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Business Management

Top Tips: Protecting your intellectual property

30-12-2015-protect-your-intellectual-propertyDavid Bloom is CEO and founder of SafeguardiP. An IP lawyer who saw both the opportunity and market gap to sell IP insurance to SMEs in the technology, media, healthcare and other issues where the major value of their business depends on IP, David has over 15 years worth of experience as in IP law.

David shares his top tips on protecting your IP.

 

What is IP – and do I have any?

Intellectual Property is, in the simplest terms, the innovation of a company or individual, as opposed to any physical assets owned. This encompasses everything from website design, online content and customer databases, right through to logos and the shape and function of a product. Even the name of a company is classed as its IP.

IP is crucial for maintaining a competitive advantage and can add real value to your business, but, if you want to stop others piggybacking on your success, you’d be wise to protect it.

Top 5 tips to protect your IP

Identify what you have - Identifying what IP your business has already created is a vital first step in protecting it. This can be done either by using the Intellectual Property Office online IP health check that allows you to audit your business or by talking to an IP specialist.

Either way, the only way you can protect your IP is knowing what you have in the first place.

Research is key - Before adopting a new name or commercialising any new product or service make sure to do thorough research, as it may already be protected by someone else. Registering a business name at Companies House does not mean you are free to use it. Take time to search online to see if a problem could arise. If you are unsure, speak with an IP specialist before you launch. Otherwise you might be forced to change your name.

Registering your IP - When creating IP, make sure that you keep thorough records of who did what, when. These can be used as evidence should you be involved in any legal disputes. Prior to registration, only disclose details of your IP in confidence.

Where possible register your IP through the Intellectual Property Office website or enlist an IP specialist to do so for you. Trademarks which protect names and logos, patents which protect innovative products, and processes and designs which protect the shape of products can all be formally registered. Copyright protection automatically exists so when you take a picture or write a play, book, song or blog you automatically have the power to stop others from copying it.

Market watch - If your business is successful it may well lead to copycats so it’s important you keep a close eye on other businesses in and around your sector. Identifying infringers early will minimise the harm to your business. Don’t hesitate to take action if you think your rights are being infringed.

It’s also a good idea to create an IP culture within your business. Make sure all employees understand the importance of IP and the issues surrounding it. Whether you dedicate one person within the business to oversee the registration and protection of IP, or you outsource this role to an IP professional, the money you spend will be a sound investment in the future growth of your business.

IP insurance - To ensure you have the means to enforce your rights, look into purchasing intellectual property insurance. What many business owners fail to realise, until it’s too late, is that simply owning intellectual property rights will not stop others attempting to steal it. What it does do is give you the right, in law, to stop copycats.

When IP is stolen, the legal costs of fighting a court case can run to many hundreds of thousands of pounds and some unscrupulous companies take advantage of this – they know an SME or start-up can’t afford to take legal action, so why not just take the risk and rip off that IP anyway? IP insurance will cover the significant costs of taking legal action against infringers, allowing you to build your business with confidence.

Remember, your IP is what makes your business unique. From your name, logo and, website to your services and products, all of this is a result of your hard work – why let others benefit from it?

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