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Why it Pays for Businesses to Watch Their IP's and Q's

View profile for Rebecca Seldon
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An Associate Solicitor in JCP Solicitors’ Business Litigation team, Rebecca Seldon specialises in advising SMEs with commercial and contractual disputes.  Here, she shares her expertise in the important area of Intellectual Property.

Intellectual Property (IP) theft and infringement costs British businesses billions of pounds each year– particularly in the software, electronics, pharmaceuticals and financial services sectors.

In fact, any creative business, whether a fledgling SME with a great idea and product at its core, or a large international corporation operating in a competitive field, needs to protect its IP in the race to secure deals in increasingly competitive market.

IP rights, if utilised and protected, can become a business’ most valuable asset.

To give an overview, there are various types of IP rights businesses should be aware of, including:

  • Patent - a type of registered IP that protects inventions which are the products of processes.
  • Trade secrets - an unregistered type of IP that consists of information which is confidential. Trade secrets can be protected under contract and/or common law.
  • Trade marks – these are used to distinguish one source of goods and services from another which enables consumers to identify goods and/or services as coming from a particular source. Trade marks can be registered or unregistered.
  • Design rights – these protect a design. Designs rights can be registered or unregistered.
  • Copyright – this protects against reproduction, translation, distribution, broadcasting and adaptation of numerous types of works.  Copyright is an unregistered right that arises automatically on creation of a work if it is original.
  • Database rights – these are unregistered IP rights to protect a collection of independent works, data or other materials arranged in a systematic way and accessible by electronic or other means.

Here are some tips for different types of intellectual property that businesses might want to consider:

  • Registration - Some IP rights are registerable. This gives more certainty because it provides a statutory right to sue for infringement, which can act as a strong deterrent to competitors.
  • Trade marks - Being able to stand out from the crowd and to be identifiable is priceless. If you have a registered trade mark, use the ® logo to evidence your ownership. If a trade mark cannot be registered, it can be enforced by other means including the ‘tort’ of passing off for trade mark infringement. Although this is far more costly and difficult to prove than if a trade mark is registered.
  • Designs – You might want to consider registering key products in more than one way, by perhaps registering parts as well or by registering products in or more than one format.
  • Patents - You should not publish a patent before an application is filed.
  • Copyright - Consider using the copyright © symbol to make it clear that copyright subsists in an original work.

Businesses that leave themselves vulnerable to IP infringement can be faced with costly disputes in the Courts. Recent years have seen some high profile battles, including over the design of Trunki children’s luggage and even the ownership of the rights in a photograph taken by a macaque monkey!

Investing time at the outset to ensure that your business’ IP assets are protected can save you valuable time and resources and can help you avoid costly litigation. The law relating to IP rights is always evolving, so it is wise to seek legal advice to ensure your business is protected.

For further advice, contact Rebecca on 01792 525 420 or by email at: rebecca.seldon@jcpsolicitors.co.uk

Rebecca advises SMEs in a variety of industries with commercial and contractual disputes. In increasingly competitive markets, Rebecca also advises clients on how to protect their vital Intellectual Property rights. She recognises the complex technical issues that are often interlinked with Intellectual Property disputes and can act in enforcing and defending disputes arising from infringement of Copyright, Trade marks, Patents and Designs.

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