Our experts offer their advice on how to protect your business IP assets

Kerry Russell Legal – director at Shakespeare Martineau.

Could you start by explaining exactly what intellectual property is?

Intellectual property is an asset that a person can own, sell, licence, mortgage etc. It is essentially a legal right to use works of intellectual creation to the exclusion of others.

What are the earliest steps a business should take to protect its intellectual property?

Speak to a specialist. Once you’ve identified what IP you might have, then you need to investigate whether those rights need to be registered with the Intellectual Property Office.

All businesses will have IP in one form or another, and it all has value. You can access lots of useful free resources on IP,  such as the UK Intellectual Property Office website, or your local Business and IP Centre.

What are your biggest tips that a business should consider?

If you have IP that can be registered it’s usually worthwhile finding out about the costs of registering. Also, think about using NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) if you are discussing a new idea with potential investors, collaborators, customers or suppliers.

Who should businesses in South Yorkshire seek advice from?

South Yorkshire has lots of IP attorneys who can help. A qualified trade mark attorney can advise on protecting a brand, a patent attorney can help with registering patents and designs, and IP solicitors can help with identifying which rights you might have.

What could happen if intellectual property isn’t protected?

Intellectual property that is not properly protected could be used by third parties without any realistic possibility of the original creator bringing proceedings to prevent the infringement and harm the chances of securing future investment.

Could you briefly explain the law on intellectual property?

There are various statutes. as well as common law, in the UK which govern the protection of IP in this territory. Typically IP rights are limited to the territory in which they are protected.  Some IP rights only protect against copying, whereas other rights, such as trade marks, have a wider scope of protection.

What kinds of intellectual property can be protected?

Patents protect inventions and relate to either innovative products or processes.

Trade marks protect logos, trading names, and sometimes other brand identifiers such as the shape of products or colours.

Designs protect the appearance of products.

Copyright protects literary, artistic, musical works as well as source code and parts of databases.

Who has the rights to intellectual property?

Intellectual property is typically owned by the person who creates the protected work. An exception to this is when the work is created by an employee in the course of their employment.

It is possible to have joint owners of IP rights, although joint owners may have limited rights to exploit the IP or bring infringement proceedings.

 

Sarah Hogan: Information Specialist – Business & IP Centre South Yorkshire

Could you start by explaining exactly what intellectual property is?

Intellectual Property (IP) is protection for Creativity and Innovation

What are the earliest steps a business should take to protect their intellectual property?

Identify the kind of IP that would apply to your business and what they can register and whether other people own rights to content or products

Check the company name you want can be trade marked so you can register it

What are your biggest tips that a business should consider?

If others create content for you they may own the rights so ensure agreements or commissions cover the assignment of IP rights

Who should businesses in South Yorkshire seek advice from?

Business & IP Centre South Yorkshire (PatLib Centre), The Intellectual Property Office, IP Attorneys

What could happen if intellectual property isn’t protected?

It could be difficult to challenge someone who used your name, design or product

What kinds of intellectual property can be protected?

Patents – How something works or the process of making it

Trade marks – Words, logos etc. that indicate the origin of the products, services and your corporate identity

Designs – The distinctive look of the product or object

Copyright – Artistic or written works e.g. Paintings, books, films, music etc.

Who has the rights to intellectual property?

The creator, or if created as part of a job – the company

Can they be shared, divided or jointly owned?

Yes they can be jointly owned. Some IP rights are business assets and can be sold or licensed to others

Anything you’d like to add/anything we might have missed?

There’s lots of advice available, make use of it.

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