Protecting Your Ideas Can Grow Your Business; Understanding and Safeguarding Your Ideas Is a Vital Investment, Says Robin Webb, Innovation Director at the Intellectual Property Office

Article excerpt

Byline: Robin Webb

ntellectual Property is a term that is often heard but not always understood.

Widely speaking, Intellectual Property Rights can be used to safeguard the competitive edge gained through new ideas, products and services and give added value to the business idea, and as a result, is a vital investment for businesses wanting to maintain market share and grow their offering.

Intellectual property breaks down into four types: Patents protect the features and processes that make things work. This lets inventors profit from their inventions.

A patent gives you the right to stop others from copying, manufacturing, selling, and importing your invention without your permission. The existence of your patent may be enough on its own to stop others from trying to exploit your invention. If it does not, it gives you the right to take legal action to stop them exploiting your invention and to claim damages.

The patent also allows you to: n Sell the invention and all the intellectual property rights n License the invention to someone else but retain all the Intellectual Property rights n Discuss the invention with others in order to set up a business based around the invention.

Trade marks are symbols that distinguish your goods and services from those of your competitors. It can be for example words, brand names, logos or a combination of all.

You can use your trade mark as a marketing tool so that customers can recognise your products or services.

A trade mark must be distinctive for the goods and services you provide. In other words it can be recognised as a sign that differentiates your goods or service as different from someone else's.

A registered trade mark must be renewed every 10 years to keep it in force.

Design is all about the way an object looks: its shape, its visual appeal... it's all in the design.

A registered design is a legal right which protects the overall visual appearance of a product in the geographical area you register it. The visual features that form the design include such things as the lines, contours, colours, shape, texture, materials and the ornamentation of the product which give it a unique appearance..

Copyright protects many types of work, from music and lyrics to photographs and knitting patterns.

Copyright can protect: n Literary works, including novels, instruction manuals, computer programs, song lyrics, newspaper articles and some types of database n Dramatic works, including dance or mime n Musical works n Artistic works, including paintings, engravings, photographs, sculptures, collages, architecture, technical drawings, diagrams, maps and logos n Layouts or typographical arrangements used to publish a work, for a book for instance n Recordings of a work, including sound and film n Broadcasts of a work The majority of people, including business owners, often think of intellectual property as relating only to inventions and patents, and as a consequence, are unaware of the profit and protection that can come from registering trade marks, designs and respecting copyrights. …