Protecting Your Intellectual Property
What is Intellectual Property?
Intellectual property consists of intangible property assets, such as concepts, goodwill or trademarks.
A business’ intellectual property (“IP”) will often comprise a mix of trademarks (either registered or unregistered), patents (which protect a novel concept or idea, and the application of such ideas), copyright in particular text or drawings, registered designs, business know-how, trade secrets and information such as customer lists.
Have You Identified Your Intellectual Property?
Your business may have a considerable amount of IP that is not being adequately safeguarded or utilised. Assets such as your trademarks, customer lists and general business know-how can be critical to the success or failure of your business by giving you the competitive edge that you need over your competitors.
If you think that you may seek investment in your business, or that you may look at selling your business in the future, be aware that any potential investor or purchaser will want to know:
- What IP the business owns;
- What steps you have taken to protect the IP; and
- How such IP will give your business the edge over your competitors.
You should take steps to identify your intellectual property and ensure it is protected. This could be as simple as having adequate confidentiality agreements in place with your staff and contractors, or may involve obtaining registration of any trademarks, designs or concepts that your business has developed.
You should look at doing this sooner rather than later — once a concept is in the public domain it will not be patentable.
This article will focus on one common type of IP — the trademark. When you think of trademarks, several well known brands will probably jump to mind.
Most businesses will have a trademark or trademarks that they use in the operation of their business. It may be a name, a catchy phrase or a distinctive logo.
What is a Trademark?
A trademark is a brand or sign that has distinctive qualities. It can be a name, signature, word, colour, logo or even a sound or smell. It must be capable of being represented graphically and distinguishing the goods or services of one person from that of another.
Your business may have a trademark or brand that it is using, that you have not considered obtaining protection for.
Why Register Your Trademark?
You may consider that registration of your trademark is not relevant to your business. However, a registered trademark means that you are in a better position to enforce your rights against others who may try to use it. Registration prevents a competitor from using or obtaining rights to use a brand or distinctive name that you have developed.
A registered trademark should add to the value of your business and be an asset in any sale. On the other side, you run the risk that your brand or even your company name may infringe that of a registered trademark, so a check of the register may be in order.
Registration may not be as costly as you think. The filing fees are not excessive and legal fees for obtaining the registration may be less than you anticipate.
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