Law, which sees lawyers as proactive information providers, not simply reactive dispute settlers.

The firm believes that the CD is the first of its kind to be launched by a legal practice.

Contracts for your Multimedia Business, which is on sale at £200, is targeted at web site and CD Rom designers who want to protect their products.

The aim is to show the designers how to stop others stealing their ideas, using their work without paying them, or signing contracts that fall through, said senior partner Margaret Briffa.

She added: "We had multimedia clients coming to see us for advice who we could not help because they had not known how to protect their idea or negotiate a basic agreement.

"They had been operating with no legal agreements in place because of the prohibitive costs. The CD is aimed at preventing people who have great ideas but do not know how to convert them into money from falling at the first hurdle."

The CD uses simple explanations, and is designed to be used without the need for legal assistance. It takes the viewer through all the stages, from protecting the initial idea to negotiating the final contract and collecting the fee. The CD includes specimens of ready-drawn contracts into which multimedia businesses can insert their details, the basics of copyright law, and a real-life example of the sort of problems which can be encountered.

For example, a confidentiality or secrecy agreement protects the value of an idea and clarifies that a prospective client cannot take that idea and contact another developer to produce a product based on it.

Briffa & Co, a niche firm specialising in the protection of copyright, designs, patents, trade marks and confidential information, designed the CD with the technical assistance of designer Infinit-i.