A Guide for UK Business Owners
Intellectual Property (IP) is a fundamental part of any business’s success, encompassing a wide spectrum of assets such as brand names, logos, product designs, and inventions. The importance of safeguarding these assets is evidently crucial, however, numerous UK businesses continue to fall short of the mark when protecting their IP.
In the below guide, we delve into some of the most prevalent mistakes that businesses make in this field in order to provide you with some insights on how to avoid them.
The Risk of Failing to Register Your Rights
One of the cardinal mistakes that many businesses make is failing to register their IP rights. This error can leave a business incredibly vulnerable, as unregistered IP lacks the legal protection that is needed to deter unauthorised copying of a business’s assets.
For example, trademarks play a pivotal role in brand preservation. However, many neglect to register their trademarks and in doing so unwittingly exposing their brands to infringement. In the UK, the “first to file” principle, which favours the initial registration applicant for a trademark, highlights the importance of swift registration for businesses to secure their exclusive rights. By taking this step, businesses can prevent potential loss of rights and subsequent legal entanglements which can easily arise over IP disputes.
Registering Your Rights Incorrectly: Precision Matters
While the registration of intellectual property is paramount, it is important to note that the process involved demands meticulous attention. Registering trademarks, designs, and patents can often entail a myriad of detailed legalities that can undermine the efficacy of granted rights if they not carried out in an ‘air tight’ manner.
Specificity is key here, especially when delineating exactly what goods and services are associated with the trademark. Furthermore, should these chosen associations begin to diverge from their actual use over time, it is important to remember that the registration’s validity can then be challenged!
Another prevalent error to bear in mind is the mistake of registering IP rights under an individual’s name instead of the business entity that they are affiliated with. This can obviously lead to contentious issues upon employee or shareholder departure from said business.
The Importance of Clear Agreements in Securing Rights for Commissioned Works
Assuming automatic ownership of any commissioned work from a third party is yet another IP protection blunder that many businesses tend to make. UK law dictates that creators automatically retain copyright to their work unless this is expressly transferred to a business.
This misunderstanding can lead to some ambiguity surrounding a business’s use of commissioned works such as designs, photos, and marketing materials. However, confusion be avoided through the use of explicit agreements and contracts that clearly transfer or license IP rights to the business in question prior to commencement of any commissioned work.
Avoiding Premature Disclosure and Protecting Your Innovations
Prematurely disclosing an idea, invention, or design before a business has secured the relevant patents or registrations to own it can significantly undermine the protection of its intellectual property.
Patents and designs are dependent upon proven novelty and so any form of public disclosure of these assets prior to their registration can render trademark protection void. To prevent the ‘leaking’ of any such assets through various channels like social media, the press, or public presentations, businesses should always exercise caution and maintain confidentiality through Non-Disclosure Agreements when working on new projects.
Pre-empting IP Disputes in Joint Ventures and Partnerships
Perhaps unsurprisingly, joint ventures and partnerships are an area of business that is most prone to IP disputes when ownership rights have not been clearly established. Any form of commercial collaboration necessitates an upfront agreement to prevent such conflicts from arising due to differing business priorities or goals within the company.
Joint ownership complexities are therefore a particularly good example of the need for prudent planning and legally sound agreements that delineate IP management and decision-making responsibilities.
The Obvious Importance of Safeguarding Your Business Assets
Protecting your intellectual property in the modern commercial world is evidently an indispensable necessity. As seen above, avoiding the many pitfalls of not ensuing that this is done correctly at the start of any business venture can help provide your business with robust protection for its creative assets.
Further, seeking expert legal counsel on this matter is pivotal when navigating the intricacies of intellectual property rights. Our dedicated team of IP solicitors at Grayfords can help guide you through the often highly detailed and laborious process of protecting your assets in this capacity. Whether you need assistance with trademark registration or help with navigating joint business ventures, we can give you the much needed expertise that you require.
Contact us on 0207 100 6100 or book a free consultation here. Your business’s future security starts with a proactive approach to IP protection.