When you enter the business world you are a jack of all trades; innovator, marketer, fundraiser, coder and creator. With numerous tasks to be across, taking up time and resources, it can be a challenge to focus on intellectual property issues. However, it is crucial to the success of your business that you protect its intellectual property.
A crucial step in building a new venture on a solid foundation is, to have a firm understanding of intellectual property laws. This will help you to develop an Intellectual Property strategy that aligns your business goals.
The first step is to identify what your competitive advantage is. Once you have figured out what sets you apart, you can begin the steps to protect it. In doing so your idea, technology or concept cannot be used by another company without your permission.
What is Intellectual Property?
Intellectual property (IP) refers to ideas, information and knowledge, types of non-physical property, that is the product of original thought. IP laws are in place to protect the creator’s interests, through enforcing legal rights to control and stop the reproduction of these ideas.
As intellectual property is an idea that is conceived in the mind of an individual, it can, therefore, be thought of as their legal property. This becomes more complicated when the idea is manifested in a more tangible way, for example, artistic works, designs, creations, symbols, logos, names and images.
While IP is protected by extensive laws, these can differ from country to country. Issues and disputes can often arise because of unavoidable ambiguities and crossovers between different legislations.
Trademarks, copyright, and patents are different types of intellectual property that businesses should understand.
Copyright is the simplest form of intellectual property, it is designed to protect original work. Typically this is work created by artists, authors and creators. The types of work are often paintings, drawings, logos, lyrics, computer programming, recorded music, music videos, photography and more.
Copyright is put into place to prevent the unauthorised usage and exploitation of the author’s work. It comes into effect the moment the original work is created, which means you do not need to legally register it. While copyright is given to the original creator of the work, it can be sold or leased to a third party, such as a publisher or commissioner.
A trademark is a distinctive sign, used to distinguish the goods and services of a company’s branding from its competitors. A trademark can take many forms, for example, words, slogans, logos, shapes, colours and sounds. It is possible to have trademarks that are similar, as long as the goods or services are operating within different classifications. It is also worth noting that you can register a trademark for more than one class.
The rules regarding what can become a registered trademark are very strict, eligibility is dependent on several factors; how distinctive it is, whether it is misleading and whether a trademark is warranted.
Patient protection is the strongest form of IP protection. Granted by the government, the inventor obtains the right to stop others, for a limited time, from making, selling or using the invention, concept or idea, without their permission. Encouraging the market to have constant innovation and improvement of products, processes and services.
Once obtained, the invention, product or process becomes property of the inventor. They have full control over who can and cannot use it. While it is possible to sell the patent, in most cases, it is rented or hired out for a fee. Patients are considered territorial rights, which means if you own the rights in a country, you can prevent others from importing the patient products.
As a patient gives the owner a lot of control, there are strict measures in place on what can and cannot be patented. These include, it must be of practical use, a novelty within its existing field or inventive in a way that could not be created by someone with an average understanding of the field
There are three types of patents recognized by patent law: utility patents, design patents, and plant patents.
Industrial design protection is the most common form of patients for businesses. It is commonly used to protect the aesthetic aspects of a product or work, that is considered unique to the brand. It could be functionality, features, colours, shapes, etc.
This is a widely used form of protection, as it applies to a huge range of items including household products, jewellery, clothing, electronics, as well as, food items. It ensures exclusive rights to the owner of its usage, preventing the imitation and reproduction of it.