Intellectual Property (IP) covers much more than just inventions and relates to any form of original creation. Unlike the products they protect, IP assets cannot be seen or touched. So, it can be difficult for businesses to appreciate their true worth. If you own a business you will own some form of IP and this can account for a huge amount of your business’ value.
The four main types of IP rights are:
- Patents – which protects the processes that make things work
- Designs – which protects the look of a product
- Trade marks – which can protect your ‘brand’ in the market place
- Copyright – which protects written or recorded material
Take a quick look at your business card – did you know that it’s full of IP? Even at first glance, there are three items that could be protected by IP rights.
Your business name.
Have you checked to see if you can use it? Registering at Companies House does not necessarily afford protection and the freedom to use the name. If you want to properly secure a business name you should consider applying for a trade mark
Simply owning the URL does not mean you can use it. Who created your web site? If a third party has created the coding or content, you need to ensure there is a written contract in place to grant you ownership. If there is no transfer of copyright ownership then the original creator owns the IP rights. This may limit how you are permitted to use the material created for you. It is always best to check the terms and conditions or discuss with the third party provider.
Again, who owns this? If a third party has created this for you and no assignment of copyright is in place then the original creator will own the IP rights. As above, this may limit how you are permitted to use your logo which isn’t ideal. You may also want to consider registering your name or logo as a trademark to stop others using it without permission. A single trade mark starts from £170 online and lasts 10 years. You can check the trade mark register for free to see if similar brands already exist.
While these points may seem insignificant when starting out in business, we all too often see the damage caused by ignoring these facts. Imagine how it would feel to receive a letter ordering you to stop using your company name, as it infringes somebody else’s trademark. Or finding out when selling your business, its value is dramatically reduced because the IP assets aren’t protected?
The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is the government body responsible for granting IP rights in the UK. There are a wide range of free online tools and guidance to help you make the most of your IP. You can also subscribe to our IP4biz email updates to start your IP journey today.