Thinking about and taking steps to protect intellectual property is how you turn intangible assets into exclusive property rights.
Depending on the type of IP right in question, the property right lasts for a certain length of time, which may often be renewed on payment of further fees.
Taking the right steps to protect an IP right enables your SME to claim ownership over its intangible assets and exploit them to their maximum potential. In short, IP protection makes intangible assets a bit more tangible.
Legal protection involves different steps depending on the type of IP. For example,
1. Copyright generally involves reviewing the legal agreements you have in place, and making sure your rights are safeguarded.
2. Trade marks involve choosing names carefully, as only names that can function as trade marks are protectable. Also, if a name is not available then you may not own it, even if you register it as a trade mark.
3. Patents involve inventions, and if it’s possible to patent yours, then you must make your confidential information available to the state in return for obtaining a monopoly right over the claims in your granted patent.
4. Designs involve securing legal protection over the shape or surface design of a product. You would need to submit drawings of the design when applying to register it.
5. Trade secrets protect your know how and other insights about your business. The way you do things, or other valuable information has value, and you will want to prevent competitors accessing such information. The steps to protect such knowledge involve carefully guarding of the information and having appropriate legal agreements in place.
By taking appropriate actions in relation to each product or service or business asset you create, you’re able to turn these IP rights into valuable exclusive assets that can often be traded in the market place. It’s important to note that sometimes a single product might be protectable by all the various IP rights. So, don't assume that registering a trade mark is all that’s involved to protect your IP.
If the innovative ideas, creative designs and powerful brands of your SME are not legally protected by IP rights, then these may be freely and legally used by any other business without limitation. So, what might start out as distinctive to you, then becomes generic.
For example, had Coca Cola not protected its iconic bottle design through IP rights, the design would have been available to every business to use, and would therefore not be uniquely associated with Coca Cola. When IP rights are protected, they remain distinctive to you, and acquire concrete value for your enterprise. They become property rights which cannot be commercialized or used without your permission.
Increasingly, investors, stock market brokers and financial advisors are becoming aware of this reality and have begun to value IP assets highly.
Enterprises worldwide are also more and more acknowledging the value of their IP assets, and, on occasions, have included them in their balance sheets. Many businesses, including small businesses, now regularly undertake technology and IP audits. In a number of cases, businesses have realized that their IP assets are in fact worth more than their physical assets. This is often the case for companies operating in knowledge-intensive and highly innovative sectors, or companies with a well-known brand name for their niche product or service.
By signing up for Legally Branded Newsletter, You will gain insights every week on intellectual property. Paying attention to IP is the way to discover what steps to take to preserve the value of your assets, to grow your profit margins, create new income streams, protect your market share, and prevent competitors from copying your ideas.