Understanding copyright, trade marks and patents and why protecting your IP could add value to your business.
Does your company have Intellectual Property it could protect?
Every company will have some form of IP that they own or can own, yet many businesses are not aware of some of the IP that exists within their company and do not know how to exploit it.
“Apple reached a TRILLION DOLLAR evaluation in 2019, and 80% of that value arose from their intellectual property. So how can you make your Intellectual property bring value to your business?”
In 2019, SMEs making legal claims to protect their IP increased by a massive 68%, with initial IP registrations surging greatly, demonstrating that more and more business owners are waking up to the importance of protecting their IP for the long-term.
But where exactly do you start if you’re a new business owner and a novice to the world of IP? Moreover, what is the actual process for registering IP and how does it add value to your business?
How to assess your intellectual property?
Firstly, it is wise to critically analyse your unique selling point and review what products or services you are creating and how you are positioning them in the market. This gives you the opportunity to assess what areas you wish to protect and identify where to develop the business in the future, ranging from logos, taglines and branding through to physical inventions, such as unique software platforms.
Remember, ideas themselves cannot be protected. However, if you are concerned about someone sharing or using a particular idea, the best option is to create a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), which can be applied to any relevant scenario – ranging from the protection of sensitive business information to pitching a new product to a group of potential investors.
What are the forms of IP?
- Trade mark – Product names, logos and slogans
- Patent – Inventions and products, e.g. machines and machine parts, tools, medicines
- Copyright – Writing and literary works, art, photography, films, TV, music, web content, sound recordings
- Registered Designs – Appearance of a product including, shape, packaging, patterns, colours, decoration
Register a trade mark or patent
Once you have critically analysed your IP, think about what you can trade mark or patent.
A trade mark is any sign, be it a word or logo or even numbers, that represents your brand and distinguishes it from others.
An easy way to apply for a trade mark is by submitting an application directly to the Intellectual Property Office, which can be found via the Gov.uk website. The process is fairly straightforward but requires thought around what exactly you want to be trademarked and what ‘class’ it sits under, for which you may want to seek expert advice. Once the trade mark has been listed, members of the public have a short time period in which to contest it and if no responses are received, the trade mark will be yours.
Once you register a trade mark, you will be able to take legal action against anyone who uses your brand without your permission. Once the trade mark is issued, you can put the registered symbol next to your brand, slogan or its tagline to show that it's yours and you can take legal action should someone attempt to use or replicate it.
Patents, on the other hand, are more complex and are designed to protect your invention and are only granted to inventions that no-one has ever thought of or built before. It is important to be diligent in what you are trying to register so that it does not infringe upon anyone else’s IP.
Consider a copyright
Copyright covers anything that an individual or company creates. It can incorporate words (e.g. text for websites), images, photographs, and training manuals and is automatically created with no registration required. If a work is created in the course of employment, the assumption is that the copyright lies with the employer unless agreed otherwise.
For the tech industry, copyright can also extend to code. Using this example, when code is written by an individual, independent developer, copyright automatically lies with that person unless it is sold or assigned to a client company. However, this would need to be agreed within a commercial contract.
Review your intellectual property over time
The one mistake entrepreneurs or business owners face when trying to protect their IP is complacency.
Have you developed a new product or service? Reviewed your branding recently? Or changed your tagline? When improving and growing your business, you need to review and grow your IP too, ensuring you have the correct trade mark, copyright registration or patent in place with each change and development.
“Not taking the time to review your IP requirements on a consistent basis increases the risk of competitors being able to take and market key elements or USPs of your business and brand. This could be detrimental to both the growth of your business and its ongoing longevity.”
Seek intellectual property guidance from experts
If you are looking for further guidance or advice, there is a wide selection of information and support available. Contact us now for an IP health check, together with guidance on how to register your IP and where.
Centuro Global can help you protect and monetise your intellectual property with legal advice, planning and application support for copyrights, trade marks, patents and design rights. We can create a strategy to add value to your company through IP both in the UK and globally. Get in touch for a free IP consultation.