protecting Intellectual Property

Take five guide - Your quickfire guide to protecting Intellectual Property

Every business has valuable intellectual property (IP). For some businesses it can be the most valuable asset they own.

Here’s our quickfire guide to IP – and how you can best protect it.

1. Protect your IP from the outset

The more valuable your IP is to you, the more likely it is to be targeted by other organisations seeking to hitch a ride on your coat tails. Protection should begin at the design stage and be factored into the creation of your brands and products.

Not all information needs to be locked down completely, but it is vital that you keep sensitive information secret during this period and only disclose it to people whose input is required as part of the planning and development process. Confidentiality agreements are both valuable and cost-effective in reducing the risk of inadvertent disclosure.

As well as protecting your own IP, you need to check you’re not infringing anyone else’s. This should be done as early as possible, and certainly before you commit significant time, money or resources to a project. We can help carry out searches to, for example, establish whether your proposed brand is too similar to one which is already covered by a third party’s rights.


2. Know the different types of Intellectual Property

Each business’s IP varies and can include everything from its name or logo through to the code that runs its systems, and the technology and design that underpins its products and services. Many different types of IP can exist in one product. A classic example is a bottle of Coke - the Coca-Cola Company has trade mark rights in its name and distinctive stylisation, and trade mark and design right protection in the shapes of its bottles. It also has copyright protection over its advertising and promotional material, and protects its famously undisclosed formula as a trade secret.

This widespread net of protection helps ensure the Coca-Cola Company’s successful replication of its product globally and means that, no matter where you are in the world, you know that when you buy Coca-Cola it will be the real thing. Needless to say, not all businesses have pockets as deep as Coke’s. However, an appropriate level of protection over the most important aspects of your business is a blueprint to aim for.


3. Keep notes and evidence

One of the most valuable actions you can take is to produce and retain evidence of your research and development or creation process – this will help support your case if someone challenges your IP in the future. To do this, keep written details of your idea, the development stages, notes, sketches, designs, plans, photographs, computer files and prototypes to establish evidence of a time, date and place when you first formulated your concept. Ensure confidentiality agreements are used as appropriate during the design stages.


4. Be proactive

Audit your IP regularly to ensure you are protecting the right parts of your business in the right way, and ensure you’re not paying for outdated protection or schemes that are no longer relevant.

Educate employees about the importance of protecting your business’s IP. They should be contractually bound to play their part, but make sure they understand why and how they can help.

Ensure your contracts with third parties include appropriate IP protection. For example, expressly state that all IP rights are to be transferred to you from a supplier or development partner if that is the intention.


5. Seek advice

Different types of IP need protecting in different ways. Some, such as copyright, are protected automatically, but we can still help you optimise the process. Other types, such as trademarks, must be registered and we can assist you in the application process. We can also help identify your key IP and develop a strategy for protecting it in the most cost-effective manner.


Would you like to know more?

 Thrings Intellectual Property Team  helps businesses thrive by providing practical business advice from commercial specialists.


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