How To Protect Your Business With Intellectual Property Rights
Entrepreneurs often invest time, money and a significant amount of energy to develop a business idea. There’s nothing more soul destroying than after years of hard work, seeing your idea, products and services being copied and sold by competitors. Protecting your Intellectual Property is an essential component of running a business and in the early stages when there’s so much to sort out; it’s often understandable that your IP rights get pushed down the ever-expanding “to-do” list.
If you haven’t had the time yet to fully explore all the options available to you, here is an overview of the different types of Intellectual Property and how they can contribute to the ultimate success of your business.
What is Intellectual Property?
Intellectual property relates to something that you’ve physically created; unfortunately this doesn’t extend to ideas. Essentially protecting your IP makes it easier to pursue legal action if someone steals or copies your work. It can be used to help protect:
- Brand or products names
- Your inventions
- The design or look of your products
- Things you write, make or produce
How Can Intellectual Property Benefit Your Business?
- IP rights provide protection against someone directly copying your idea.
- IP rights help maintain a businesses competitive edge.
- Registered IP ensures that maximum financial benefits can be gained from your idea.
- It can help convince investors or financial institution to invest in your business.
- It gives consumers confidence that products are of an excellent standard.
- Holders of IP rights enable entrepreneurs to license/franchise ideas for continued expansion.
There are a number of ways to own intellectual property including trademarks, designs, patents and copyright.
Trademark registration is a sign or symbol (think Nike swoosh) that immediately identifies a brand, service or product. It not only distinguishes your products and services from others, but also provides reassurance to customers as to the quality and credibility of your service. Reputation is arguably how many businesses remain profitable and fundamental to the future success and expansion of a business.
Having the appropriate branding and trademark however is not solely reserved for large businesses. It can help increase the commercial value of company, both large and small. While not everyone will reach the heights of Apple or Google, the latest figures for the most valuable brands in the world illustrates just how important they can be to a business.
- Apple: $145.3 billion.
- Microsoft: $69.3 billion.
- Google: $65.6 billion.
- Coca-Cola: $56 billion.
- IBM: $49.8 billion.
- McDonalds: $39.5 billion.
- Samsung: $37.9 billion.
- Toyota: $7.8 billion.
- General Electric: $37.5 billion.
- Facebook: $36.5 billion.
Once registered a trademark can apply indefinitely as long as they’re renewed. Renewal periods can vary across countries but it’s not uncommon to renew every 10 years.
By registering a design, you can prevent a competitor from copying and reproducing a product or component. For example fashion designers often register their designs to stop cheap imitations being produced.
Copyright relates to the “expression of an idea” and can include copy, illustrations, pictures, sound recordings and literature. There is no fee associated with registering for copyright and is applied automatically as soon as something is created. It applies to both print and web related material.
Patents are used to protect inventions, processes and methods that are “unique” and “useful” – it’s often surprising how many applications forget these all-important words. If granted a patent can give you a monopoly on selling and marketing your idea so no one can infringe on your rights and claim the invention as their own work. For certain types of business, patents are incredibly important.
In today’s competitive world it’s often difficult to successfully acquire a new patent as the idea is likely to have be thought of already (unless it truly is unique) or there may be another application ahead of you in the queue.
The process often requires detailed drawings, schematics and documentation and could take years before the application is approved or rejected. A good tip however is to file your patent as fast as you can. The application holds your place in line and depending on which country you’re applying, you may have additional time from that initial submission to complete your application.
The World Intellectural Property Organisation has detailed statistics on IP and patent applications by country and industry. If you’re interested in searching if your innovative idea already has a patent, it may help to start with a Google patent search at google.com/patents.
Intellectual property protection is critical to fostering innovation and without it, years of hard work and dedication can be wiped out by competitors. If you haven’t had the time to include it on your to do list, it may be one of the best things you could do for your business.
A former journalist and scriptwriter, Katya Puyraud is the co-owner of Euro Start Entreprises. Helping businesses throughout the world with company formation, incorporation and trademark registration.