Protecting intellectual property by dfhrf555fcg

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									               Protecting intellectual property


All businesses have intellectual property (IP), regardless of their
size or sector. This could be the name of your business, or
copyright, designs, patents and trade marks.

Your IP is likely to be a valuable asset. Securing and protecting it
could be essential to your business' future success, so it's vital to
understand your rights and how the law can help you.

This guide explains the importance of conducting an audit of your
business' IP. It sets out the different kinds of legal protection
available for IP and explains the range of things you can do to
protect and manage your IP rights.



The importance of protecting intellectual property

Intellectual property (IP) rights are valuable assets for your
business - possibly among the most important it possesses.

Your IP can:

     set your business apart from competitors

     be sold or licensed, providing an important revenue stream

     offer customers something new and different

     form an essential part of your marketing or branding

You may be surprised at how many aspects of your business can be
protected - its name and logo, designs, inventions, works of
creative or intellectual effort or trade marks that distinguish your
business can all be types of IP.



Intellectual property management - conducting an audit

The first step to protecting and exploiting your business' intellectual
property successfully is carrying out a systematic intellectual
property (IP) audit.

To carry out an audit, look closely at your business to:

     identify where IP is used

     find out who owns the IP rights

     assess the value of the IP

This won't always be straightforward. Remember that
your IP doesn't just reside in patents you hold or trade marks
you've registered. You also need to consider items such as any
bespoke software, written material, domain names and customer
databases.

Key questions an IP audit should raise:

     Is my IP protected?

     Am I infringing anybody else's IP rights?

     Am I fully exploiting my IP?



Getting legal protection for your intellectual property

There are four main ways in which the law provides protection for
your intellectual property.
Patents

Patents protect your inventions for a set period. You must apply to
the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK-IPO) for a patent.

You can only patent an invention if no one has done so before you.
To see if there is an existing patent you need to carry out a patent
search.


Trade marks

A trade mark is the distinctive way in which your business' goods or
services are represented - in the form of slogans, symbols, words,
logos, brand names or shapes, for example.

You can take legal action to prevent someone else using your trade
mark if you've built up sufficient trading reputation and goodwill in
it - but this can be difficult to prove. For added protection it's a
good idea to use trade mark registration to safeguard your
trade mark.


Design right and registered designs

Design right gives automatic but limited protection for the
appearance of three-dimensional objects. A registered design gives
added protection and applies to both two-dimensional and three-
dimensional objects.


Copyright

This is the automatic protection the law affords original literary
(including software), artistic or dramatic work and sound
recordings that are the result of intellectual effort or creative skill.
This could cover your website's content, technical drawings or
instruction manuals, for example.
You can get information on copyright on the UK-IPO website.

Assistance with intellectual property protection

Intellectual property (IP) protection can be an important part of
ensuring your

Specialist legal advice is available! Patent attorneys are legally
qualified in all aspects of patents, trade marks, design and
copyright law. They are represented professionally by the Chartered
Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA).

Similarly, trade mark attorneys are legally qualified in trade
mark, design and copyright issues. They are represented
professionally by the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys (ITMA).


Protecting your ideas overseas

IP protection is territorial, which means if you've registered
protection in the UK it applies only within the UK. However, the
majority of countries have similar laws relating to intellectual
property and you can seek protection in other countries.

Intellectual property and freelance contractors

You should take steps to ensure your business owns any intellectual
property (IP) rights in work created for you by freelance
contractors.

For example, unless you take adequate precautions you could find
your business would be unable to use a successful advertising
slogan across all its promotional material if the phrase in
question was coined by an agency that agreed to produce the
slogan for a one-off newspaper campaign only.
You should therefore set out, in a written agreement, who will
own, control and use the IP rights of all work created before a
contractor produces anything for your business.

Remember that IP rights may reside in promotional material,
bespoke software - such as databases and website content
management systems - and other creative work which may be
undertaken by freelance contractors.

You may want to seek legal advice when drawing up agreements
with contractors. You can search for a solicitor on the Law
Society website.



Prevent intellectual property infringement

If your ideas get into the wrong hands before you have taken action
to protect them, you could find your intellectual property (IP) rights
seriously compromised - or even lose them entirely. It's therefore
very important that all your business' material in which there
are IP rights is kept secure.

This is essential before IP protection has been applied for - or
registered - as any disclosure could jeopardise your claim to
originality. For certain creative works it will also be important
afterwards because enforcing your intellectual property rights
against infringers can be time-consuming and expensive.

Basic steps you can take to avoid IP infringement include:

     asking employees - and third parties to whom key information
      must be disclosed - to sign confidentiality agreements

     keeping important hard-copy information locked up
Take special care when trying to sell or license an invention, idea or
design to an agent, manufacturer or potential partner, even if
registration is complete. Apart from a confidentiality agreement, if
you have not protected your idea by applying for a patent, trade
mark or design, post a dated copy of your idea to yourself using
recorded delivery and lodge the unopened envelope and postal
record with your bank or solicitor.

Information stored electronically, particularly on computers
connected to the Internet, needs protection from both lapses in
security and IT disasters.

You should:

     ensure sensitive information is kept on password-protected
      areas of your system

     install anti-virus software and keep it up to date

     install firewalls to prevent unauthorised users from hacking
      into your system and update them regularly

     back up your work and ensure back-ups are stored securely

     protect your system against power surges and failures



Protecting your business name and domain name

Your business name is the most basic intellectual property asset you
have. It could also be the most important. Your business' reputation
is tied up with its name so you don't want somebody else trading on
it.

If the name of your business is distinctive to the goods and services
you provide, you may be able to take legal action against anyone
using it in the same or a similar field.
You will get additional legal protection if you register the name as a
trade mark


Protect your name on the Internet

If you want to set up a website for your business you will probably
want to register a domain name incorporating your business
name, or any trade marks you have.

To register a domain name you first need to check whether it's
available. You can search domain names ending in .uk on the
Nominet website. If you want a domain name ending in .com, you
can search domain names ending in .com on the Network
Solutions website. Many web hosting companies offer domain
searching and registration facilities.

However, having a trade mark doesn't give you an automatic right
to a domain name incorporating your trade mark. Someone may
have already registered the domain name you want for the same or
different goods and services.

But you may be able to take legal action if you think:

     someone is using a domain name to pass off their goods and
      services as yours

     someone has taken out your trade mark as a domain name
      just to sell it back to you


Intellectual property management - carrying out searches

It's a good idea to carry out searches to check you're not
committing IP infringement.

If you're planning to use a sign to distinguish your business from
competitors, you should always carry out a full trade mark search -
You could also use the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK-
IPO) Search and Advisory service to search for you and check that
your trade mark meets registration requirements and does not
conflict with any existing trade marks. You should also consider
checking with Companies House to ensure that no one else is using
your proposed trade mark as their company name.

Under the Trade Marks (Relative Grounds) Order 2007 the registrar
can now register a trade mark that is the same as or similar to an
existing trade mark, unless the owner of the earlier mark
successfully opposes the new application. However, it is still worth
checking that no one has registered the same or a similar trade
mark before you make your application.

If you want to make, use, sell or import someone's invention, you
should carry out a full patent search. You should also do a search if
you're considering applying for your own patent.

If you want to make, sell, use or import goods you should carry out
a full design search. If you want to use original creative work you
should find out whether it is covered by copyright.

Making a mistake and infringing upon someone else's rights could
be costly, so it is worth obtaining professional help. You can get
help with your searches from a patent attorney or trade mark
attorney. Search for a trade mark attorney on the Institute of
Trade Mark Attorneys (ITMA) website.

								
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