8th July 2019
Rob Fahrenheim’s article has been published on the ‘Business Game Changer’ website, discussing the importance of protecting your Intellectual Property. Please read the full article below.
Intellectual property rights are often a business’ best kept secret. Managers are typically well aware of the cost and value of their physical assets, such as plant and machinery, and most are conscious of the cost and benefit of their people. However, there is often large value in the intangible assets of a company, such as the brand’s trademarks or patent portfolio. SMEs need to understand what IP rights they are entitled to and how best to exploit or enforce them for the benefit of the company.
While business owners are usually familiar with key areas of intellectual property, many do not register their IP rights which can create issues with enforcement further down the line.
For brand protection, registering a trademark with the UK Intellectual Property Office is the first step. This ensures brand elements such as names or logos for a product or service are protected and means that another party may be prevented from using the same or very similar marks. This process is relatively inexpensive and can be done online. A key tip is to think carefully about the relevant classes and specifications you want the trade mark to be registered for.
Obtaining patents to protect new ideas and inventions is highly valuable – or in some cases crucial – and can be the key factor in a business maintaining a competitive advantage in a market. Until a patent application is made, it is essential that the idea is kept secret, or it will be deemed to have become public knowledge and therefore will not be patentable.
Trade secrets are an often-forgotten area of IP. A tip here is to ensure information shared with another party is expressly described as confidential and ideally protected by a written contract, such as a non-disclosure agreement.
The key to monetising your IP rights is, where possible, to ensure you know the scope of your protection and the extent to which those rights are enforceable – whether through registration, keeping a record of copyright or ensuring agreements are in place to maintain confidentiality. Where this hasn’t happened, or if your rights have been infringed, seek advice from an IP lawyer as soon as possible and don’t be put off by the perception that their advice is costly. If you have a valid claim, there are often options available such as litigation funding, which can cover all of the costs of enforcing or defending your rights and getting back any money that you may be entitled to.