When the writers of The Hangover Part II decided that Ed Helms’ dentist character would be brilliantly funny with a tattoo like Mike Tyson’s on his face acquired during a night of drunken extremes, little did the realise how long and painful of a headache they had just created for themselves.
For while the movie crew was on good terms with Tyson, who had appeared in the 2009 original film and the sequel, the tattoo design was not his, but rather that of tattoo artist S. Victor Whitmill, who acquired a copyright for his intellectual property (IP) on April 19, 2011, and proceeded to file a lawsuit against Warner Bros. Entertainment on April 28. The studio had to alter the home video version of the film to make the design different and paid Whitmill an undisclosed amount of money to settle out of court.
But Whitmill learned the hard way what happens when you don’t protect your intellectual property (IP). Whatever his undisclosed payment was, it was pocket change compared to the $587 million the movie made in ticket sales worldwide, with his IP, used unfairly, blazing off the front of every movie poster.
IP law is a tough nut to crack for any entrepreneur.
In fact renowned American computer programmer Eric Allman says, “The intellectual property situation is bad and getting worse. To be a programmer, it requires that you understand as much law as you do technology.”
True, there is a lot of ‘legalese’ involved in creating, registering, and defending your IP, but there are also a few basics that every business owner should know; let’s dive a bit deeper into five IP law facts your new business should know.
1.Registering Your Company Name At Companies House Does Not Equal IP Protection
This is a little hard to understand at first, because it does mean no other company can register the same business name as you. However, if you’re a cleaning company and your biggest package is Hermione’s Home Service Special, you had better trademark both your company name and the special. If you don’t, your ex-best friend Parvati can go into business advertising Hermione’s Home Service Special and be completely within her rights to do so.
2.The Duty Of Good Faith Automatically Binds Employees To Not Reveal IP Secrets
If you’re worried that your employee contracts might be a little light on the language when it comes to keeping confidential information or trade secrets, you can rest a little easier. Duty of good faith is an implied term that means employees cannot participate in activities that would damage their employer’s business.
Good news for you is that means not violating any IP law! Although we recommend you still get it spelled out in a legally binding employee contract just to be doubly sure.
3.Register Your Inventions Before Showing People
Whether it’s a new brand of shampoo, a hover board, or an actual working TARDIS, don’t show off your new invention without registering it with the Intellectual Property Office. This includes in-person demonstrations or Internet displays like blogs or crowd-funding websites. All it takes is one person seeing what you’ve created, reverse engineering it, and registering it themselves to take away all your hard work and leave you with absolutely nothing.
4.Your Employees’ Creations Belong To You… Mostly
If you run a chemical testing company and one of your employees creates Flubber in the course of their job, you own the IP known as said Flubber’s recipe. If the same employee is using your computers to create a new dating app for scientists that takes off, you don’t own that, although you could still feel good about firing them for messing around on the job.
This is a crucial IP law to understand especially if you’re in a startup that is involved in inventing new technology.
5. Confidential Business Information Is IP By Definition
But if you don’t put stopgaps in place to protect it, you could easily use it. Tons of startups have multiple bedfellows to get them off the ground. Strongly consider using NDAs or other confidentiality terms to ensure that the people you’re working with are helping themselves to your business secrets in the process.
To find out more about protecting the IP of your business and IP law in general, get in touch with us today for a free quote from a qualified and vetted lawyer.
Final Words On IP Law
IP law is a tricky one for many entrepreneurs to understand but it’s one they must take seriously. IP is serious business when you’re a startup so you must take the appropriate steps to protect what is rightfully yours and also to ensure you’re not encroaching on another startups ideas.
The last thing any startup needs is to be facing a lawsuit from IP law violations or loss of profits because appropriate steps weren’t taken to protect IP.
Need some more qualified advice on IP law and protecting your business’ ideas? Then you can for free with a Startup Legal Session. Book by clicking the image below.