In this article, Paul Berwin, founder of Berwins Solicitors in Harrogate, underlines the importance of IP protection in companies.

Apples, Galaxies and what you must protect, intellectual property, snabogados

Apples, Galaxies and what you must protect

Big businesses know that they have to protect the names, products and knowledge which make them big and successful; but it’s easy for smaller businesses to lose track of the importance of this, or simply not to have the knowledge to appreciate what they can do, or what they can lose.

Intellectual Property – because this is what this is – can be as important as – or more important than –  the physical property of a business. You may not see Intellectual Property (IP) as a name bandied about, but all the litigation going on around the world between Apple and Samsung (and others) is around the rights to specific designs, software and hardware – IP is everything.

You can move premises; but it might be much more difficult to change the business’ name, branding and look; or to lose control of the business’ key technologies. Understanding some of these issues is the key to retaining and protecting your rights – and benefitting from them. Here are some key elements:

When you choose a company or a product name, it isn’t enough for the name to be ”available” on the Companies House register.  You need to be aware of registered trademarks and domain names too. If your name isn’t distinctive, even if it is your own personal name, you could be prevented from using it. Cover all the options, and take real expert advice.

If you use computer programs, or you create them, there are levels of products which you may need to protect, or you may need the right touse. If you develop something without the proper rights to the tools to do so, the value in what you’ve done may be wasted. If you don’t have a proper licensing regime, you could lose ownership or control of the work you’ve created. You need a real understanding of what you have, and what you use, to be able to protect your business.

When you commission someone to do work for you – design, logos, text, websites – don’t assume that you’ll own it; actually you might not. Without the proper legal structures and agreement in place, you may be spending money on something that will never be yours.

You owe it to your business to gain an understanding of its IP, and to take the proper steps to protect it. If you don’t think it’s worth bothering with – look at an iPhone, an iPad, a Samsung Tab or Galaxy-S – and wonder why it’s worth these companies spending so much to protect so many elements of their products.

Paul Berwin