Intellectual Property and protecting your ideas

Intellectual Property Rights

When you’re a small business owner, it can often be hard to keep on top of every aspect of your business, every day. But one particularly important aspect that shouldn't be overlooked is the protection of your business assets. Yes, we're talking about intellectual property, and if that's an area you haven't thought about until today, it's time to start thinking about how your protect your most valuable assets before it's too late. 

It's estimated that intellectual property (or IP) accounts for up to 70% of a modern company’s value, so you can imagine what having those rights infringed upon can do to your flourishing business.  UK IP rights are an aspect of business that a lot of people struggle to understand fully. In fact, recent research by patent specialist Aistemos has found that most business decisions are being made in the workplace without full understanding of the relevant UK IP rights involved. The study also found that when it comes to research and development, collaborations and mergers, business leaders only 'sometimes’ had the relevant IP data needed to make an educated decision.

What is intellectual property?

Starting with the basics, intellectual property can be anything from a logo or product, to a service or a process that differentiates your business from others. Your ideas and creative outputs should be registered to you, so that other businesses can’t take them and profit from them without doing all the hard word of coming up with the idea in the first place.

Why is it important?

Thanks to the internet, it's easier than ever for businesses to poach your unique intellectual property and use it for their own gain. No matter the size of the company you run or work for, if you don’t protect your intellectual property, you're at danger of IP theft - which can quite literally mean the end for your business.

Your UK IP rights can help to set your business apart from the competition, offer customers something new and exciting, be sold or licensed to provide you with an important stream of revenue, and can even form an essential part of your marketing or branding strategy, not to mention they can also used as security for loans.

How do you protect your intellectual property?

Whether it’s a great idea, or a unique service that you offer, there are a number of different ways for you to protect your intellectual property from others. Depending on your circumstances you can use trademarks, copyrights and/or patents to help prevent theft of your IP. 

How do my UK IP rights protect me?

Your UK IP rights can help to protect you and your business against infringement by others, and can be used to defend your rights in court should someone infringe them. You can also use your UK IP rights to stop other businesses or people from using, making, selling or importing your product without your permission. What's more, they can allow you to earn royalties by licensing your product to others.

If you want to know more about your IP rights and the UK laws that protect them, a good place to start is the Intellectual Property Office. It's also worth noting that simply because your intellectual property is protected in the UK, does not necessarily mean it's protected elsewhere. Take a look at the World Intellectual Property Organization website for advice on international protection.