How to Protect your Intellectual Property
Intellectual property is likely to be one of the most important and valuable assets that a business or individual has access to. So, it should go without saying that taking measures to identify and protect intellectual property is incredibly important.
It is an unfortunate truth that the digital world has created a dangerous environment for intellectual property, causing rights to be infringed (copied, stolen, misused) on a regular basis.
So, how exactly can you protect your intellectual property rights? And what might happen if your intellectual rights are infringed? These are important questions which we’ll be taking a closer look at in the following post.
What is intellectual property?
Intellectual property is defined as anything you create using your mind. Clear examples of intellectual property would include products, inventions, ideas, creative expressions or registered trademarks.
Intellectual property rights can be enforced by:
- the rights holder; or
- a licensee (subject to various conditions)
Intellectual property can have more than one owner, belong to individuals or a business, and be sold and transferred.
What are intellectual property rights?
You are entitled to a certain level of protection to prevent others from stealing or copying your intellectual property. You get some types of protection automatically, while you will need to apply for others.
Intellectual property theft will be considered to have taken place where a product, idea, creative expression or registered trademark that is protected by intellectual property laws is stolen or otherwise used without the proper authorisation or permission.
What intellectual property rights can you enforce?
There are a number of common intellectual property rights which you will be able to enforce under the right circumstances. These include:
Copyright is designed to protect original literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic work. In addition to this, it also serves to protect any original non-literary work, such as software, web content, and databases.
You receive copyright protection automatically. There is no need to make an application or pay a fee. You can also mark work with the copyright symbol, your name, and the year of creation, though this does not affect the level of protection you have.
Registered Trade marks
A registered trade mark will encompass logos, slogans, colours, and shapes. They will often form an essential part of a brand or assist with general commercial growth.
By formally registering a trade mark, the holder gains a ‘monopoly right’. This is the exclusive use of the particular trade mark in connection with a specific class of good or services.
When a trademark is in place, the holder can enforce its rights and prevent third parties from using the same or a similar mark in connection with the same class of goods or services.
Registered Designs and Design Rights
You can register the appearance of a product you have designed to prevent people from copying or stealing it. The appearance of a design specifically refers to the appearance, physical shape, configuration, and decoration.
Your design rights protect your unregistered designs and stop other from using them without your permission. In the UK, the shape and configuration of 3-dimensional objects are automatically protected for specified timescales.
Patents can be used to protect your inventions. They give you the right to take legal action against anyone who makes, uses, sells or imports said invention without your permission.
If no registered trade mark or design is in place, it may be possible to protect your intellectual property by bringing forward a claim for ‘Passing Off’. Passing Off protects the unique identifiers of a business, such as colour schemes, website appearances and graphics.
What are the best ways of protecting your intellectual property?
There are a number of ways in which you can ensure that your intellectual property is well protected. These include:
Registering a trade mark
You can register a trade mark to protect your brand and provide you with the authority to take legal action, sell and licence your brand and put the ® symbol next to your brand.
Trade marks last for ten years. Once the ten years has expired, you can renew your trademark.
Registering a design
Design registrations protect the appearance of a product, such as its shape or pattern. Design registrations last for five years and must be renewed up to a maximum of 25 years.
Copyright your work
No application is needed to copyright your work. You are granted copyright protection of intellectual property automatically when you create original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work.
Patenting an invention
UK patents can be very helpful if you want to take legal action against someone who uses your invention without your permission.
Patents last for five years. Following this, you must renew it every year up to a maximum of 20 years.
Additional steps to protect your intellectual property rights
As a business, there are also a number of additional steps you can take which can significantly reduce the chances of your intellectual property being stolen or infringed. You can take simple actions such as:
- Keeping all operating systems up to date
- Encrypting sensitive data
- Collating all IP within the business
- Reviewing user access to IP
- Establishing a data security policy
What happens if your intellectual property rights are infringed?
If you become aware that your intellectual property has been infringed, you will have a range of options at your disposal, depending on the type of intellectual property protection you have in place.
Typical remedies available include (subject to the type of IP and nature of infringement):
- Claiming damages for losses caused by the infringement or an account of profits;
- Obtaining an injunction to stop the infringement;
- An order for delivery up and destruction;
- A declaration of infringement from the court; and
- A contribution to your legal costs
At any time, and particularly prior to starting formal legal proceedings, the parties to a dispute are encouraged (by the court also) to approach Alternative Dispute Resolution (negotiation of settlement).
How can a solicitor support you if your intellectual property rights have been infringed?
If you are a rights holder who is involved in an intellectual property dispute after your rights have been infringed, it is critical that you instruct the right legal counsel with specialist expertise in handling these matters.
An intellectual property solicitor can identify the relevant intellectual property rights, advise you on whether you have sufficient grounds to make a claim and advise you on what the most appropriate solution should be. It is important to note that no two cases are ever the same, which means a tailored approach is required to find a positive resolution.
Working with a solicitor when your intellectual property rights have been infringed can also increase your chances of reaching an out of court resolution, saving time, money, and stress. Where court proceedings are required, having the support of an intellectual property solicitor ensures your interests are robustly defended.
How our intellectual property solicitors can help you protect your rights
At Saunders Law, our partner-led team have over 40 years of experience, which we put to use in supporting our clients with a wide range of intellectual property matters. We have developed an excellent track record of successfully protecting our client’s interests and have been independently recognised with strong rankings in highly respect client guides the Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners.
Our previous experience includes supporting clients in protecting their commercial assets, advising companies in advertising, technology and media, and blockchain and cryptocurrency.
Speak to our intellectual property solicitors today
Whether you are seeking to enforce your IP rights, it is essential that you seek advice for the legal protection of intellectual property from specialists in this area at the earliest opportunity.
We will always offer a free initial consultation to establish if we can assist you.
Our advice is clear, simple, and designed specifically to meet your needs. We are discrete and familiar with dealing with high profile individuals and cases.
You can rest assured that our team will tirelessly fight your corner, ensuring that the best result possible is achieved for you.