Intellectual property (IP) is the intangible property that is created by an individual’s mind. Although you cannot protect your intellectual property until it has been translated into something physical, for example, you have written it down.
IP is an umbrella expression for four main rights:
- Copyright – this predominately protects the creative and artistic works of your company, for example – songs, movies, books and photos. However, in relation to software, copyright protects the source code from being copied by others;
- Designs – protect (amongst other things) the original shape of an object;
- Patents – these give you a monopoly on your “inventive concept” for up to 20 years; and
- Trademarks – are something, such as names, logos or a slogans, that identify and differentiate your business to the consumer.
By protecting your IP, you can stop your rivals from benefiting from your creations.
If you’re planning to start a business, or already have a business which deals in fresh creations, you will want to protect these from your rivals. However, without the correct protection, you could miss out on the benefits of exploiting those creations. The following are a few starter tips to protect your business:
- Begin by ensuring that your employment and consultancy contracts clearly state your ownership of all intellectual property developed by you;
- Be careful with your research – check to see whether your creation is already protected by someone else; and
- Don’t disclose your intellectual property before protecting it, for example when you are sharing your creations with others.
If you fail to pay attention to IP, by taking a “we can’t afford lawyers” approach, it could lead to issues further down the line. The best approach is to spend the time on developing an IP strategy as early as possible.
If you are serious about protecting yourself, your product and your future then seek the help of experts. IP Lawyers, Waterfront Solicitors LLP, are based in London and offer a free initial chat, which could prove invaluable in protecting your IP.