Every business owns some form of intellectual property but unfortunately not every business has properly audited its IP. Why is this I hear you ask? IP is clearly a valuable commercial asset and overlooking IP protection can lead to costly disputes in the future?? I quite agree but the problem normally comes down to properly understanding the different forms of intellectual property rights and how best to protect them. So let’s take each of them in turn:
Copyright is an unregistered right in the UK and EU and so it would benefit a great deal from an audit (as you won’t be able to establish ownership by checking public registers). The most common works protected by copyright are literary works, which include text and software code, and artistic works, which include graphics and images.
Due to the fact that copyright is an unregistered right there are often disputes over ownership so part of your audit should include an examination of key copyright works and an assessment of who authored them and who ultimately owns them. If the answer isn’t what you were expecting, assignment agreements can be put in place.
Conversely trade marks can be registered and most commonly they protect either words or logos. This protection is jurisdictional and limited to certain classes of good and services so, your audit should consider the following:
Designs can be either registered or unregistered however the unregistered rights have a short term of protection and can be harder to enforce. On that basis you should look to register your designs wherever possible however, in the UK and EU there is a strict 12-month grace period in which to do so. On that basis your audit should consider the public disclosure date of your designs and how long you have left to get them registered.
Fortunately registered designs are cheap to secure and have a good term of protection (25 years) so they’re very much worth the effort.
Patents on the other hand can be expensive to register, largely due the rigorous examination process that they need to go through.
In order to protect your invention with a patent it needs to be novel and secret. So, your audit should consider whether you have new innovations in the pipeline and the extent to which they can be protected prior to any public disclosure.
Finally confidential information has the advantage of being free to own (i.e. unregistered) however it needs to be policed. As soon as a piece of confidential information is in the public domain it’s no long confidential and cannot be treated as such. So, use your audit to assess what Non-Disclosure Agreements you have in place and whether more are required in order to keep your secrets, secret.
Fortunately Briffa is on hand to assist with any or all of the above. So, if you would like to have your IP audited by one of our expert solicitors please just email email@example.com to arrange a consultation.
We’ll start with a no obligation chat where we’ll get to know you and understand your current challenges.
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