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Intellectual property is one of the most important assets for business. From tech companies enforcing patents, recording artists fighting for their royalties and brands pursuing counterfeiters - intellectual property (or IP) is the battleground. It is both your shield and, where necessary, your sword.
With a single product, you might use multiple forms of IP protection. For example, if you were inventing a new type of vacuum cleaner, you might:
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An idea in itself is not intellectual property - for example, the idea for a book would not count as intellectual property. However, what would count are the words you’ve written, your logo and design of the book’s sleeve. There are different types of IP rights which would cover these individual elements.Trademarks
Registering a trademark allows you to protect words, logos and sounds, providing they distinguish your business from others in your market. Whether you’re looking to protect your brand in the UK only, or throughout the EU (or even worldwide) the trademark registration process is long and complex, with many uncertainties. It is a domain best left to the experts.
Figuring out whether your trademark is capable of being registered (from a technical perspective), conducting the searches and navigating the registration process is hard. Most entrepreneurs find it too daunting and time-consuming and choose to get help from the pros - enter the trademark attorney.
They’ll do the searches for you, give you technical and strategic advice and handle any objections raised by the UK Intellectual Property Office or third parties. If and when you’re ready to register your trademark, you can apply to register it in the UK only, the EU (called a ‘Community Trade Mark’) or worldwide.Copyright
Copyright protects original works of creation such as writing and literary works, art, photography, films, TV, music, web content, sound recordings. As the copyright owner, it gives you the right to control how their ideas and information are used. It is a common misconception that you need to ‘copyright’ something when it is actually an automatic right which you can enforce.
Copyright gives you exclusive rights in the copyrighted material, according to certain limitations, for a specific period. After the copyright period is over, the protected work becomes part of the public domain and anyone may use it.
The main purpose of a copyright is to support creativity and creative production by making sure that creators receive rewards for their creations. Copyright helps to prevent others from copying such works, and allows you to take legal action if the work is used without your permission, or even in a way that has not been allowed.Patents
A patent gives you a national monopoly over your invention. It protects unique concepts, methods or products and can give you a lucrative revenue stream in the form or royalties and licensing deals. If your initial market is the UK, and you obtain a UK patent, it will only protect your invention in the UK. Likewise, if you obtain a US patent, it will only protect your invention in the US. If you want protection in both countries, you will generally need to obtain patents in both.
There are, however, certain patents which extend across national borders. For example, a European patent covers a basket of 38 countries including the major states of the UK, Germany and France, all the other EU Member States, plus a few ‘contracting’ states.
The process of obtaining a patent requires a significant investment, but the costs can be spread over a number of years, which you can strategically accelerate or delay as required. If your invention is still under wraps (a must for European patents), you can start the process by hiring a patent attorney to handle your patent application from filing to grant. At Lexoo, we’ve curated a panel of patent attorneys with strong track records in helping inventors get various types of patent.Designs
If you want to protect your design from copycats, you can apply for a ‘design right’ - which protects your design for 10 years after it was first sold (or 15 years after it was created - whichever came first). A design refers to the qualities of a manufactured article which give it a specific visual appearance, like its contours or shape. It only applies to an object’s shape and configuration (how different parts of a design are arranged together).
You can protect your design by registering it, although in some cases protection is available for unregistered designs too. Unregistered design rights have the right to stop reproduction of an original design - this arises automatically and lasts for a maximum of 15 years in the UK.
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The intellectual property of a business is extremely valuable. If someone infringes your intellectual property, a specialist IP litigator can help you to enforce your rights and seek compensation for your losses.
Common disputes arise when one party believes another has used, sold or imported its patented product or process; used work under copyright without permission; made, offered or sold its registered design for commercial gain; or used a trademark that’s identical or similar to one that’s already registered.
Seeking specialist IP advice is a key step in shaping the future success of your business. As you build a business - from designing your logo and inventing new products - getting the right legal advice will lower your exposure to infringement.
You will have the peace of mind that comes with knowing the originality of your business creations have been protected. The application process for trademarks, patents and designs can be complex and a specialist solicitor, trademark or patent attorney will give you the best chance of success.
While protecting your intellectual property is an important process, it can also be time-consuming and distract you from running your business. So we suggest leaving it to the experts, who we can help you find.
We work with intellectual property professionals from both brand name IP firms and boutique or ‘virtual firms’ with minimal overheads, and much lower fees. Simply send us an enquiry and we’ll handpick a selection of experts to give you multiple, fixed fee quotes within in 1-2 business days. The service is free.
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