Intellectual property (or 'IP') means creations of the mind - creative, technology or brand related - that can be protected by a variety of 'IP rights' including copyright, trade marks, design rights, patents, trade secrets etc.
know your ip rights
Know Your IP Rights
For more information on how individual IP rights can help you protect and profit from your creations, technology and brand, see the links at the bottom of this page.
Protect & Profit
IP rights can be hugely valuable assets. Amongst other things, they can:
Act as barriers to market entry for potential competitors, where you can enforce your IP rights against others who 'infringe' them, including online copying.
Be sold or licensed in return for payment or other benefits.
Attract investors, partners or customers.
Be used as security for a loan.
Protect Your Investment
You may invest a lot of time and money in developing your creative products, technologies or brand, and they could be critical to the success of your business. You should make sure they have appropriate protection so you can exploit them to realise full returns on your investment as your business launches and grows.
Some IP rights arise automatically, some require you to file an application and pay maintenance fees.
If you don't manage your creations or inventions carefully from the start, you may lose the ability to protect them with IP rights, leaving others free to use them or even to block you from using them.
Worth the Investment
Although it may seem a large expense at an early stage of your venture, it is worth investment upfront in legal advice and if needed application fees, to protect the long-term value in your business.
Did you know: some funding may be available to start-ups to help them meet IP costs: click for more information on Funding.
Share With Care
You need to think about how you are going to protect your IP from the outset - before you share with anyone else.
If you are thinking about seeking patent protection for an invention, for example, you need to keep it secret until you are ready to file your patent application - so share with care. Any publication, mention at an exhibition or conference, or public use could 'destroy the novelty' of your idea and render it unpatentable in most countries.
If you want to keep your idea protected as a trade secret, it is essential to keep it confidential.
If you want to share confidential information, use a written non-disclosure agreement (NDA) or make sure you include confidentiality terms in a broader contract, and mark relevant materials 'confidential.'
If you are seeking funding from investors who will not sign an NDA, do not feel you have to share everything with them. Keep your confidential ideas to yourself and just show them the results - what you can do with your idea/invention. Investors will respect this and be reassured that you are protecting your valuable business assets.
If you want to share a design prototype with potential customers at trade exhibitions or focus groups: if you are thinking of seeking registered design right protection, make sure you file beforehand, or within the relevant country 'grace period' afterwards (12 months in the UK and EU).
Also be careful what information or ideas you receive from others on a confidential basis. If this gets mixed up with your own ideas or information which you later publish, you may find yourself the subject of a breach of confidence claim. If you don't need to see it, don't accept it unless you can do so on a non- confidential basis.
Look Before Launch
IP rights cut both ways: your competitors, partners and customers will also be looking to leverage their IP rights to maximise benefit for them. this may mean:
Using their IP rights to block your commercial activities or
Oppose your applications to register your IP rights.
Before launching your IP right application or your product or marketing campaign, it is time well spent to check there are not third party IP rights that could block you - saving costs on having to re-brand or redesign your product, and avoid any reputational damage.