World Intellectual Property Day – 5 key steps to protect your intellectual property
World Intellectual Property Day 2022 will be marked on 26th April and is designed to raise awareness about protecting the various types of intellectual property. Each year usually focuses on a particular theme, and this year’s theme is focused on youth and innovating for a better future.
Based on this theme, we thought it would be helpful to go back to basics, and so in this article, we look at five of the key things all business owners (and budding entrepreneurs!) should look at.
1. Take stock of all of your intellectual property
First things first, in order to properly manage your intellectual property, you will need to look at what you already have in place. You should establish procedures for reviewing your IP including trademarks, patents, copyrights and designs.
You will also want to think about property related to registered IP, such as domain names. The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has a free health check tool [https://www.ipo.gov.uk/whyuse/business/iphealthcheck.htm] which allows you to determine what IP you own and what still needs to be protected.
2. Check that what you plan to protect is original
If you have property you are yet to register, such as a business name, logo, patent or trademark, you must check that it is original before you attempt to take steps to protect it. You can use patent searches or trademark searches early on in the process to determine whether someone else has protected something identical or similar to your idea or design. This can be a complicated process, and you may wish to instruct a professional to assist you.
3. Register your property
Registering intellectual property can take some time, so you will want to begin as early as possible. To register a trademark, the process will usually take around six months. To register a patent in the UK, it will take two to four years, but it may be possible to have a patent fast-tracked. A specialist solicitor or patent attorney will be able to advise you whether your application might qualify.
4. Check and update your contracts
One of the biggest dangers for intellectual property is actually your own employees, suppliers, designers, and other staff members. It is vital that your employment contracts and contracts for consultancy clearly state that your business is the owner of any intellectual property that arises from work carried out. Similarly, your workers should keep evidence of the development of intellectual property, such as dated drawings and signed copies. This can help, should an IP dispute arise.
5. Check for infringements regularly
While properly registering your intellectual property goes a long way to prevent infringement, it is still very common. You should establish processes in your business to check for infringement regularly. This may include simple steps such as using search engines to look for anyone passing off your IP as their own. If you find infringements, you should seek the advice of a specialist intellectual property lawyer.
Here to Help
If you would like to discuss any matters regarding director’s duties, please get in touch with Michael Budd, Partner and Head of Company Commercial.
Please note the contents of this article are given for information only and must not be relied upon. Legal advice should always be sought in relation to specific circumstances.