Why protect your IP?
Intellectual property rights are often a business’ best kept secret. Managers are typically well aware of the cost and value of their physical assets, such as plant and machinery, and most are conscious of the cost and benefit of their people. However, there is often large value in the intangible assets of a company, such as the brand’s trademarks or patent portfolio. SMEs need to understand what IP rights they are entitled to and how best to exploit or enforce them for the benefit of the company.
What mistakes do businesses make?
While business owners are usually familiar with key areas of intellectual property, many do not register their IP rights which can create issues with enforcement further down the line.
For brand protection, registering a trademark with the UK Intellectual Property Office is the first step. This ensures brand elements such as names or logos for a product or service are protected and means that another party may be prevented from using the same or very similar marks. This process is relatively inexpensive and can be done online. A key tip is to think carefully about the relevant classes and specifications you want the trade mark to be registered for.
Obtaining patents to protect new ideas and inventions is highly valuable – or in some cases crucial – and can be the key factor in a business maintaining a competitive advantage in a market. Until a patent application is made, it is essential that the idea is kept secret, or it will be deemed to have become public knowledge and therefore will not be patentable.
Trade secrets are an often-forgotten area of IP. A tip here is to ensure information shared with another party is expressly described as confidential and ideally protected by a written contract, such as a non-disclosure agreement.
Key tips for maximising your IP:
The key to monetising your IP rights is, where possible, to ensure you know the scope of your protection and the extent to which those rights are enforceable – whether through registration, keeping a record of copyright or ensuring agreements are in place to maintain confidentiality. Where this hasn’t happened, or if your rights have been infringed, seek advice from an IP lawyer as soon as possible and don’t be put off by the perception that their advice is costly. If you have a valid claim, there are often options available such as litigation funding, which can cover all of the costs of enforcing or defending your rights and getting back any money that you may be entitled to.
By Robert Fahrenheim
About the author
Rob is Head of Intellectual Property at litigation and disputes funder Augusta Ventures.
Rob’s role involves sourcing disputes, reviewing cases and undertaking commercial and financial structuring decisions to ensure the successful funding of matters. He is known for taking an open-minded, flexible and innovative approach to funding claims. His expertise in his area enables Augusta to fund a broad range of Intellectual Property disputes, including standalone and non-damages claims.
Prior to joining Augusta, Rob was a member of the IP department at Bird & Bird. His practice focussed on intellectual property litigation, predominantly patent and trade mark disputes in the life sciences and media, entertainment and sport sectors. Whilst at Bird & Bird Rob acted for multinationals, SMEs and private individuals in a variety of ground-breaking disputes. He also has experience of coordinating litigation on behalf of groups of claimants, as well as managing pan-EU litigation strategies. Rob’s experience in the area allows him to devise creative and practical funding solutions for claimants and law firms alike.
Rob holds an MSc in Intellectual Property Law from St Mary’s University London, in addition to a Pharmacology degree and LLB in Law from Nottingham Law School.
Kizzi Nkwocha is the editor of Business Game Changer Magazine and publisher of The UK Newspaper, Money and Finance Magazine, the net’s fastest growing wealth creation publication. Kizzi Nkwocha is chair of The Ethical Publishers Association and co-chair of The Logistics Association. Kizzi made his mark in the UK as a publicist, journalist and social media pioneer. As a widely respected and successful media consultant he has represented a diverse range of clients including the King of Uganda, and Amnesty International. Nkwocha has also become a well-known personality on both radio and television. He has been the focus of a Channel 4 documentary on publicity and has hosted his own talk show, London Line, on Sky TV. He has also produced and presented both radio and TV shows in Cyprus and Spain.