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Intellectual Property: everything you need to know

View profile for Helen Porter
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It was recently World Intellectual Property Day (26 April), a day on which the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) seeks to raise awareness about how various intellectual property (IP) rights impact on our daily lives. This year’s event celebrated the positive role that IP plays in encouraging sports amongst the masses, centring around how developments in technology and IP have seen sporting events grow to a global scale over the years.                                                          

A heavy focus was also placed on how businesses involved in the sports industry set out to protect their IP by way of patent, trademark, industrial designs, and copyright applications. In fact, it was revealed that over the past five years in the sports industry, Nike was the top filer of sports-related international patent applications through the WIPO.

However, IP not only plays a significant role in the sporting industry, but is often thought of as one of a company’s most valuable assets, whether that company is a global corporation or a SME. It is therefore vital that you understand your business’s IP needs and requirements from the outset, and that you keep up-to-date of these as your business grows and you begin to exploit your IP rights. The main priority will almost certainly be laying the foundations for protecting and preserving your IP rights at every level.

Are there different forms of intellectual property?

The type of IP protection you choose will depend on a range of factors including:

  1. the shelf-life of your product,
  2. who your target audience is, and
  3. how your product will be delivered to your customers.

There are a range of IP rights that ought to be considered, and it is important that this process is undertaken at the early stages of a businesses development so that adequate protections can be put in place at the first opportunity.

How can I protect my intellectual property?

The need for a business’s trade secrets and information to be preserved and (at times) kept out of the public domain is becoming increasingly more important, given the speed at which rival companies can exploit the information of their competitors to gain a market advantage. Protection of IP can be achieved by various methods, including the signing of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in advance of disclosing sensitive information about your business or product, as well as controlling internal access to confidential information and requiring employees to sign confidentiality agreements. Where such steps have been taken, any breach of the aforementioned agreements would be actionable in common law jurisdictions by way of a claim for breach of confidence.

The need for a business to ensure its IP is adequately protected and to take enforcement action against those who seek to exploit this unlawfully is equally as important. The very public clash of the two technology giants, Apple and Samsung, which came to a close around this time last year, will be familiar to many. The dispute concerned allegations by Apple that Samsung had copied a number of its patented smartphone features, and resulted in Samsung having to pay damages in the sum of $539 million. This not only shows the value that such big companies place on defending their IP rights, but how significant sums can be recovered by way of compensation for any unlawful use of a company’s IP.  

Business owners should keep themselves up to date and informed of the various IP protections available to them, and how these can be used to benefit their business. By way of example, trade marks and patents are registrable rights which can be used either as an effective way of protecting your company’s brand (i.e. your business name or logo, the shape, colour or packaging of your products) or to protect your inventions and give you the right to take legal action against anyone who manufactures, sells or imports your patented products in the absence of your consent. On the other hand, copyright and design rights do not have to be registered and can be used to protect the IP in literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works as well as software, web content and databases, or to protect the shape or configuration of a marketable (or potentially marketable) product.  

Failure to give sufficient consideration to your business’s IP needs could place significant limitations on its ability to grow and succeed, whereas having implemented adequate IP protections and keeping up-to-date on whether these are sufficient as your business continues to develop can allow a business to reach its full potential – particularly given the vast opportunities which are available for IP to be offered as a commodity in the current business climate.

To discuss protecting your IP or to find out more about taking legal action, contact Helen Porter today on 023 8071 7425 or email helenporter@warnergoodman.co.uk.

This article has been published as part of the latest issue of our Commercial Brief, detailed within the In Brief section. To view the other articles within our Commercial Brief click here, alternatively view the other In Brief articles below:

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice. All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.