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Outshining your competition? 5 Key Strategies to Safeguard your Intellectual Property

Friday October 20, 2023

Intellectual Property (IP) encompasses a wide range of creative works, designs, inventions, and innovations produced by individuals and groups. In today’s world, where information is easily accessible and distributable, protecting your intellectual creations from infringement, copyright, and thieves is crucial for both individuals and businesses.

IP protection not only prevents your innovations from being copied or stolen but also serves as an incentive, allowing your creations to benefit more people without violating your rights. Our commercial litigation and professional negligence team delves deeper into the way you can protect your intellectual property. 

What is Intellectual Property?

The definition of Intellectual Property is something that is created using the mind, for example, a story, an invention, an artistic work or a symbol. You automatically own intellectual property if you created it and it meets the criteria for copyright, trademark or patent (see below), or if you have purchased or agreed to take on intellectual property rights from the creator or previous owner, or have a brand that could be a trade mark. If you’ve been commissioned to create work on behalf of someone else, you still own the intellectual property unless there is a contract that stipulates otherwise. 

Register Copyrights, Trademarks, and Patents

Copyright, trademark, registration and patent protection are fundamental forms of IP safeguarding. They grant exclusive rights to your creative works, designs, and inventions, especially concerning commercial use.

  • Copyright ©: Copyright applies to both tangible and intangible creative works, such as writing, literary works, photography, films and web content, to name a few. While you automatically own the copyright upon the work’s creation, registering your work makes it easier to validate your ownership, especially in a legal dispute. Copyrights typically last for 70 years after the creator’s death.
  • Trademark ™: Trademarks protect symbols, logos, slogans, and designs used for branding and marketing. They are essential for businesses to establish a unique identity and guard against commercial saboteurs. Trademarks don’t have expiration dates, but trademark owners should file periodic declarations to confirm active use. This can take up to four months. 
  • Patent ®: Patents safeguard unique products, machines, chemicals, or equipment. By filing for a patent, you prevent others from making and distributing your invention without your consent. The validity of a patent in the UK is 5 years, with a yearly renewal thereafter up to a maximum of 20 years.
  • Registering a Design: Registering a design helps to protect the appearance of products and other tangible works. It covers the look, shape, packaging, patterns and decoration.

Register Business, Product, or Domain Names

If you intend to launch a business based on your IP, consider registering the associated business, product, and website domain names. This provides additional protection for your identity and prevents potential confusion with similar ideas or names. Even in the early stages of business planning, securing these names can be crucial and acts as a form of business research to help you ensure that you are not infringing on someone else’s copyrighted material.

Create Confidentiality, Non-Disclosure, or Licensing Contracts

Protecting sensitive information or trade secrets is essential. We recommend keeping your ideas and plans a secret, otherwise, people could register trademarks and copyright before you, meaning your ownership is nulled unless you can prove otherwise. Confidentiality agreements (also known as non-disclosure agreements) ensure that any employees, partners or friends who have access to confidential data or trade secrets do not disclose them. Licensing agreements grant third-party partners access to your products, defining the terms of use, branding, and distribution.

Implement Robust Security Measures

With most business operations relying on technology, implementing robust security measures is very beneficial. This can include setting up password protection, encrypting data, using virtual private networks, and ensuring secure Wi-Fi access. Investing in reliable software tools and digital asset management solutions can help safeguard your IP.

Avoid Joint Ownership

Joint ownership of intellectual property can lead to complications. Each owner can use the IP without consulting others, which may create issues with control, enforcement and profit-sharing. In the case of creative or collaborative efforts, joint ownership can lead to creative differences, which can cause difficulty for both parties. In the event that one owner wishes to exit the joint ownership, it can be tricky to determine the value of their share and come to an agreement about the transfer of rights. Oftentimes, it’s more straightforward to have a single entity retain ownership. 

Get in touch

Remember that intellectual property is a valuable business asset, setting your business apart and providing a potential revenue stream. Protecting your IP is a necessary investment in securing your creative works and innovations from unauthorised use and ensuring that you benefit from your creations. At CWC Solicitors, our experts are well-versed in copyright law and can help you make informed choices regarding your IP. If you have questions or need assistance, reach out to our expert team. 

Did you know that intellectual property can be legally protected? CWC delves into ways you can protect your intellectual property.