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Are You Protecting the Intellectual Property You Own?

David Main

Mention the words “Intellectual Property” (or “IP”) and the first reaction of many people is to think of pirated music, films and software, or fake “designer” clothing, shoes and handbags.

All of these are readily available, at attractively-low prices. The rights in these items are intangible assets, not physical ones. Therefore, many people (not readers of this note, of course) think it “fair game” to buy such bootlegged items, when on holiday, or visiting street markets. Yet, those same people would never dream of removing a physical item from a shop without paying!

Each year, all around the World, IP theft results in billions of Pounds in lost revenue, for many IP rights owners. These owners are not just multinational corporations, but include many small and medium enterprises.

You may feel that you do not own any Intellectual Property – so that none of this applies to you. However, have you checked whether your own business might have some items of IP worth protecting?

Have copyright or design rights been created by you (or by your staff) in the course of your business? (e.g. a database created by you and recorded appropriately should have some commercial value) Do you use a trademark which you have not yet registered?

Have you invented or discovered e.g. a new and useful process, or machine – but not yet patented it?

How do you keep confidential certain items of your business’s valuable information?

Provided they are IP-protected, your business’s products or services can be sold or otherwise commercialised – which could result in improved market share, or increased profit margins.

In fact, your IP can generate income for you not just while you work, but also while you eat, recreate – and even sleep! For example, you could license your IP to third parties and obtain a royalty for the use they make of it. Naturally, for this to happen, you would need a suitably negotiated and drafted licence agreement.

If you are seeking funding, valuable IP rights can enhance the value or worth of your business, in the eyes of investors and financing institutions.

Should you wish to sell your business, or merge it, your IP assets may significantly raise the value of your enterprise. Indeed, in some cases, your IP may be your business’s main or even only assets of value.

From a different perspective altogether, is it possible that – quite unknowingly – you could be infringing someone else’s IP rights? Because of the ever-developing nature of the internet, it is easier than ever to fall into the trap of unwitting IP infringement. Think of a photo or some text you might innocently borrow from another website for your own use … only to be hit by a copyright theft charge!

Increasingly, therefore, in this digital world, we must all take appropriate steps to safeguard our Intellectual Property rights – while ensuring that we do not unintentionally infringe the IP rights of other parties.

David Main of W. Davies’ Commercial Department would be pleased to assist you in all areas of Intellectual Property. E-mail: dm@wdavies.com; Tel: (01483) 744900.

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