A Start-Up’s Guide to Intellectual Property

i Intellectual PropertySo far, in our A-Z Guide to Starting a Business, we’ve looked at topics including bookkeeping, data backup, and funding. With so much to cover, it’s no surprise that intellectual property (IP) sometimes takes a back seat when setting up. 

The World Intellectual Property Organisation describe IP as the “creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.”

In this blog, Phil Coldrick from IP Scope, provides us with an overview to IP as well as describing what IP needs to be considered when starting a business…

Q: What IP should I be considering when I start a business?

A: Typical things to consider include your business name – your name and brand is a valuable asset to your business so think about protecting it by registering it as a trade mark. Remember, if you have registered your company name with Companies House this does not mean you are protected. Someone else could still use it.

Other IP aspects include copyright for your website and any other promotional literature you create. Copyright is automatic but beware of who owns the copyright when a third party is involved such as a website designer. You might want to consider having the copyright assigned to you through any contract you arrange with them.

Q: How can I determine if my business needs IP protection?

A: The UK Intellectual Property Office provides a free IP Healthcheck service that takes you through a series of questions to determine how to safeguard your IP assets and provides a confidential report with recommendations for next steps. http://www.ipo.gov.uk/whyuse/business/iphealthcheck.htm

Q: I have an idea, but don’t want to tell anyone in case they steal it. What can I do?

A: It is important that you do not make your idea public before you apply for IP Rights, if you do, you run the risk that you may not be able to patent an invention or protect your design because it is invalidated by the public disclosure. However, that does not mean that you must never discuss your idea with anyone else. Conversations with qualified (registered) lawyers, solicitors and patent attorneys are legally privileged and therefore in confidence. If you need to discuss your idea with someone else before you apply for an IP Right – such as a patent adviser or consultant then a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) can help. NDAs are also known as confidentiality agreements and confidentiality-disclosure agreements (CDA). An explanation on setting up NDAs (including templates) can be found at http://www.ipo.gov.uk/nda.pdf

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