Many business owners rely on their advisors and accountants to help them recognise how and where they can benefit from ownership of intellectual property assets. It can be difficult for these professionals to provide advice if they feel like they don’t have the required skills or knowledge of the subject. So, what exactly is Intellectual Property?
"86% of UK small businesses say it’s important to know how to protect their intellectual property. "
Intellectual property – or IP – refers to any intellectual creation, from the way a product looks to the content used on a company’s website. Regardless of size or industry, every business owns or uses some form of IP. It’s one of the most valuable assets a business can own (it could account for over 70% of its value) and can be used to generate income for growth.
There are four main types of IP:
Patents protect the processes that make things work, what they’re made of and how they’re made. The biggest advantage of a patent is that it allows the owner to stop others from copying, manufacturing, selling and importing the invention without permission. Patent ownership may also reduce the amount of tax paid through the Patent Box regime.
2. TRADE MARKS
A trade mark is a sign which distinguishes a company’s goods and services from those of its competitors. This is often referred to a company’s brand. Trade marks can be a word (such as a company name), logo or slogan. UK companies invest around £33 billion per year in the creation and building of brands.
The visual appearance of a product can be protected by designs. A registered design can protect the colour, shape, texture, material and ornamentation that give a product a unique look. Unregistered design rights automatically apply to designs but offer less protection than that of a registered design.
All written or recorded creative and artistic material is automatically protected by copyright, including websites, photographs, music, literature and advertising materials. The important thing to remember is that the owner of any copyright material is the creator. If a work is created by a third party, the copyright position needs to be addressed in a written contract.
LEARN MORE ABOUT IP
The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has launched ‘IP for Business’, a range of online tools and resources to help you on your IP journey. The toolkit includes IP Equip, a free online training tool to help you understand how to identify and protect IP assets, as well as the free IP Equip app (available for smart phones and tablets) which gives you access to basic IP information on the go.