All businesses whether a large multi-national corporation or a start-up business, have intellectual property (IP) and it can be an asset that is highly valuable and requires protection.
Your intellectual property is what sets you apart from other businesses and can take the form of a number of different things, including:
- Your Trade Name
- Brand Name
- Company Logo
- Visual Identity
- Special Processes Unique to the Running of Your Company
- Pioneering Design & Development of a Product or Service
Your intellectual property is something that exists not only in the graphic design surrounding your branding but also in your products, the services you uniquely offer and the processes involved.
The IP of a company can become something marketable in itself if your company becomes recognisable on a wide enough scale. There is potential to license or sell your intellectual property in the form of franchising or merchandising opportunities, but this is something you have to consider at a certain level of business and weigh up whether this will affect your core business model.
To ensure that you are making the most out of your intellectual property, and protecting it in the UK and overseas it is best to seek professional legal advice from experts in the field. Having a sound foundation of knowledge regarding IP will stand you in good stead to not only protect what is rightfully yours but also ensure that you are not infringing on someone else’s intellectual property.
What areas do you have to consider in terms of your intellectual property?
A trade mark is used in order to protect your brand name, logo and also any symbols or slogans that you have created to associate with your brand. All of these things have the potential to become highly valuable in terms of marketing and therefore you have to consider the legal requirements in order to protect them.
Common law does grant you some protection as long as you have built up sufficient goodwill but to fully protect yourself you should consider registering any important marks relating to your company and brand. Trade mark registration has to take place in every country that you want to protect it in, so bear that in mind; however you can cover the whole of Europe by registering the item as a Community Trade Mark.
If you have designed something, automatically it will be protected by design right, but if you find yourself in a position where someone else has infringed and used your design without permission it is down to you to prove that the infringer did not come up with the design independently of you.
In this respect it is a more efficient process to register your design and protect it for 25 years. Similar to a trade mark this has to be completed in each country or you can cover Europe with a Community Registered Design.
A patent is concerned with the technical and functional aspects of a product or the processes involved with the manufacturing and selling of a product. They are designed to prevent other people from making, using or selling something without first obtaining the consent of the inventor behind it.
If you want to patent something as your own and protect it from being unlawfully used without your consent, you can register it and protect it for up to 20 years. Patents are registered from country to country and you can find published lists of patents – you can only patent something if it has not been done before – and you should check this list before developing a product or process that you believe to be unique.
A copyright is an automatic protection and does not require registering. A copyright protects any original literature, artistic, dramatic and musical works that have been created through original creative skill. The content on this very page could be copyrighted for example.
In legal battles involving copyright it often comes down to the date of creation and this is something you will have to prove in court should you ever be involved in a copyright dispute involving your own content.
Where Can I Find out More about Intellectual Property?
For start-up businesses it can be confusing as to what you should and shouldn’t look to trade mark, patent or register a design right for. You can discover more information through the Intellectual Property Office, who can assist you in making the right choice of protection for your design or invention.
You can also find out more about protecting your intellectual property outside of the UK via the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Markets and the World Intellectual Property Organization. It always helps to find out more information from legal firms with experience in patent and trade marks, so seek out an expert in your area and location if required.
What Next for my Business?
Intellectual property is just one part of your considerations when setting up a start-up company. Through these pages we have provided you with a number of different areas to think about and to get help in order to allow you to focus on building up your business the right way and to stick to your product and service.
We can help you with answering services and virtual offices, social media management and a virtual secretary; all things that could take up hours of your time at this crucial period of your business. Let us take the hassle away and let you concentrate on your product and customer service.