A patent is a monopoly right granted by the state to stop others from making, using or selling your invention without permission. Patents protect the way things work, what they do, how they do it, what they are made of and how they are made.
Copyright is crucial to modern businesses. It protects image, text, video, audio, software and a whole host of other materials like NFT’s, websites etc. Copyright helps you control the sharing of your products and to stop competitors from exploiting the investment you make in developing your business. It protects such diverse range of industries, from publishing, through to the information technology (IT) industry.
Trademarks, trade marks or trade-marks are names, signs, logos, taglines, designs or expressions you use in business, such as names and logos, which protect the value in your growing business. It is important to own the exclusive rights in your brand identity. Once your business is more established, it is then important to register your very own trademarks.
Designs are potentially one of the most valuable intellectual property assets a business owns. Design can be crucial to a product’s mass appeal – just think of the iPod or Dyson vacuum cleaner. Registration of a design gives you the right to prevent others using it, for example through manufacture, or sale. Designs should not be confused with patents. Patents protect inventions, whereas design registration generally covers the shape and configuration of products, or their appearance.
The law of confidentiality protects your ideas and trade secrets provided you take appropriate steps to safeguard the secrecy of the information. The law can protect your information and knowhow.
Some typical examples of confidential information include:
· business plans,
· software algorithms,
· customer lists,
· internal policies and procedures which help to improve efficiency
· knowledge as to the best way to use or combine technology
· a route which cuts down time when making a string of deliveries
We understand the value to businesses of their data. High quality datasets are increasingly important in consumer and research applications, and often entail considerable investment. The development of a database will generally involve a bundle of IP rights, each of which may have different owners.
There may be different legal rights in:
· The structure of the database
· The set of records the database contains
· The software used to make the database accessible
· The information contained within the records
· Expert advice is essential to ensure that the appropriate contractual arrangements are put in place to safeguard the database.
Databases can be extremely valuable assets, and there are a range of ways in which to make a return on your investment. For example:
· Licensing or selling the entire database to another business
· Selling ad-hoc access to individual records to cater for needs as they arise.
· Before licensing or selling a database check your intellectual property rights with a view to rectifying any defects.
· Also, if your database contains personal information, you will also need to check that the appropriate consents have been obtained from any individuals regarding use of their data.
Licensing intellectual property enables you to retain ownership of your Intellectual Property while permitting others to make some use of it. The nature of the licensing agreement needed depends on the IP you are licensing. It could be for the use of a brand, technology, content or designs. Licensing depends on having the necessary rights in the first place, so first make sure that you own these.
Licensing can be an excellent way to introduce a new revenue stream to your business, and arises commonly in the following situations:
· When a business franchises its format, processes
· Where a business wants to enable others to make use of technology (Technology Licensing)
· Where computer software is ‘sold’ to consumers – in reality a licence is granted to use the software.
· Merchandising – which is common in the entertainment industry.
· Sponsorship whereby sponsors allow you to use their brand during promotions.
· Endorsement or product placement
Brand Identity and Protection
Branding is important to business. Trademarks are just one element in brand protection. Domain names are also key to an online brand, and copyright and design rights are also relevant ways in which brand elements are protected by the law. As a first step, securing you brand name and logo should be prioritised through registration of trademarks, domain names and designs. These prevent cybersquatters registering a domain name similar to your own.
Brand Identity is everything you need to create and own a distinctive brand identity. When your brand strategy is clear you don't just resonate with your ideal market - everyone in your team knows what your business stands for and can make ‘on brand’ decisions too.
Franchise sales & brand development focused on helping to best position brands interested in, or already franchising, by assisting in completion of their due diligence and all licencing and preparing them to optimise their readiness and commercial value in the franchise market.
Franchising can be an excellent way to go global in a short time while introducing a new revenue stream to your business. This is usually of particular interest to:
· Experienced multi-unit operators interested in expanding their business and / or franchise portfolios
· Independent restaurant operators and business owners exploring franchising as an expansion strategy
· Entrepreneurs seeking opportunities to acquire a franchise brand or multi-unit franchisee group
· Individuals and families interested in achieving their wishes, hopes and dreams via business ownership
Sometimes developers go bust, or move elsewhere, or decide that software that your business uses is not worth continuing to invest resources in updating. If you are reliant on such software it can be disruptive and costly. That is where software escrow comes into its own. It is an arrangement which protects you in such eventualities.
Under a software escrow arrangement, the software licensor and licensee agree that a copy of the software source code will be kept by a neutral third party ‘escrow agent’
The source code is the instructions underlying the software, and the code is usually kept confidential by the developer. By getting access to the source code, and use of appropriate licence provisions, you would be free to instruct another developer to maintain your software and even to develop new software features for your business. They could even integrate the software with other programs your business uses.
You could also develop your own software updates internally in the event of the developer being unable to do so.
The more critical a piece of software is to your business, the more important it is to entrust an escrow agent to hold an up to date copy of the source code for you.
IP Audits, Assessments and Strategy
As intellectual property is one of the most valuable assets your business generates, if you have never taken stock of the IP you have in order to identify what exists, and how to best secure your rights then it is well worth starting with an IP audit.
An audit would identify copyright, design and trademark issues in your business. If your business has any patents, then an audit provides a good opportunity to take stock of the effectiveness of your commercialisation strategy. You would understand the steps to take to rectify any issues, such as to protect names that are used but have not been protected.
How confidential information is protected internally might be a focus of discussions, depending on your business model. Having understood how IP impacts your business, we would support you to create a plan for protecting your IP.
Different solutions will appeal to different size of business. A lot depends on your business model as to how to proceed to protect your IP. Certain IP rights are time-sensitive, so that might be a good starting point to decide what to prioritise. So, no matter how big or small your company, we can help you to set your IP strategy.
For ambitious businesses, taking early IP advice is key. Supporting online businesses and websites with bespoke Privacy policies and Terms and Conditions in line with territorial and global legal compliance, including GDPR could literally make the difference between success and failure.
We help our clients realise the benefits of considering the following key areas when setting up their online businesses:
· The name you use for your business and website – that is, trademarks and domains
· Your website
· Contractual documentation