Intellectual property increasingly forms the backbone of your business and it’s most valuable asset.
Understanding the value, legalities and best way to commercially take advantage of and protect intellectual property can be difficult and confusing, especially for start up or early stage businesses.
Intellectual property can be protected and exploited in many ways.
Identify and protecting your intellectual property –IP audits are highly successful in identifying assets, potential risks and clarifying ownership. IP assets do not just include inventions or trademarks but include critical databases, website IP, social media accounts, brand protection and know how. IP legal advice includes maximising the business potential of your assets (perhaps including tax advice and the right structure to ringfence those assets) and the actions required to either prevent or stop infringement. For many businesses, it is important to set immediate, medium term and long term priorities and to plan and establish budgets, including legal spend. Audits identify the most important issues and those that can wait if necessary.
Once assets have been identified, it’s worth taking advice on the possibilities for commercial exploitation, such as licence or distribution agreements, joint venture or negotiating with affiliates or joint venture contracts. It is important to take steps to protect assets both from internal and external threats. Unfortunately, it is all too common for information and assets to be at risk from internal sources just as much as from competitors. Protections should be built into employment agreements, consultancy agreements, commercial documentation and even shareholders agreements.
Administrative issues – businesses are frequently too busy to deal with the administrative tasks involved in protection of intellectual property which creates vulnerability. Keeping a register of your assets and monitoring for possible breach, such as counterfeit checks on Ebay and other websites as one example, are also important. If you are considering talks with outsiders on confidential matters relating to your business a non-disclosure agreement can protect your position before the information is disclosed
Stopping intellectual property infringement – In many cases, quick and decisive action is vital, especially with confidential information such as a database, software, invention or design. Irreparable damage can be caused within days in these situations without decisive action being taken and this can include international legal intervention bearing in mind that information often gets dissipated rapidly. In these situations, it is imperative to collect evidence quickly and where necessary use injunction applications to minimise damage and prevent ongoing loss.
Not all use of intellectual property without your permission will amount to infringement. However, it is important to know when it is. For example, intellectual property can be licensed for use by another.
Useful IP resources