What every business needs to know about intellectual property

Posted: 19th January 2017 15:24

The term “intellectual property” can be applied to anything you’ve created, whether that’s a brand, an invention, a design, or something you’ve made, written or produced. Intellectual property belongs to the person who created it, or anyone who has bought the rights to somebody else’s creation. While intellectual property can belong to more than one person or company, and be sold or transferred, it can also be stolen if it’s not properly protected. Since your intellectual property is likely to be your company’s biggest asset, and give you a competitive edge over others, protecting what’s rightfully yours is essential.
The top tips that every business should be aware of
Once you have familiarised yourself with the concept of intellectual property, and have begun to understand how important it is, you’ll want to think about the ways in which you can protect your own innovations. For example, did you know that your brand isn’t protected until you’ve registered a logo and trademark with the Intellectual Property Office; that it’s a good idea to keep all intellectual property a secret until it’s been trademarked or patented; or that there’s a difference between intellectual property having a Design Right and being put forward as a Registered Design? While knowledge of your competitors’ intellectual property can be a great boost in the right direction, it’s even more important to look after your own creations first.
Be aware
While you’ve taken the first steps towards protecting your intellectual property by choosing to read more on the subject, there’s still so much you could learn. You must understand the difference between terms such as trademark, copyright and patent, and how each can be applied to your intellectual property, as well as immersing yourself in the world of legal rights and know-how. How will the rights of other companies’ intellectual property affect you? The attitude you adopt as you approach this matter will determine how straightforward, or not, matters are likely to become later on.
Create a strategy
It’s a good idea to create a strategy that will help your business, its employees and associates moving forward. Incorporated into your business plan, this strategy will save any confusion later on. For example, who owns the intellectual property generated by your employees, or underneath the umbrella of your business? Under UK law, the employer owns any intellectual property created by employees for the purpose of their employment. However, should intellectual property be created by a contractor, or during a joint venture, you’ll need a written agreement to determine who owns those rights. A strategy will help your business to overcome such hurdles, as well as ensuring that you’re clear on budget when it comes to protecting your property.
Copyrighting your content
The words that you choose to represent your business immediately become your intellectual property, whether that’s via web copy, blog posts or advertisements; these words are yours, but they’re not automatically protected. Similarly, content that’s been created for your competitors is their intellectual property, and may well be protected by patents and copyrights.
The best way to avoid legal pitfalls is to create unique content rather than trying to emulate the words of those around you – who wants to follow the crowd, anyway? Seeking the expertise of a content marketing company is one of the best ways to ensure that your web copy and blog posts are unique, engaging, and just for you. Once copyrighted, this content – your intellectual property – is yours, and yours alone.
Regardless of who is producing content and intellectual property for your company, it’s always worth thinking about Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) and how such a document could protect your rights and property moving forward. Your intellectual property will remain among your business’s most powerful assets in the weeks, months and years ahead, so protect it wisely and carefully.