IP protection – because it’s worth it!

7th May 2024

Smiling young woman on laptop

Did you know that the intangible asset value of a company can amount to 90% of enterprise (business) value? Intangible assets such as a patents, designs, brand identity, trademarks, or copyright protected content – collectively your intellectual property (IP) – underpin business value and therefore should be protected at all costs.

Once protected, maximising the value of your IP is also a key consideration, as is avoiding infringement and disputes. Alice Wright, Trade Mark Attorney answers some common questions.

Do you have any advice on using photos online and copyright?

The simple advice would be not to use photo you find online as you don’t know who owns the copyright and you may unwittingly find yourself with a letter making a claim of copyright infringement against you. When it comes to using photos and other imagery online, it is important to use material that you or an employee have created themselves or that you have commissioned a designer to create for your use so that that you own the copyright and will not be unintentionally infringing anyone else’s copyright.

When thinking about branding new products and services? What advice do you have?

Our advice would be to be original when branding new products and services and to file a trade mark to protect your brand as soon as it is feasible to do so.

In order to obtain a registered trade mark the brand must be distinctive in relation to the products and services so try and avoid any branding which is descriptive or generic or used regularly in trade in relation to the products and services as these kinds of brands will be difficult to register and protect from competitors in the long term.

How important is registering trademarks for overall brand protection?

Registering a trade mark is a simply way of formalising the ownership of your brand. It gives you the exclusive right to use your brand in relation to the goods and services offered by your business and gives you the right to take action to prevent identical or similar brands offering identical or similar services. Filing a trade mark effectively raises the legal flag and puts others on notices about your rights and provides the most effective protection for your brand against competitors.

If we have a sub-contractor create a new product for us, can we register the design?

If your commission a sub-contractor specifically to design a new product for you, you should always make sure in the contract between parties that the ownership and/or use of any intellectual property developed in agreed in advance, in the contract and is clear to all parties. The absence of any advanced agreement it can become the cause of a dispute once the product is in development or even after launch.

If you intend to register any design, the design must meet the criteria for registration of being new and having individual character and be kept confidential until the design application is filed. However, it is still possible to file a design application after it is publicly disclosed in most countries for a certain period of time but this varies from country to country so acting early to register a design is always recommended.

If we have trade secrets or know how or other technical knowledge which is not known outside of our business what practical steps can we take to make sure it is protected?

There are three main steps to protecting your know how of confidential information and ensuring it remains protected. The first step is identifying the know how or confidential information and understanding its commercial value.

The second step is to put employees and those who have access to the know how or commercial information on notice by marking the material as confidential and storing it securely. The third step is monitoring the know-how or confidential information and governing access to it so it is secure.

What are the best things we can do to protect our existing trademark registrations?

The best thing to do to protect your existing trademark registrations is to use them regularly in relation to the goods and services that they ae registered upon possible so that they remain valid. Trade marks which have not been used for more than 5 years can be cancelled. The other important thing to do is to keep an eye out third parties who might be using identical or similar trade marks and enforcing your rights against them so that your trade mark’s ability to identify your business remain string and is not diluted by competitors.

When developing new technologies or products in our business what should we be thinking about in terms of IP?

IP arises all stages of the development of new technologies or products. The original creative idea is first captured as copyright in project briefs and/or technical reports. From these briefs and reports, further work may be undertaken to turn the idea into reality inf the form of designs, inventions or trade secrets. This may lead to registered IP such as patents or design which will need to be kept confidential until launch.

Finally when launching a new technology or product, it is important to think of branding and registering trademarks to protect the product on sale to consumer in the marketplace.

Our new innovative product has proved an instant success, is it too late to patent it?

Unfortunately, there is no grace period for novelty in relation to patents and unless the invention is disclosed as a result of breach of confidence once the product is launched it is too late to obtain a patent for it. However, it may still be possible to protect certain elements of the new products with designs or other IP. In these cases it is important to seek professional advice as soon a possible to understand what options are still available.

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