Are you making your intellectual property work for you?

The Times newspaper today contained a very interesting Raconteur special report focussing on intellectual property (IP) issues and their impact on the success of British businesses.

10% of the UK economy is made up of so-called intangible assets (ie. intellectual property like trade marks, patents, copyright and design rights), yet still very few businesses seem to be exploiting or protecting their value.

SMEs in particular are often guilty of delaying or ignoring the need to protect their IP.  It is however vital that steps are taken to protect new innovations from the start of their life cycle, before others take advantage of them.

Furthermore, when it comes to seeking outside investment, it is crucial that businesses can demonstrate a robust IP portfolio.

A key recommendation from the report was a 3 stage process that every business, whatever their size and budget, should go through when it comes to intellectual property rights:

(1)   Identification – every business will own some intellectual property assets.  The key is identifying what they are.

(2)   Protection – once a business’ IP assets have been identified, the next task is to take steps to protect them.  Assets like trade marks and patents require registration through the appropriate body.

(3)   Revenue maximisation – once you are satisfied that your business’ key IP assets have been protected, you should consider whether you are maximising their potential as a revenue stream.  This includes developing an IP strategy: perhaps licensing your IP assets to others in return for a royalty or selling aspects of your IP portfolio which are no longer required.

The bottom line is that to succeed in today’s challenging economic environment, it is crucial to maximise and make the most of all your business’ assets, tangible or otherwise.

An online version of the Raconteur report can be viewed at www.theraconteur.co.uk.

Free IP app launched for small businesses

The UK Intellectual Property Office (“IPO”) has this month launched an IP app designed specifically to help small business owners to better understand and make use of their intellectual property rights.

The app (named “IP for Small Business”) has been developed in collaboration with Swansea University and Intellectual Property (IP) Wales and should provide a valuable resource to any SMEs currently struggling to understand what rights are available to them.

The app gives a good overview of all the various intellectual property rights and explains in clear terms how business owners can use them to their best advantage.

Understanding what IP issues need to be considered and when can be critical to a business’ success but frequently, such issues are overlooked as an unnecessary expense. Even when such issues are considered, businesses are confronted by a bewildering array of concepts from copyright, to patents, designs and trade marks.

Any help to make this complex, yet critical, aspect of running a business easier should therefore be welcomed.

If you would like to find out more details about the content and how to download this new IP app please go to the IPO website: http://www.ipo.gov.uk/whyuse/business/business-support/business-ipapp.htm.

6 good reasons to register a European trade mark…

Do you already own a UK trade mark but your business has since expanded and you would like to be protected further afield? Or perhaps you are already operating in a number of EU countries but have not yet taken steps to protect your brand name or logo as a trade mark in these countries?

Here are 6 good reasons why registering a European trade mark (so-called “Community Trade Mark” or “CTM”) could make good business sense for you:

  1. Exclusivity – a European mark is valid in all EU member countries and will therefore give you exclusive rights to stop others using your name or logo throughout Europe.
  2. Single application – the application procedure is relatively straightforward as the application form can be completed in one language and submitted to a central administrative centre.
  3. Reduced costs – the cost of filing a European application as compared with filing separate national registrations in each country is considerably lower.
  4. Earlier UK registration – if you already have a UK trade mark and you file an identical European mark within 6 months, this may be backdated to the date of your earlier UK registration thus allowing you to benefit from the earlier protection.
  5. Prior rights – European trade marks are treated as prior rights in relation to all subsequent trade mark applications. This means that owners of European marks can not only protect their exclusive rights at a European level but also on a national basis in each of the EU member countries.
  6. Automatic extension to new member states – as and when new countries become EU members, your European Trade Mark will be automatically extended to cover these additional countries.

We have had many years’ experience of advising in relation to all aspects of European trade marks for clients across various business sectors. If you would like to arrange a free consultation to discuss how we may be able to assist you, please get in touch.

 

Why registering your name with Companies House is not the same as registering a trade mark…..

Many new businesses are aware that Companies House is the place to go in order to register their new company name.  Unfortunately many believe that will also prevent competitors from using their name but sadly this is not necessarily the case.

When you apply to register a new name at Companies House, they will only check to see whether an identical name to yours has already been registered with them.  If not, and provided it’s not offensive, then it should be registered.

This is not however the case with trade marks.  If you file a trade mark then anyone with an existing (prior) trade mark which is not only identical but also ‘confusingly similar’ to yours, may seek to oppose your application.  In a worse case scenario they could not only prevent you getting a trade mark registered but also prevent you trading under your chosen name which could mean hundreds of pounds in wasted start up fees.

The best way to help reduce this risk is to instruct a trade mark lawyer to carry out a Clearance Check prior to registering your new name either at Companies House or by filing it as a trade mark.  They should be able to highlight any potential pitfalls up front and therefore give you the opportunity of changing or tweaking your name/brand before it’s too late.

We have had many years’ experience of carrying out Clearance Checks for clients across all business sectors. If you would like to arrange a free consultation to discuss how we may be able to assist you, please let us know.