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The quick guide to IP protection

Intellectual property may be the most valuable asset a business owns. Here’s how to protect it.

Intellectual property may be the most valuable asset a business owns. Here’s how to protect it.

When it comes to setting up and running a business, there are a whole host of procedures and requirements that you need to remember and adhere to. From employment contracts to tax returns, there is always something needing to be done. Often, thinking about how to protect your intellectual property (IP) assets is the last thing on your mind.

Did you know that IP is one of the most valuable assets your business will own? It could account for over 70% of the value of your business, as you can use it to generate the income needed for successful growth, yet a staggering 96% of businesses don’t factor it in to their business plan. It’s a scary thought.

If you’re venturing into the realms of IP for the first time it can seem like a daunting task, but the most important thing to remember is you’re not alone – many hundreds of thousands of businesses have gone through this process and have encountered every imaginable problem, raised every conceivable question and fallen at every possible hurdle along the way. But don’t let this put you off. Instead, take their experiences on board and benefit from their mistakes, using them as a foolproof guide to proper IP protection.

Whether you’re thinking about your own IP or that of a client, we’ve pulled together our top IP dos and don’ts to help you avoid falling into the most common IP traps.

DO:

  • think about IP from day one – research your ideas thoroughly before proceeding
  • consult an IP attorney/professional every step of the way
  • register your brand as a trade mark
  • make sure all employee contracts state that all IP created is owned by the company
  • create agreements with commissioned parties to establish the ownership of IP (e.g. transferring the copyright of your website to your business)
  • keep new and innovative ideas out of the public domain and ensure all employees are aware of the importance of confidentiality.

DON’T:

  • assume IP isn’t relevant – every business owns or uses some form of IP no matter the industry or area that they trade in
  • try to trade off the back of other people’s trademarks as this could result in costly legal proceedings
  • copy or use the work of others without gaining the required permissions or licences
  • wait until the business is established and successful before registering your IP as it may be too late
  • think a behaviour  is legal because ‘it’s what others do’ – they may be breaking the law
  • mistake the use of something online as proof of ownership.

Of course, following these rules will help you in the short-term but nothing can replace a solid understanding of IP rights to help you protect and grow your business.

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has a range of free online business support tools called IP for Business which have been designed specifically for this purpose. These include IP Equip, an online training tool to help you gain more knowledge of the various IP rights and the IP Equip App, which provides you with IP information at your fingertips, anytime anywhere.

(article by ACCA)