One thing that many businesses often miss when setting up or making their sure their business runs as profitably as possible and is well-protected against the unexpected, is the matter of company intellectual property.
What is your company intellectual property?
Your company intellectual property (IP) is the very essence of your business. It is something you create that’s unique and it includes designs (such as your company logo), brand, trademarks and copyright. Here are some typical examples:
- written work, such as a book, marketing copy, online on your website, or in a printed brochure;
- a new product you invent;
- the design of a product’s design or its appearance (such as clothing);
- a brand or logo;
- artistic work, such as illustrations or photographs;
- film recordings or musical compositions;
- computer software etc.
Your business typically will own the IP rights if you create something – but that doesn’t mean that someone won’t try and copy it. Protecting your intellectual property allows you to:
- charge others for the right to use what you’ve created;
- stop others using what you’ve created without your permission.
Why is it so important?
If you don’t protect your intellectual property, your business and your brand could suffer:
- illegitimate traders can copy your product and sell it as their own (such as fake designer handbags for example);
- using a logo or brand name similar to yours can dilute your brand. It could also have a negative effect on it if the similar brand / logo is associated with something with unsavoury connotations;
- other companies are making profits from your hard work, at very little cost to them.
Also, the economy is affected too, so copied goods/ products really can have far-reaching effects.
How can you protect your brand?
Protecting your brand can take several forms. Firstly, you can use a company to register your trademark (so, your brand, logo or even a strapline) – but you should check it isn’t already being used by someone else. There are specialist companies that can do this on your behalf and ensure that your trademark is valid and legally set up. You can also use secure file transfer from companies like Thruinc.com, so you can be confident that only the intended person/s will see your plans.
For products, think about getting a patent. This protects the features and processes that make things work and lets you profit from your inventions.
Copyright protects the copying of many types of work, from music and song lyrics to photographs and drawings.
The Government’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has a useful free service that tells you exactly the type of steps you should take in order to ensure your business and its intellectual property is protected.
The service cover four IP elements – designs, patents, trademarks, and copyright – and says its offers a tailored service so you know exactly what you need to do.
As mentioned before, there are specialist companies that advise you and can act on your behalf, if you want to make sure you are properly protected.
Protect your business
The article above talks about ways in which you can protect your brand, trademarks and copyright etc so that you can take action against another person or company who copies or imitates them.
But what if you inadvertently breach someone else’s IP? You could quite accidentally design something that is what you consider is new and unique which is actually very similar to an existing product or brand. This could see your company being sued for infringement, which could be very costly indeed – as well as detrimental to your company’s reputation.
One solution to give you peace of mind could be intellectual property insurance. There are a number of providers of this cover which is designed to protect companies for copyright, patent or trademark infringement claims arising out of its operation. The insurance typically pays any costs associated with legal defence and any judgement up to pre-agreed limits under the policy cover.
While this is not suggesting that you purchase intellectual property insurance instead of sticking to best practice when coming up with new ideas and creative, it may be helpful in genuine incidences where it could be said that you have infringed someone else’s IP.
Intellectual property and breach of it can be a complicated matter. Make sure you know exactly where you stand in terms of protecting your own IP, as well as not breaching someone else’s.