Your Intellectual Property – How can you protect it?
Intellectual Property (IP) is an important subject and one that all businesses need to be aware of. Unfortunately, many new businesses and start-ups underestimate its importance which can lead to problems later on.
With so many things to think about when you start out on a new business venture, it is understandable that IP is one of the things that can get overlooked. But the consequence of not protecting your IP can have a serious effect on your business.
Different Types of IP
Intellectual property takes many forms but for legal purposes can be divided into four categories which you can register at home or internationally.
A trademark is something that identifies your company’s brand. Trademarks include things such as the company name or the name of a specific product. The function of a trademark is to reassure the customer that the product is genuine and will be of the quality they expect from your brand. It is important for you to register any trademarks so that they cannot be used by anyone else.
Other forms of branding, such as logos and graphics can be registered as designs.
Patents apply to new innovations and inventions. These will be registered by the Patent’s Office. Patenting your idea or innovation ensures that you keep control of it. Always be cautious if you discuss your new innovations before you have registered the patents.
Copyright has traditionally been used to protect artistic and literary works. Today however the same rights and laws apply to original digital creations such as new software or web design. Sometimes it may also be a good idea to patent software. Copyright alone may not give you adequate protection from infringement.
Registering your IP
You will only be covered in the countries where you have registered. However, you don’t need to register in each individual country. Registering through the EU registration system will cover all EU countries.
You can offset the cost of registering your IP against tax and there are additional tax incentives for protecting scientific research if this is relevant to your business
Shareholders are more likely to invest in your business if all the appropriate steps to protect your IP have been taken. By protecting your rights, you are also protecting their investment. Once again, this is particularly relevant for tech start-ups
Deciding who owns the IP
This can be an issue when a business commissions work from a contractor or freelancer such as a software developer or graphic designer. The question often arises of who actually owns the rights to the IP – the designer or the person who commissioned it. Much will depend on the wording of the contract and should be negotiated before the work begins.
If you have any questions it is always best to seek legal advice beforehand to avoid problem arising. Our legal team can offer the specialist services and advice you need to ensure your business’s IP is protected from infringement.