HM Insights

5 things you need to know about Intellectual Property

1. Do you understand what intellectual property is from a practical perspective?

Some common misconceptions include the belief that copyright can protect ideas, and that a company name registration gives rights in a brand. Many practical considerations exist around patent rights. Domain names sit apart, governed by a multitude of national and international policies. Copyright protects, literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. Patents protect innovative things and ways of doing things. Registered trade marks protect 'badges of origin'. Registered designs protect designs with appeal to the eye and unregistered designs protect shape and configuration.
Know your landscape.

2. Do you have freedom to operate and do you own your intellectual property?

Intellectual property rights allow holders to limit and control what other people can do. Before you start operating in the market it is important to check that you're able to do what you intend to do, without accidentally causing liability to arise. Basic "freedom to operate" research is simple, but hugely worthwhile, whether it takes the form of a prior registered trade mark search, patent rights search, or registered design search.

Intellectual property can exist in many things, from customer lists, software, designs and images, to marketing material, products and their workings, names and logos. If a creator isn't an employee whose duties encompass creation of the relevant intellectual property (for example they are a consultant or service provider), your business won't own the intellectual property they create. To give you dependability and freedom to operate, and to allow your business to attract investment, you'll need to ensure it's transferred into your business.

3. Have you protected your brand and registered your rights?

Some intellectual property rights come into being automatically, others require a registration process to be undertaken.

It takes a while, and a degree of expense, to generate goodwill of a level to allow rights in a brand to automatically arise. Registered trade mark rights and domain name registrations can give you control over a brand from the outset and are often cost effective to obtain. Without registered trade mark rights, you may find it very difficult to stop people trading under a name or mark the same or similar to that which you have chosen. If you've developed innovative products or methods, have you thought about applying for patent rights? Have you thought through what you need to do to make sure you have the strongest protection available?

4. Have you thought about the consequences of who you're speaking with?

Disclosure of your ideas to potential partners, providers and collaborators without an appropriate confidentiality agreement in place can put you at risk. Particularly, the ability to patent can be lost through making information available or accessible to the public. Confidentiality agreements protect you in this respect.

5. Do you keep records?

Many intellectual property related issues are avoided through the retention of proper records, whether those records detail the source of and responsibility for developing software code, contain copies of marketing material and describe advertising spend, or record unregistered know-how. Record keeping facilitates action under the law relating to passing off, helps rebut examiner queries in registration processes, and protects your business from loss of key individuals. It also helps facilitate investment transactions.

Should you have a question or issue that you would like to discuss with the team, please feel free to get in touch emailing jo.nisbet@harpermacleod.co.uk or pick up the phone and call 0141 227 9607.