Intellectual property (IP) advice is often sought by business owners and entrepreneurs, in order to ensure they are making the best decision for their operation. For people who are starting a new business or those who are already running one, IP is a necessity to have as part of your business plan.
Some things that count as IP include: the names of your products and/or your brands, the design and/or appearance of your products, your inventions and/or creations that you write, design or produce. Some types of IP protection are granted automatically by law, but when it comes to your business and its success, IP is important and you want to guarantee that you have the right type of protection.
Over time, the reputation and brand identity of your business will build up through goodwill and the services you deliver. This is strongly linked to your IP Assets, which should be defined in advance. Why is this necessary? Think about the way your business may be impacted if somebody started using the same name and logo as you, or began to copy your branding. Or consider if you found out the name you are trading under is already in use, after you’ve already invested lots of time and money into the brand.
IP Assets are one example of intellectual property, and these are investments in brand, design, creative works or technology. IP Assets can be intangible or tangible, and can include your logo design, domain name, company name, the name of your club or restaurant, and so on. Claiming ownership of your IP grants your business increased rights and is particularly important for the assets that make up your brand.
Some more facts about IP are:
- IP has to be an actual creation, not an idea or concept alone.
- IP rights can be purchased from the original creator/owner of the rights.
- Brands that could be a trade mark count as IP.
- IP can have one owner or more than one owner.
- IP can belong to people or to business.
- IP can be transferred or sold.
The official gov.uk website offers a free IP health check tool for businesses, which can give you an idea of where your IP stands at the moment. This tool is offered by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and is a quick, simple way to receive a basic overview and report of your IP, along with some tailored recommendations of actions to take. It is worth taking advantage of this, which is available here.
For more complicated or specialist queries concerning IP, the best way to pursue this is by contacting qualified trained professionals in the field. Patent attorneys and trade mark attorneys are trained and regulated advisors on the subject of IP law, which is complex. While you can negotiate IP law without an expert, it can be confusing and the effects of doing it wrong can be adverse for your business. IP advice should certainly be obtained from a knowledgeable professional, especially if you have any doubts.
Business owners and entrepreneurs will end up seeking intellectual property advice at one point or another, whether they have just started up a brand new business, or already have their business in operation. It is important to understand what intellectual property is, and to seek legal professional guidance where appropriate.
What is Intellectual Property?
Intellectual property refers to a wide range of assets that have been created by you, and therefore you have ownership of them. A few examples include:
- Product and brand names
- Design and look of products
- Creations that you have written, designed or produced
Your intellectual property makes up your brand, distinguishes you from competition, and is integral to the success of your business. Protecting your intellectual property assets is extremely important, because if you don’t have protection and somebody were to plagiarise your business and steal your logo, you may not be able to do much about it and the effect on your business could be catastrophic. In addition, without seeking proper intellectual property advice, you could inadvertently end up using an existing company name which would also be a dire scenario.
It is recommended to seek this advice before investing huge amounts of time and money into building your unique brand identity, because intellectual property laws are very convoluted and difficult to understand without the proper knowledge and training. As well as this, you build business identity through reputation and goodwill by delivering services, which could easily collapse without proper intellectual property protection in place.
One aspect of your intellectual property is your IP Assets. These should be defined in advance and all the assets that make up your brand, whether they are tangible, physical assets or intangible assets, should be stated. An example list of IP Assets would be as follows:
- The design of your logo
- Your website domain name
- Your company name
- The name of your club/restaurant/facility
The official Intellectual Property Office branch of the UK government website (ipo.gov.uk) offers a free “Intellectual Property Health Check” tool which gives a very basic overview about intellectual property advice. The tool includes a form which you fill out, and based on the information you provide, a report will be generated included specific recommendations for actions you can take. This is quick to complete and brings up instant suggestions, so it is worth having a look.
In some cases, an IP health check just isn’t comprehensive enough. There might be an intellectual property issue, or you may have a query that goes into more depth than that. You may be wondering where is the best place to seek intellectual property advice from a specialist – luckily, there are patent and trade mark attorneys who do just that. Intellectual property laws are quite hard to understand, especially without professional training or qualifications, and while it is possible to negotiate this on your own, the insurance of having clear guidance from a regulated, knowledgeable intellectual property expert cannot be overemphasized.