After investing considerable time and resources in creating your brand identity, protecting the Intellectual Property (IP) in your brand should be a key consideration.
Top Tip 1: What IP do you own?
Identify what IP your business currently owns and what IP it could develop and own in the future. The best way to do this is to have an IP audit completed.
An IP audit involves an IP professional, such as a trade mark attorney, identifying existing IP a business has, IP assets it could have and providing guidance and recommendations for how best to protect and manage this IP. It also looks at possible threats, risks and opportunities related to the IP identified.
The UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) currently offers assistance through its IP Audits Plus Scheme. This scheme part-funds an IP audit to be undertaken, with the IPO paying £2,500 (inc. VAT) and your business contributing the balance (£500 inc. VAT). Funding is released every April and the IPO has confirmed this year’s funding is now available.
To apply for this scheme your business must be an SME (fewer than 250 employees and turnover of not more than £41m) and must demonstrate that the IP audit will form a key part of achieving your business growth plans. You should contact Innovate Edge UK to start the application process. Please note funding is limited and often runs out quickly.
Once the IP audit has been completed you can then apply (also from the IPO) for IP Access Funding (£5,000 inc. VAT).
Top Tip 2: Be distinctive!
You want your product to stand apart from other products, particularly those that are in a similar market to yours, so choose a distinctive name! Too often businesses choose a name that describes what the product does, which won’t stand out to consumers. Made-up names or those that incorporate the business’ name will be easier for consumers to remember (as long as the name is not too complicated!) and will distinguish your products from those of others. The added advantage of this is that if you want to obtain registered trade mark protection for your product name, the level of distinctiveness of the name is assessed as part of the application process. Names that are devoid of distinctive character and merely designate the goods and services provided under the mark will be refused by the examiner.
Top Tip 3: Do your homework!
When choosing names for products it is key to check that no one is already using the proposed name of your product in order to avoid a claim of trade mark infringement or passing off. In order to do this, you need to conduct clearance searches. These should search the trade mark registers of the territories you are looking to sell your product in, in order to identify if the name is registered as a trade mark. You should also run Google searches to see if the name is already being used but as an unregistered mark.
If you find that an identical or similar name is already in use, for identical or similar goods and/or services, then you will need to reconsider this choice of name or see if you can seek a coexistence arrangement with the owner of the earlier rights.
Top Tip 4: Don’t forget to protect your IP!
A registered trade mark will provide you with a monopoly right to use the name, logo, shape etc. (for the goods and services the registration covers) and therefore gives you a robust right that you can use against infringers.
Other intellectual property rights might be applicable to your product, such as design rights and patents, so seek professional advice regarding how to fully protect this.
Remember, your IP is a valuable asset that investors will likely expect you to have protected through registered rights.
Top Tip 5: Monetise your IP
You may want to consider licensing or selling your IP in order to benefit financially from it. Make sure you seek legal advice and have appropriate agreements in place should you decide to do this.