Whether a startup business or one with a longstanding history, some of the most important aspects of your business can be those which are easily overlooked. In addition to those tangible assets that are on the balance sheet, the intellectual property underpinning your business is often of vital importance. In the modern world, intellectual property can be one of the most valuable assets that a company has. Putting in place simple steps to defend it is vital for the continuing success of a business.
1 – Register Everything
First and foremost, registering your intellectual property should be the first line of defence. In the UK, registering a trademark or design right is in most cases very cost effective and straight forward and will assist in the protection of your brand and bespoke products. Inventions which may be commercially successful should also justify the greater costs of registering a patent.
The Intellectual Property Office is the government body responsible for all IP rights in the UK. You can find much helpful information on its website as regards how to register your IP.
Remember, you own the intellectual property if you create something protectable. If an employee creates something in the course of their employment, the business who employs that employee will own any IP subsisting in the creation. There may be cases where you or your business have bought rights from the original creator or owner in order to make sure that you control them.
2 – Monitor Competitor Behaviour
Keeping a keen eye on the activity in the market is key if you want to spot any misuse of your IP. New companies and new products trying to piggyback on your rights to shortcut the time and cost you have invested in your brand or products can be the easiest to spot, but you may even find cases of long-standing competitors skirting the line of infringement.
Having one individual conduct periodic searches online and in trade specific sources is only a small task, but it can be extremely beneficial if misuse of your IP is uncovered before the infringement becomes material.
3 – Documentation
Comprehensive and thorough documenting and record keeping is one of the best defences when it comes to your IP. In the event that a matter becomes contentious, these documents will comprise the evidence and proof which supports your case. Ensuring such data or documents are dated or time stamped and the author clearly recorded should be a priority in terms of normal housekeeping.
4 – Object To and Challenge Unlawful Use of Your IP
Even with the above best practice put into place, there will always remain a likelihood of your IP being infringed or misused. For this reason, you need to be prepared to defend your business and maintain the integrity of your IP when infringement or misuse is discovered. Sometimes something as simple as a cease and desist letter can work, as many companies or individuals will fear further repercussions or full-blown legal action if they do not explore a resolution of the dispute with you on sensible commercial terms. Injunctions and court action may also be required depending on the severity of the infringement.