According to a recent survey by Deloitte, IP theft is set to rise within the next year which could potentially affect thousands of UK start-ups.
Intellectual Property (IP) can be your company name or logo, an invention or design, be it software or an App or a product.
Whatever your IP, it is one of your most valuable assets and should be protected from potential competitors.
Often people think IP can be dealt with later down the line but a business is never too embryonic to protect its assets – You risk having to re-brand if someone else registers their IP first.
Registered IP shows a potential investor the value of your company, offers them comfort in what they are investing in and can act as a collateral for their monies.
On the other hand, if you want to sell your business, then registering and valuing your IP increases the value of your company and increases your chances of a successful sale.
I have seen horror stories where monies have been spent on branding and logo’s but the owner couldn’t see the benefit of registering these until 5 years later.
So how can entrepreneurs protect themselves from the risk of theft:
IP Protection Tip 1
Firstly, identify what IP you own. Make sure full rights of ownership, for example from designers, have been assigned to you and check that no one has already registered this mark.
IP Protection Tip 2
Register all important Trademarks so that you can deter others from using your brand. This will give you the right to take legal action against anyone using it without permission.
IP Protection Tip 3
If you have invented something you should register this as a protected patent as soon as possible. Whilst awaiting registration we also advise you to post your design to yourself or a trusted party in a sealed envelope, dated.
This is then evidence of what you created and when.
IP Protection Tip 4
If you have hired someone to create your IP have an agreement in place. This should assign full ownership to you upon completion as this does not automatically transfer to you.
It should also cover what that party should do with the IP such as destroying any workings, maintain confidentiality and importantly being unable to use the IP themselves unless permitted to do so.
IP Protection Tip 5
If your own employees create the IP during their employment, this will automatically be your property, but you should ensure these provisions are outlined in their employment contracts for added protection.
Having a non-compete clause also means that if they terminate their employment with you they cannot take this knowledge and create new IP which they can themselves sell on.
IP Protection Tip 6
If you are going to disclose any details about your business, IP or development you should have well drafted non-disclosure agreements in place. You may invalidate any patent application if this is not done.
IP Protection Tip 7
You can of course permit someone else to use your IP and pay for this right. A license should be executed between you to protect your position as the IP owner.
It should set out the exact terms the user can use the IP, on what basis you can withdraw this right and importantly to protect your full ownership.
IP Protection Tip 8
If your IP is used without your permission or someone tries to copy your branding, there are clear legal steps you can take.
Firstly, you can seek to resolve the issue amicably or take immediate action such as an injunction to cease its use or you can issue a claim to seek damages for your losses and the immediate return or destruction of your IP or as is the usual case, action all these options.