Intellectual Property protection – how to protect your IP

Intellectual property enables people to ‘own’ the idea they create, this applies to any creation, whether you are an entrepreneur, an inventor or an artist.

If you have a new idea, the first step is to check whether your creation is already in existence, or whether there is the existing technology that can help with the development of your idea and can be done by using a patents database to check whether this is the case.

The Development Stage

Once you are in the development stage of your creation, you could draw on other people’s expertise that could include using other people’s technology in the development of your idea requiring licensing. The license would grant you the owner’s permission to use the technology, and will also state the conditions upon which you can use this technology. It may be possible to get a license to use works that are protected by copyright, registered trademarks, registered design or inventions that have been protected by patents.

If you discuss your idea/creation with other people, it is advisable to ensure they sign a Non-disclosure agreement before you begin your discussions preventing them from discussing your idea with other.

Pre-Market Entry Stage

One option to protect your technology/creation from the competition is to file for a patent protecting the processes and features of your invention, preventing others from selling or copying your design unless they have permission. A license will also allow you to licence the invention while still retaining the intellectual property rights. If you do not patent your product, anyone else will be able to sell or construct your creation themselves.

If you believe your invention is patentable, then you will need to apply for a patent. It is possible to apply online with the Intellectual Property Office. If you choose to apply by post, a completed application will include an abstract summarising the features of your creation, a completed Form 1 and a description of your invention, which includes any sketches/drawings.

If your production is creative and unique, you may consider design registration. This protection lasts for 25 years, as long as you renew your protection every five years this will give you monopoly protection over your creation, protecting the appearance of the design. It costs £60 to apply for design registration. One advantage of having design registration is that it is relatively easy to enforce, as there is no need to prove your design was copied intentionally.

You should be aware of the fact that artistic and original works are cover by copyright automatically.

Market Entry Stage

If you cannot manufacture your product/creation yourself, and, therefore, need to outsource this, you can protect your creation by ensuring the manufacturers sign a non-disclosure agreement.

Additionally, if you have a patented product, you will be able to licence out this technology to other companies, which could bring technological and financial benefits.

If You Are Starting a Business

It is not enough to register your business’s name with Companies House, as this will not protect it from being used by others. To ensure you have full protection if your idea against the use of your company’s name, it is advisable to register it as a trademark. A brand needs to be renewed every ten years to remain active. Registering for a trademark can be done quickly online.

If your business has a website, it is important to be aware of the fact that if you sub-contract the task of designing your website to someone else, they will keep the copyright of that work. If it is part of your contract with them for them to assign that copyright to you, then they will no longer own the copyright. If you have any original information on your website, it is worth adding the date and owners name along with the copyright symbol (©) at the bottom of the page.