IP right protection represent one of your businesses most valuable assets and you should ensure that they are adequately protected.
In March 2015, Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke were ordered to pay damages of $7.3m for copying the 1977 Marvin Gaye hit Got to Give It Up with Blurred Lines, the biggest-selling single of 2013.
The fact they reportedly made >$16m is another story… it was a landmark amount of damages concerning the infringement of intellectual property rights.
Whether it’s copyright, trade secrets, design rights, patents (inventions) or a trade mark (logos and brand names), almost every business has some form of IP right protection: it distinguishes your brand and individualises your business from competitors.
Apart from copyright and trade secrets (which are automatically protected), you should first identify and then register your IP to make sure that competitors do not steal your idea.
This is a highly technical process, and not one for trial and error, so you should seek professional legal advice to quantify and register your rights with the UK Intellectual Property Office.
Apple Trademark Protection
Sometimes the IP right protection may not as clear-cut and obvious: in 2014 the ECJ ruled that Apple could use trade mark protection for the layout of its stores to stop other retailers from setting up retail premises in a similar way. This was a landmark case and Apple is of course an iconic brand.
However the case illustrates that the look and feel of an original creative brand can also be protected if it is capable of graphic representation and is not an integral part of the offer for sale of those goods.
Your IP Right Protection Is Money Well Spent
Registered design applications cost £60 and the process takes 2-3 months, UK trade mark applications cost from £200 and the process takes 4-6 months and a GB patent costs at least £280 and registration can take anything from 2 to 6 years. Legal fees of course are added on top but you may be able to negotiate a good deal if you forward-plan the of all your IP right protection.
Whilst copyright and trade secrets protection exists automatically, it is imperative to prepare and keep a well-documented record of who developed the IP right protection and when. It is worth bearing in mind that trade secrets must only be disclosed under a duty of confidence (and therefore ensure that you have signed non-disclosure agreements before you share this information!).
You will limit damage to your businesses reputation and save time and money in the long run if you nip potential issues in the bud. Be vigilant: attend trade events, read the industry updates and keep an eye on your market sector to monitor your competition.
Some organisations also employ “watchers” to monitor registrations and will advise you if an organisation registers similar IP rights.
It is notoriously expensive to challenge IP infringement and legal costs can easily rack up to £100,000s with the risk of having to pay the other sides legal costs if you lose.
The Government has recognised this and this has led to a significant increase in IP insurance policies, particularly with SMEs. Starting from around £100 per month, these policies enable smaller businesses to fight back by covering the legal costs of stopping IP thieves.
It is certainly a more cost-effective option than later going to court and policies can also cover the legal costs of defending proceedings brought against you by a 3rd party.
There are robust legal protection measures to safeguard your IP rights and prevent unauthorised use. Echoing the famous words of Coco Chanel, “if you’re original, be ready to be copied,” – is all well and good but it makes business sense to identify, register and protect your important assets.
Need Legal Advice About Your IP Right Protection?
Book a call with a legal expert from Linkilaw who will advise you on best course of action to guarantee your IP right protection immediately.