Every business will own or use intellectual property on a daily basis. Does your startup have an IP strategy? What about your customers? Should you protect your business name with a trade mark, who owns your business logo, your web site and what about the documents you produce for your customers, who owns the IP in those?

There are four main types of IP:

  • patents – protects new inventions: how they work, what they do, how they do it, what they are made of and how they are made 
  • designs – protects the overall look of a product including the colour, shape, texture and material
  • trade marks – protects brands, such as a business name, and can consist of a word, phrase, picture or a combination of all these
  • copyright - protects written, dramatic, musical and artistic works including photos, recordings, web sites, software and databases

So to answer a few questions, with copyright the creator owns, unless there is a written assignment in place. This means that if you have a website, a logo, photos on your website or text written by third parties they may own the copyright. 

Understanding intellectual property may help investors, lenders and the business itself identify and leverage income from its IP. The value and ownership of IP can have a major impact on your business and your customers' businesses - in particular if there is an M&A or business sale.

A Ltd company name may potentially infringe another party's trade mark so efforts should be made to do a trade mark search in addition to a Companies House search. These can be conducted free of charge of the IPO website but note that trade mark infringement can potentially impact through sound alike, look alikes etc. 

So what’s it worth?

Business are not making the most of their ideas and innovations. They can do this by identifying and putting a value on their intellectual property. The IPO has recently published a report called The Hidden Value which looked to understand why companies do not consider the hidden financial value of their intangible assets on a more routine basis. 

The IPO website has lots of information and is worth a look. From the home page you can access a section entitled IP for Business. Within the section there are case studies, event listings and lots more including two free online tools. IP Equip is a free online training tool. It takes just over an hour to complete, can be done in 15 minute sections and can build your knowledge of IP.

There is also the IP Health Check tool which is a basic IP audit and covers a range of IP areas including copyright, trade marks, licensing and lots more.

This contribution was from David Hopkins – business engagement manager, Intellectual Property Office. If you would like to get in touch with us and request a callback please do so anytime. 


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