Did you know that as much as 80% of some companies’ value can be derived from their intangible assets – their intellectual property?
Whatever the value, all businesses, regardless of size, will have some form of intellectual property. Your business name for example, or web address.
So, we thought we’d take a look at 4 of the most common types of intellectual property and how you can go about protecting your intellectual property.
Trade secrets are commercial information which provide a business with a competitive edge and are therefore kept secret.
A trade secret for example could be a recipe used in creating a product, computer programmes or scripts or processes used for creating a product.
Information may be kept as a trade secret if isn’t doesn’t quite meet the criteria for patenting. Or if the business doesn’t want to go through the process of obtaining a patent. In most cases the patent procedure requires revealing information relating to the secret meaning it therefore becomes public information.
According to the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA) Trade secrets in the UK are protected by common law under the law of confidence. It is up to the business to make its best efforts to keep the information secret however – the use of contracts, non disclosure agreements and non-compete documents for example would be common ways of achieving this.
The British Library defines a trademark as distinguishing ‘the goods or services of one trader from another and can take many forms; for example, words, slogans, logos, shapes, colours and sounds.’
You must apply for a trademark. You can apply to protect your trademark via the gov.uk website. Once granted, trademark protection affords many rights such as:
- The right to take legal action against someone who uses your trademark (without permission)
- The right to put the trademark symbol against your brand
- The ability to sell and licence your brand
Refer to the gov.uk website for how to apply for a trademark and a list of things which can be trademarked. We also recently looked at how to trademark a business name so it may be worth giving our blog a read.
Copyright protection is given automatically – as a business you do not have to apply for it or pay a fee to obtain it. It is a legal right.
Copyright protection is automatically applied to original pieces of work. It will protect your work and prevent others from using it without your permission. How long copyright protection lasts depends on the type of work. But once the copyright expires, the work is in the public domain.
Copyright can protect things including books, manuals, paintings, music, technical plans, promotional literature and advertising. So, it’s not hard to see how it could be vitally important to your business.
As a copyright owner you can use, sell or licence your work to another user.
The important thing with copyright is to keep on top of your work to ensure no copying is happening. There is no copyright register so it will be up to you to ensure your copyright is not breached. Something which can prove difficult in today’s digital world where, in 2018 in the UK, 25% of content consumed online infringed copyright.
Patents protect inventions. If you have a patent in place then you can take legal action against anyone who uses, sells or imports your invention without your permission.
The gov.uk website states that for a patent to be granted, inventions must be
- Something that can be made or used
Applying for a patent is quite a long, difficult and expensive process so a business must be sure that is the right approach for their work before going ahead. It is also worth checking that other forms of intellectual property protection wouldn’t be better placed to protect your invention.
Why is intellectual property so important to businesses?
Intellectual property can be so important to businesses of all sizes. Your business will likely be built on intellectual property. Your business name and domain are two simple examples. Thanks to HMRC schemes to encourage increased innovation and intellectual property, over £3.5bn was provided in tax relief support in the UK in 2017.
Intellectual property can be vital to your revenue and future earnings. If, for example, someone started copying your product and selling it at a cheaper price, could your business survive? Or if another business started trading online using a near identical web address and business name, taking traffic from your website how would you cope?
These are all things to keep in mind when it comes to the importance of intellectual property to your business.
Businesses also need to bear in mind the importance of not infringing on the intellectual property of others. Defending intellectual property infringement legal action can be costly and time consuming.
How can you protect your intellectual property?
There are many ways to protect your intellectual property.
- Register your intellectual property in the right way – e.g. trademarks, patents etc. Ensuring you have the right status in place for your intangible assets is vital.
- Keep track of your work – this will help you identify if people do infringe your copyright or breach your trademark etc.
- Take relevant steps to protect your work – put in place contracts and non-disclosure agreements where necessary. If you have copyright, then you can look into licensing it so that others can use your work correctly.
- Take out intellectual property insurance – there are many types of intellectual property insurance available, depending on your needs as a business. Read our guide here.
Our Managing Director, Mark Stevenson, who specialises in intellectual property insurance suggests that creating a register of all of the intellectual property that you hold is a good place to start. From here, you can then work out to what extent your intellectual property has commercial value. How much it is worth to your business. And therefore, the steps you need to take to protect it.
As noted above, one way to protect different types of intellectual property is through intellectual property insurance. Read Mark’s take on the importance of intellectual property insurance – particularly for smaller companies who may face challenges from big corporations.
At Anthony Jones we work hard to ensure that our customers have the right insurance covers in place to protect their business. We can help you understand the risks you may face and how intellectual property insurance may be of benefit. If you have any questions call us on 020 8290 9080 or alternatively email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always happy to help.