In today’s blog I will discuss the meaning of intellectual property and also its importance to small businesses. Intellectual property also known as IP is used to refer to anything that has been created such as; literary pieces, designs, inventions, brand names, and also musical pieces. IP is protected by law through patents, trademarks and copyrights which allows the author to have the authorisation over who can distribute and use their work. IP is needed to protect your work and yourself.
Protecting your business
So, now that you have a brief understanding surrounding intellectual property lets delve a little deeper. IP isn’t something that you create yourself and ideas do not count as IP under the UK law, but of course the outcomes of those ideas do. Whenever a business introduces something into the world there is a risk that they are unleashing something that has been copied. This risk has risen due to the internet which makes it much, much easier for unique IPs to be copied and stolen. It is particularly crucial for small businesses to be mindful of this as it is vital they secure their IP. If you have built up your business around your IP and someone comes around and steals it for all it’s worth then you can be faced with the risk of losing your market share. Alas, there are protections and rights that make it easier to take legal action if a scenario like this was to arise. Furthermore, if your business doesn’t revolve around your IP then it is still important to be mindful of the intellectual property laws to make sure your business isn’t accidentally stealing from somebody else.
Carry out an IP audit
I’m sure you’re wondering now: “How am I able to protect my intellectual property?” Well, this is how you do it. You do get some IP rights automatically from the get-go but it all depends on the type of intellectual property you are working with as you may need to register it as well. A good bit of advice is to have a deep dive and look at your business to see what IP you have that would require protection, this is called an IP audit and like most audits they can help value your IP assets just the same if they were physical ones.
As most would know copyright stops people from claiming your work as their own or using it without your permission. The copyright laws safeguard; art, films, TV, photography, writing and literary pieces, web content, sound records and music. When it comes to small businesses two examples of what copyright can apply to are, original photographs and any web pages you make. It’s important to know that you can’t claim copyright on names or slogans for your business but you can sometimes trademark them. Furthermore, it is very important to make sure your business isn’t infringing on anyone else’s copyright, especially when it comes to using resources on the internet. You can’t assume that just because it’s on the internet it’s within the public domain. If you are in the market to copyright your work, then good news for you! Your work will be protected automatically and if you want you can choose to mark your work with the copyright symbol, your name, and the year it was created if you desire.
Trademarks can also be utilised as a form of protection and you are able to register phrases, words, logos, 3D shapes, and designs to be trademarked with your business. The idea behind trademarks is that a person or company can express the history, quality and uniqueness of their work under a legally registered trademark. The rules to what can and cannot be trademarked are very strict and the go ahead on a trademark counts on a number of factors which include; whether or not it is misleading, how distinctive it is and whether or not a trademark is actually needed.
Overall, being a small business you need to watch your back at every turn and sorting IP rights out, keeping yourself and your company safe is the best action to take when thinking about longevity. If you have any IP questions or would like to speak to an IP Expert, just click here
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