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What is Intellectual Property and how do I protect it?

View profile for Sarah Sillar
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What is Intellectual Property and how do I protect it?

After recently rejoining the firm, Corporate & Commercial Associate Sarah Sillar, provides an overview of Intellectual Property; describing what it is and why it's essential to all businesses.

She goes on to detail the ways of protecting Intellectual Property, discussing how important it is to do so.

What is intellectual property?

Any creative work recognised as being an asset or physical property is referred to as Intellectual Property.

What are some examples of Intellectual Property?

Common examples of intellectual property found in most types of business are:

Branding- everything from the business name, logo and trade get up to the marketing plans, budgets and strategy and even lists of ‘pay per click’ keywords can all contain intellectual property.

Sensitive trading data- from trade secrets, to client lists, monthly reports and business plans. All of the information that a business strives to keep confidential also qualifies as intellectual property.

Processes- businesses that have invested time and resources in finding efficiencies of process and who have documented this may also have created intellectual property.

Products- any inventions, or any new innovations that involve an inventive step could potentially be intellectual property.

Designs- the unique way in which you package your products, the attractive insignia or motifs that you use on your products could all potentially be intellectual property.

Some intellectual property is made publicly available and some is best kept private.

Is intellectual property important to my business?

Intellectual property is important to all businesses, in most cases it is the intellectual property that makes a brand memorable and gives a business the competitive edge.

Savvy business owners go to great lengths to protect their intellectual property! 

How can my business protect its intellectual property?

The main ways in which intellectual property can be protected are:

Registration- this works for intellectual property made publicly available or that, by its nature, is in the public domain such as branding logos and straplines, the most common type of registration is the UK trademark. Designs and patents can also be registered.  

Contractual Protection- whenever intellectual property is disclosed it should be protected, for rights incapable of registration contractual protection works best as this gives the owner recourse and remedies should the intellectual property be used or disclosed for a reason other than that which was intended by the owner.

Security measures- there are practical ways to protect intellectual property, for example, confidential information can be password protected and designs and logos can be shared in read only format.

What is copyright and how does it protect my businesses?

Copyright protects businesses against others who seek to duplicate their work or create copies of it which are substantially identical.  Copyright protects written works, such as articles and books but also protects any video content, software, music or eBooks produced by the business.

When asking third parties to create content on behalf of the business It is important that business owners identify how the copyright in that content will be owned and that this is reflected in the contracts relating to the work.

How does a registered trademark protect my intellectual property?

Branding, logos and strap lines are created to be in the public domain and therefore they need to be registered to be fully protected. Registering a trademark has dual benefits:

Firstly, registration will provide protection against other people using the same branding on the same goods or services, which is confusing to consumers and is detrimental to goodwill.

Secondly, successful registration can provide a defence to business owners if they are ever accused of copying another business’s brand, as the registration process itself provides an opportunity for objections to be raised and settled by the parties.

Anything else I should know?

If you discover that your intellectual property is being used, copied or shared without your consent, it is imperative that you act quickly.

It is widely acknowledged that, in the case of intellectual property breaches, compensation is often not a suitable remedy, so you need to stop the breach occurring straight away.

In these instances, you would be seeking injunctive relief and it may have negative consequences if you were aware of the breach but did not act on it immediately.

You can visit our Intellectual Property page here.

Intellectual Property solicitors in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Ringwood

At Frettens, we offer a free initial appointment for all new clients.

This usually takes place over a coffee with one of our bright lawyers at our modern, conveniently located offices, but can also be over the phone or video call.

If you’d like to speak with one of our bright, friendly team, give us a call on 01202 499255.

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