Intellectual property (IP) can cover a variety of elements, from patents and registered designs to any content you write for your business. It is crucial to the success of your company that you protect your IP, as this can be as important as the products or service you sell – sometimes more so.
If your business is based on your IP (e.g. a patent), then it becomes even more vital to protect this. With that in mind, these helpful tips provide some easy-to-adopt practices that will help you protect your business and enable it to thrive and grow.
1. Get a good understanding of IP
IP is sometimes an intangible asset that can make or break a business. It encompasses creations of the mind, including patents, designs, literary and artistic works, and trade marks.
IP can be protected through a variety of measures which offer recognition and help protect earnings. If managed correctly with conscious planning, this can safeguard a business’ assets and ensure healthy relationships with clients, partners and competitors alike.
2. How does IP relate to my business?
Whether you are an inventor, creative designer, writer or software developer, your work will often constitute IP. If you seek the appropriate help and protect your idea, this can work to protect the longevity of your business, prevent competitors from benefiting from your IP and even give you options to sell your IP rights in the future.
3. How can IP affect my business?
If unprotected, your lead competitor can take advantage of your IP, and potentially take your product to market before you. Speed is everything, meaning you could lose your competitive edge and potential customers, damaging both your reputation and cash flow.
Once you have protected your IP, your competitive edge is safeguarded, along with your market share. This gives you a right of challenge, should anyone copy your work, but also the opportunity to sell these rights should you wish to step out of the market, or diversify your business.
4. Do I need a trade mark?
If you wish to run a small, localised organisation, then a trademark may not be necessary. For those wishing to conduct their business online, have a niche product, or wish to develop on a wider scale, a trade mark could be of benefit. If you are unsure, always seek legal advice.
Registered trade marks last for 10 years and, although they can take some time to establish, are a steadfast way of protecting your brand.
5. Working with contractors and suppliers
If you work with contractors, freelancers or non-employees on any form of IP development for your business, you should put in place a written agreement which not only describes and records the IP, but which also contains a clause stating that all IP created belongs to your business. Otherwise, the IP can revert to the contractor.
If you need to disclose any confidential IP or trade secrets to third party suppliers, either prior to negotiations or upon commissioning work, always draw up a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) beforehand.
6. Look to the future
Every new business needs to plan for the future, so be sure to think about your IP before forging any new path for your business. Do you intend to take your idea to a wider market than you currently trade to, or are there similar products already in existence? If so, then make sure you have any relevant IP protection in place.
7. Enforcing your IP protection
The law is there to defend your IP. If you believe an organisation has copied your patented product, or plagiarised content you have created, then you may be able to seek redress. Solicitors that specialise in IP can guide and support you through any proceedings.
8. How does IP law protect me?
Civil – and sometimes criminal – prosecutions can be made against those in breach of IP. However, most disputes can be resolved at an earlier stage, by simply using a cease and desist letter.
9. Keep your records
Many businesses whose IP has been breached have lost their cases, or been unable to make a successful challenge due to a lack of record keeping. By creating and keeping comprehensive records, such as IP registration, NDAs and patents, you have absolute proof that your property belongs to you.
10. Protecting your business
Make sure that you understand how to protect any business IP – talk to a solicitor or your local Chamber of Commerce. Also make use of the wide array of IP information and forms available online.
How can we help?
Simply-Docs have a wide selection of ready-to-use document templates that can help businesses to protect intellectual property – including copyright agreements, cease and desist letters, patents and more. Alternatively, to talk about how we can help your business, simply contact our friendly team today.