MANAGING YOUR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

You may not think that you have Intellectual Property (IP) to protect, but trust us, you do!

Your company is more than just your turnover. Your company is that special ingredient that makes you unique – it’s what makes you the best in your industry and why people want to buy from you or do business with you.

As you start your new business or begin to grow your existing one, it is important that you know what your IP is and how to protect it. We recently held a workshop with Laura Trapnell, Partner and Head of the IP and IT team at Paris Smith LLP, who took the Somerset Catalyst businesses through the ins and outs of managing your IP.

What is your IP? How was it created? Who owns it, and how do you protect it? Here are a few key takeaways from our session with Laura to get you started.

Identifying your IP

Firstly, you need to identify the key intellectual property rights in your business, which you can split into two main areas.

Classic “Legal” IP

These are what you probably recognise to be IP, and all recognised in law as property in their own right.

  • Trademarks
  • Patents
  • Copyrights
  • Registered Designs
  • Design Right

Other “commercial” intangibles

You may not have considered these to be IP, but they are legally protected in some way it’s just that the method of protection differs.

  • Goodwill
  • Know-how
  • Trade secrets
  • Customer relations
  • Marketing and distribution networks
  • Business methodology

It’s a good idea to jot these down and have a think about what IP your business holds, and which one is most strategically important to your business. Then you can work out what kind of protection you need.

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Top tip: The UK (and most other countries) operate on a ‘first to file’ basis, so make sure you get in there first!

Creation and Ownership

Just because you have paid someone to create something for you, it doesn’t mean that you own it. For example, you may have paid a designer to create a new brand and logo, a photographer to capture some images for you, or a developer to create a piece of software, but unless you have expressly agreed upon it and they assign the Intellectual Property rights to you in writing, then you will not own the legal title to the IP rights. In reality you have paid that person for their time, expertise and skill in creating it for you and you just have a right to use that creation.

MacBook Pro on brown wooden table near pen organizer

As a general rule, IP is owned by the person who creates it. The exceptions to this rule are that (i) usually any Intellectual Property rights created by an employee in the course of their employment will be owned by the employer and (ii) that IP rights can be assigned in writing.

Why is an IP strategy important?

Having a good IP strategy will help you decide:

  • The importance of IP within your business and the effort you want to employ in its implementation
  • What existing company policies need to change to support your IP
  • What kind of IP protection to pursue and where and when to do it
  • How to benchmark yourselves against competitors.

Your IP strategy should give guidance to your commercial decisions and help identify areas of risk and ways to build more business.

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If you need support on your IP strategy, get in touch with Laura and her team at www.parissmith.co.uk/

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MANAGING YOUR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY