Intellectual property and how to protect it
At a time when the economic outlook still appears to be relatively hazy, businesses are pulling out all the stops to ensure that their portfolio of products and services stay on consumers’ radar to ensure that they avoid becoming yet another casualty of the economic downturn.
One of the key ways that businesses can stay ahead of the competition, and carve out a definite space for themselves in the marketplace, is by having a strong USP.
From an innovative product range to a cohesive brand, having a key strength that marks your business out from others in the same or related fields is essential to continued business success, no matter the economic backdrop you are operating against.
With this in mind it is essential that businesses put into place measures to protect their intellectual property, so that they can guard the very assets that make them unique.
What is intellectual property?
Intellectual property covers a wide range of areas that relate to the individual ideas created by a company, and can range from anything from a brand or logo to a product’s design or appearance.
For many businesses, protecting their intellectual property is paramount to the strength of their operation, hence why they are prepared to go to great lengths to ensure that ideas, content, software and artwork remains in their ownership and does not fall into the hands of competitors.
How can I protect my business’s intellectual property?
Depending on the nature of your intellectual property it can be protected by copyright, patents or trademarks.
Copyright: Copyright protects original works such as literary and written work, illustration and photography, and computer software and is automatically enforced in countries that have signed up to the Berne Convention.
Copyright lasts for a minimum of 50 years, or 25 years for photographs. Before being made public the piece of work should feature the following: the copyright symbol (©), the copyright holder’s name and the year the work was created.
Trademark: A trademark is applicable to something that makes your brand identifiable such as a unique strapline.
Companies can register their trademark at the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), who will refuse or accept the application. Trademarks last for 10 years in the country they were granted in, and can be renewed every 10 years.
Patents: Patents relate to protection for new inventions that can be physically created or used, such as new schemes, rules or methods.
Securing a patent can be a lengthy process; taking as long as four years or more to be granted, and again you will need to submit your patent application to the IPO. Many businesses and individuals call on a patent attorney to support them in this process.
If your business is struggling, you may also want to call on the support of insolvency practitioners.