You wouldn’t ask a GP to do brain surgery
I hope that you are having a great week.
As you know, intellectual property touches every single business.
The ideas that make a business distinct in the marketplace, when you distil them into a protectable form, are protected through intellectual property law. And IP law is its own special corner of legal practice. (And one which I have called home for many years now!)
The area operates on very specific legislation, processes, procedures, and interactions with parties like the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) - and others.
What is funny (if a bit concerning) is when we come across generalist law firms and indeed business owners have a crack at it themselves.
And in doing so, they receive some pretty interesting results (which we typically end up sorting out for them afterwards)!
I’ve banged this drum often, but of course, dealing with an optimistic attempt after the fact is often way more costly and time-consuming for business owners than simply having done it right in the first place.
(For example, registering a cleared UK trade mark with us can cost ~£1000, but dealing with opposition proceedings that arise through an imprecise application could be multiples of that).
It really does seem to be a theme and most people tend to have a crack at it at least once before realising it is best looked after by someone who knows what they’re doing!
It seems to be one of those formative "hand on the hotplate" moments, where you learn what not to do as a business owner.
Why do they DIY?
Every time we come across someone who has had a go themselves or asked a generalist – I do wonder what possessed them!?
But with the benefit of the doubt and the best of intentions in mind, I think I have a couple of ideas...
Number 1: It seems like it should be easy
On the surface, intellectual property seems straightforward. (Spoiler alert: it isn’t!)
Things like a trade-marked brand and copyright material are quite widely engaged with all the time.
IP is, after all, all around us!
So, it feels like registering a logo or challenging someone who has stolen your website copy would be easy.
But this is when people tend to make a Horlicks out of a situation, by registering a brand in a way that weakens its protection or gives rise to a costly opposition.
Or, they charge into a dispute without the legal substance in hand – damaging the likelihood that they can gather the evidence or make the arguments needed to conclude the claim in their favour.
Definitely a case of the heart leading the head. Note: just because you are correct, doesn't mean you have what you need in hand to prove as much in a legal setting!
There is a reason why the best professionals spend their entire careers not only learning law – but IP. (There are even sub-specialisms, such as training as a trade mark or patent attorney.)
So, it stands to reason that a Google search and a can-do attitude are probably not going to suffice!
Number 2: They care about their big idea, so trust is important
I get it though.
We’ve established previously that IP tends to constitute the secret sauce that makes a business special and unique in the marketplace.
It might be:
- a distinct brand that draws customers’ eyes and provides you with your identity
- an innovative invention or a product design which you’re bringing to the marketplace
- original creative work which you’ve put together because of your experience and expertise
People get attached to these things. Because they’re important to them and their business.
That attachment means it can be difficult to let someone else get involved. It’s your baby after all.
This is especially so if you feel they might need to tell you an uncomfortable truth about what’s going on. It might be that the brand you’ve set your heart on needs a tweak to be registered.
Worst case scenario it might not be able to be registered at all!
Trust me, it is better to find that out beforehand, rather than trying to register it and landing yourself in legal no man's land!
The irony is this is exactly why getting it done properly is essential.
But for that, you need to have people on your side that you trust to look after your precious IP as if it were their own and give it the due care and attention it requires.
You wouldn’t ask your GP to do brain surgery, the same way you wouldn’t get an electrician to lay the foundations for your house (I hope)! These things are just too important.
It is about getting the right people for the job, and those who care and are capable to get it right the first time.
The benefit of specialism
A lot of people seem to think that going to specialists costs them more.
There is a common misconception, I think, that going to the best people means going to the most expensive people.
This is a fallacy.
99 times out of 100, the cost of going to an average provider means more expense in the long run.
This is either because of: 1) additional cost required to fix mistakes; or 2) through mishandling of IP leading to a distressed asset and revenue as a consequence.
It really is a case of pay now, or pay much more later.
I imagine the same goes for your industry.
But, of course, we are ready and willing to help all comers, whether it's to be the first port of call, or to help you right the IP ship after it’s been tipped!
As always, do get in touch if there is anything we can help with – always happy to have a discussion to help put you on the right path.
Hope you have a fab week,