Your intellectual property is valuable; here's how to keep it under lock and key.
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When building a business, you cannot afford to cut any corners when it comes to protecting your Intellectual Property [IP].
In 2018 alone, there were 5.7 million privately registered businesses across the UK. With saturated markets and stiff competition, the only thing that deciphers you from your closest competitor is likely to be your business name, your brand and any unique element of your product or service.
Intellectual Property encompasses everything from your business idea, company information, design, invention, logo, symbol, image or official title used commercially.
If another individual or company replicates any of your business details, it can seriously impact your entire operation and could even result in the collapse of your firm, should you be up against a large industry player.
That said, one of the easiest ways to protect your IP is to start as early as possible, with the following four points fundamental to success:
Be as vigilant as possible
It sounds simple enough, but when thinking about your IP, we advise to be as vigilant as possible. The key is to start the process early, so you can ensure everything from trademarks and company logos are registered and protected, preventing market competitors from replicating any assets.
Remember, ideas themselves cannot be protected. However, if you are concerned about sharing an idea or a market competitor stealing it, it is advisable to create a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA).
To guide you through this initial process, we suggest working with a law firm to conduct a full IP audit, creating an official business IP document. This will cover all aspects of your business structure and operations, ensuring your brand and its assets are as protected as possible.
Patents aren’t for everyone
When business owners think of IP, they often think of patents. However, patents can be incredibly complex and are generally only granted to inventions that haven’t been developed before.
If you have a business where patents aren’t applicable, review alternative options for protecting your IP, such as registering Trademarks or Copyright. Both can be fundamental for protecting the use of a brand name or business slogan.
Avoid joint ownership
Although it may seem like a good idea to partner with a trusted colleague or business associate, often these situations can be the most challenging when it comes to dividing up business assets should the partnership come to an end.
This doesn’t mean all situations turn sour. It could be the result of your business partner just simply deciding to move on, but agreeing how to split the rights to Intellectual Property and how the exiting partner should be compensated in the short and long-term can cause a great level of stress for all parties involved.
As the initial creator of the business, you are considered to be an “inventor”, and deservedly, have rights to be recognised as such. However, a joint partnership means parties share the cost and risk of the research and development work of the business; therefore, issuing IP rights for the partner in hand.
Handle all information discreetly
With any sensitive information, IP should be handled in the best possible way to suit the needs of your business.
Most firms should opt for a series of non-disclosure agreements, written by external parties so they have a non-biased overview whilst creating the documentation.
These could include employment agreements, licenses, and sales contracts, but the aim of this is to help contain your business information to parties that you trust, minimising the potential risk of information being leaked to your competitors.
If you are looking for further guidance or advice, there is a wide selection of information available online, however, many business owners find it useful to speak to an experienced professional.
Blaser Mills Law boasts an extensive and experienced commercial law team who can offer expert advice on all areas of Intellectual Property.