22 September 2014
You’ve done your IP 101. You know that intellectual property is important, that some rights come into effect automatically and some must be registered or applied for. You know that the four main routes to protection are patents, trade marks, design rights and copyright. You may even be aware that rights are territorial and the rights you have secured in the UK won’t help if someone copies your product in France or the USA.
Before launching a product or service, whether on-line or off-line, you will have put a lot of thought into what to offer and how to go about offering it. You’ve invested a lot of time and money in creating a brand that appeals to your target market and sets your products or services apart. For this reason, you don’t want anyone else pretending to be associated with you or your products and piggy-backing on your hard earned reputation.
Your brand is one of the most valuable assets you have. You may have been quick off the mark in securing a domain name to get your website up and running but did you register the trade mark?
All businesses generate IP, regardless of their size or sector. Your IP is a valuable asset because it sets you apart from the rest. You can choose to exploit it yourself, or you can sell or license your IP to provide an important revenue stream. Your IP forms an essential part of your marketing or branding. Securing and protecting your IP is essential to your future success so it's vital to understand what you can and should do to shore up your position.
Are you really aware of just how many aspects of your business can be protected or are you one of the many businesses that are too busy creating intellectual property to ensure it is sufficiently protected? Most companies haven’t conducted an IP audit but those that have realise it can be invaluable in ensuring a business is fully exploiting its IP.
Look closely at your business and identify where IP is used. Remember that IP rights can be hidden in plain sight; in bespoke software, written material, art work, domain names and customer databases as well as in patents, trade marks and designs. Is the IP you have identified sufficiently protected? Are you getting the full benefit from your IP rights or are they sitting there, unclaimed or underused?
An IP audit can also help to ensure that ownership remains in the intended hands as you trade with partners and contractors. Who owns the IP rights you use? Did the agreement you signed when you commissioned a freelance contractor define who would own the resulting piece of work or are you relying on the default position in law? Do you need to action a transfer rights you had assumed were yours but currently belong to someone else?
We’re all aware that once word gets around that a certain product or service is doing well, everyone wants a slice of the action. Markets can suddenly become very crowded. It’s down to you to ensure that your IP continues to set you apart from the rest.
By Stephanie Brickell
© 2014 Bishopston IP Services Limited