Don’t know where to start but want to protect your business? Let us guide you through the basics…

Are you under the impression that the path to securing Intellectual Property (IP) protection for your business appears to be convoluted, costly and complicated? It doesn’t need to be. Whilst there can be some cases that are more complex than others, the start of your IP journey can in fact be very straightforward, particularly if you take steps to review and protect your IP in your core countries of interest in the very early stages of your business. Here we outline the different types of IP and the role each plays in innovation protection. We hope that once you are armed with this knowledge you will feel more confident about what IP is and be in a better position to decide on your next move.

Make protection a priority from the word go

There is no ‘property’ in an idea so you must not disclose your innovation to anyone before securing the necessary form of protection as this could lead to the value of that IP being lost or a third party stealing or copying your idea.

What types of IP are there and what do you need?

IP is something that you create using your mind and which is unique to you or your business. This could include a story, a song, an invention, a painting, a symbol, a design, a name and many other things. You own IP if you created an original idea or you bought the IP rights from the original creator or a previous owner.

There are different forms of Intellectual Property, namely trade mark, patent, copyright and design rights. You can get some types of IP protection automatically but others you will have to apply to register. The one to choose will depend on what is unique about your product or brand, and in some cases you may choose to have more than one form of protection:

Copyright is an automatic right which gives you the exclusive right to make copies of a creative work for a limited period of time and stop others from using it without your permission. Copyright cannot be registered in the UK but you automatically get copyright protection when you create original written, dramatic and artistic works.

Design right in the UK automatically protects the shape and configuration (how different parts of a design are arranged together) of objects for 10 years after it was first sold or 15 years after it was created – whichever is earliest. You can also register your design for better protection. Registering your design protects any aspect of the design including the shape, configuration and decoration. A registered design is protected for up to 25 years – renewable every 5 years.

A patent is a registered right that protects your new invention and the technology surrounding it. A patent enables the owner to take legal action against anyone who copies or uses your invention in the UK without your pemission.

A trade mark identifies a product or service of a particular origin from those of others. It is possible to acquire unregistered trade mark rights in the UK but these can take many years of use to build up and must be supported by extensive evidence of your use. It is therefore always advisable to register a trade mark as once you have a registered trade mark, the registration certificate is proof that the trade mark belongs to you and it can be enforced against anyone using or registering the same or similar mark in relation to the same or similar goods/services to you. A trade mark can take many forms including a distinctive word, slogan, logo, symbol, shape, colour and sound.  A trade mark does not have to be in relation to a stand alone product, it can also represent a portfolio of brands, sub-brands and be associated with a company and its marketing tools such as domain names, website content and social media presence.  The value of a trade mark extends far beyond just its physical products or services as it is the business identifier that offers security and value to customers and draws them to the goods or services being supplied. This in turn drives revenue and customer loyalty.

Putting IP protection in place

Clearly this is a very simple explanation of the four main aspects of IP protection, so you can find more detailed information about each area by visiting our website or contacting an IP attorney who will advise you on the most effective protection for your business.

Maintaining your IP portfolio

A business with a well-maintained IP portfolio is an investment which adds to the value of your business. However IP is not static. It needs to be be reviewed, renewed and updated, something business owners can forget as their company grows.

Periodically it is important to check that your IP adequately protects every area of your business. This means auditing all the products and services it covers along with the territories. Omitting or letting protection cover slip can significantly diminish the value of an IP portfolio if it is poorly maintained.

If your business is ready to employ IP protection, and you would like to discuss the best options, please speak to the author, or contact your usual Barker Brettell attorney.