01 Feb Intellectual Property (IP) protection
Intellectual Property (IP) protection can in some instances be the greatest asset of your business. Think of some businesses like every app you’ve ever heard of. IT companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, AirBnB, Uber, PayPal, Dyson, Pixar, Amazon, etc have enormous value in their IP. These are just a small snapshot. Most medium to large businesses have large amounts of intellectual property.
These businesses are founded on their intellectual property…
When a business has:
- a new idea or new process,
- a way of doing things,
- an invention,
- a problem solving method,
- a revolutionary design,
- a logo,
- a name etc
…it can all be extremely valuable.
Or it can be of little worth.
The intangible nature of this area makes it really strange and exciting. An idea could be worth a billion dollars with the right execution and timing. It could be worth nothing. Or it could be worth anywhere in between…
IP is worth protecting
The main thing to keep in mind is that just like all property, IP is worth protecting in some way.
Most small businesses could have a new process that they would like advice about. It could be patenting a process, protecting a logo or design that they really like and don’t want anyone else to copy. It could also be a name for the business or product, perhaps a tag-line that no-one else has thought of before.
Protecting your IP can be expensive
Certainly a pragmatic approach needs to be taken to all this and a cost-benefit analysis needs to be undertaken. Taking steps to protecting your IP can get expensive. It depends on what you are protecting and the lengths at which you are willing to go to protect it.
Your IP needs registering in the right location/s
Generally, your IP needs to be registered in the jurisdiction in which you want it to be protected. i.e. if you’re sure that you are going to be trading in the US, Europe, UK, NZ etc, you should consider registering in those jurisdictions.
There are now various protocols and international agreements set up to allow all this to occur. And with global trade becoming more common and knowledge in this area generally increasing, it’s becoming of greater importance to those businesses trading internationally.
NDA vs no NDA
There is much debate nowadays I’m seeing in groups with individuals who try and tell entrepreneurs that “ideas are worthless, it’s all about execution” and that “it’s all a matter of trust and you should trust your developer and you don’t need them to sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement), this is what they do for a living and they hear thousands of ideas, they don’t need to sign every single NDA”.
While I understand what they are trying to communicate – that it’s hard work that builds on the idea, it is really incorrect to say ideas are worthless.
Think of any invention…ever.. The right level of protection at the right times is absolutely fundamental to any successful business.
If you have an idea that you think may potentially have patentable qualities, it’s crucial to get some initial advice from a patent attorney at an early stage. They will usually provide an initial discussion free of charge to discuss the idea and provide some basic high level advice as to whether it could be patented and the options, costs and things to be aware of so you can be forewarned and forearmed with this information.
So many people don’t get this advice because they think it will be expensive and/or they don’t know where to get it and end up in hot water by not protecting their IP. However, I think most people are afraid or don’t know where to get advice from, most not having done something like this before. Many don’t realise that a lot of Patent Attorney firms will usually provide an initial call/meeting free of charge to give you that initial advice in the hope that you will choose them if the idea is worth protecting.
IP, patents, trade marks, registered designs etc. is a huge area of the Law
The intellectual property area of Law, together with registered designs is extremely specialised and it’s best to get experienced advice from professionals who do this day-in, and, day-out.
We have used a number of patent attorneys to assist our clients in obtaining this advice and helping them get the protection they need, having regard as always to budget constraints.
Trade marks are anything that you use as a business to distinguish your goods and services from other businesses.
It could be a name, tag-line, logo, or a combination of all three. It can even be a shade of colour – anything that can be described, even a photograph.
As soon as you’re settled on any of these, you should register them separately to give them maximum value. You can combine them to reduce the cost in what’s called a composite mark, however you whittle down the value of the individual elements.