At the cutting edge: Intellectual property strategy for entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurs have always been at the forefront of innovation but protecting it is critical to the success of any business.
Whether involved in small or start-up businesses or working within large institutions such as universities, novel ideas and breakthroughs are constantly being generated.
While that is always welcome, it is a fact that the more innovation created, the more there is a need to protect such intellectual property from competitors and allow it to be developed safely to its full potential in the market place.
Entrepreneurs inevitably face pressures such as money, time and the pressing need to keep ahead of the game but protection of their assets through the use of patents, trade marks, designs and copyright is critical to their business.
Patents can cover a wide range of products and methods that are new, inventive and sufficiently described. They each create a “negative right” that prevents others from using the invention without consent. A key patent, or a comprehensive patent portfolio can have significant value and attract investors.
As well as blocking competitors, patents can demonstrate that the start-up is of a certain quality, helping offset liabilities often associated with new businesses. A patent usually lasts for up to 20 years, during which time you can maximise profit from the invention before it is overtaken by new technology.
Trade marks can cover words, numbers, letters, logos, sometimes colours and slogans. With a few exceptions, anything can be registered as a trade mark so long as it can be represented graphically and is capable of identifying one trader’s goods or services from those of another.
Signs that fall foul of these requirements are ones that cannot perform this function for one reason or another, usually because they lack any distinctive or identifying feature which enables the public to recognise the sign as a trade mark, and/or they describe a characteristic of the goods or services or the sign is the generic name for, or the shape of, the goods.
By registering a trade mark, you can prevent others from using your mark and benefiting from the goodwill attached to it. A registered trade mark provides a monopoly right and can last indefinitely.
Registering a design is becoming increasingly important, particularly in the area of hi-tech consumer goods. A registered design covers the visual impression made by a product and is valid when the design is new and has individual character. A registered design is much cheaper than a patent, and it is possible to cover the whole of the European Union (EU) with a single registered design. However it only protects the appearance of your product, not the way it works. A registered design can last for up to 25 years.
Protection of intellectual property should not just be confined to big business and can be critical to the success of inventions and their commercial potential.
JA Kemp is an Exhibitor at Venturefest on 29 June. There will be three top experts available to give you Intellectual Property advice so don't miss out, book your appointment now. Experts from JA Kemp who will be available to meet you include: Colin Merryweather (Partner – Patent Attorney); Amanda Simons (Partner – Patent Attorney) and Ben Mooneapillay (Partner – Trade Mark Attorney).