Schools are increasingly aware of the importance of their brand, especially as they look to grow in other countries, but even if that is not a consideration, intellectual property rights are likely to apply to many schools.
For instance, copyright will protect the learning resources and training materials you create and trade marks will protect your logo, motto, coat of arms and potentially your school name from others copying and/or infringing these.
Copyright is an automatic right conferred on the author of an original work. A work can be, amongst other things, literary (for example a book, brochure, website or teaching resources), musical, dramatic or the code contained in software.
A work created in the course of employment generally belongs to the employer but this will depend on the terms of the employment contract. Ensure your contracts properly deal with IP ownership and exploitation.
The copyright symbol (©) can be used to show that a work is covered by copyright.
Trade marks are territorial rights and they are applied for in classes which list the goods and services the mark is intended to cover. Trade mark registrations provide the owner with a monopoly right to use the mark for these goods and services (within the territory the mark is registered in).
Once registered, the ® symbol can be added to the end of the trade mark to put third parties on notice that trade mark rights exist.
Why is it important to protect our intellectual property rights?
Your brand should be unique to you; the reputation you have built up is of real importance and you have put time and effort into creating bespoke learning resources.
Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous businesses that will look to take advantage of this to promote themselves in the education sector; they may pretend to be you or be associated with you or otherwise imply they are somehow connected to your school.
Another consideration, if you are, or are considering, operating overseas is to secure domain names with the relevant country codes, such as .cn for China.
We would also recommend considering purchasing certain domain names to prevent anyone else holding and using them; for example, .co (Colombia) and .cm (Cameroon) are common typos for .co.uk or .com domains. So it is sensible to register these domain names to stop others purchasing them and to protect your school name and brand.
Do take advice on domain name combinations, as well as on the registration and maintenance of your domain names. They are an important part of your brand and should be protected in the same way as your intellectual property rights. Do get in touch if we can help you to protect and defend your rights.