Top ten reasons to protect your intellectual property rights.
Intellectual property (“IP”) gives powerful rights to proprietors and is a very valuable asset. Both statute and case law give certain legal protections, but it is important that you take steps to maximise that protection and think about how intellectual property rights affect your business. It is essential to create a brand strategy and invest in IP protection as soon as possible. Protecting IP can ensure that no-one takes unfair advantage of your brand which might lead to a reduction in its effectiveness and therefore its value.
Your intellectual property is capable of conferring benefits on your business by:
- protecting your business’ brand and image as well as its other assets such as designs and published works;
- increasing your competitive edge over competitors;
- increasing the value of your assets; and
- creating revenue by the exploitation and licensing of your intellectual property to third parties.
In order to take advantage of these benefits it is crucial that you recognize what intellectual property your business has and ensure that it is properly protected.
Ways to protect your intellectual property rights include:
- Awareness – A good awareness and appropriate protection of intellectual property rights may enable a business to hold onto the reputation of its goods and services. Identifying what is worth protecting from a commercial point of view is fundamental to getting value out of any IP protection.
- Know your rights – IP rights are valuable assets for your business – possibly one of the most important. IP rights can set your business apart from competitors, be sold or licensed, provide an important revenue through royalties and importantly form an essential part of your marketing or branding. It is important you know what IP rights you have both registered and unregistered.
- Protect your rights – Ensure employment and consultancy contracts clearly state your ownership of all intellectual property developed for you. Maintain protection of patents, registered design and registered trade marks whilst the commercial case remains by paying renewal fees as necessary.
- Enforcement of those rights – Enforce your rights by identifying breaches and pursuing offenders, but think carefully before commencing uncertain and expensive legal action. Contact a solicitor for legal advice.
- Assertion/Attribution – Identify materials which are automatically protected by copyright; add the copyright symbol, your name and the creation date to emphasise it. Make use of the ™ and ® symbols for unregistered and registered trade marks. In law you automatically have a right to be identified as the author of work. This right can be waived.
- IP prenup – If you are collaborating with an external business, establish ownership of each other’s IP at the outset. Consider whether you need permission to use each other’s IP, set out who gets ownership of IP created during the course of the collaboration. An agreement setting out who owns what and who gets what during and at the termination of the collaboration will go a long way to protecting your IP rights.
- Evidence of use – Keep a log of evidence recording the development of intellectual property: for example, dated and signed copies of drawings and drafts.
- Valuing your IP – The credibility conferred by IP rights like copyright and trade marks are of particular importance to small businesses when looking for funding. Investors often view unprotected assets as a risk. A portfolio of IP rights can give leverage to its owner in any potential transaction.
- Plan for the future – Consider who owns the IP, if created for the company, then it should be in the company’s name. Think about the growth of your business, is it likely to expand to other countries? Consider protecting your IP both in your base country and internationally.
- The market place – Every business should have their eye on the competition or potential competition, not just in their home market, but further afield as well. Know your competitors.
Top Tips to remember:
- Undertake periodic searches to see who is in the market place.
- Obtain advice from IP experts/solicitors where necessary.
- Your work is an asset and the IP in it could be worth a considerable sum.
- Make the investment- secure IP rights to prevent issues in the future.
- Think about the market you’re in and where you intend to use your IP in the future.
- Know your rights- what you can and cannot protect.
- Keep a record of IP usage.
- Plan for the future- succession, dispute resolution etc.