Legal

How SMEs Can Embrace Intellectual Property

Daniel Fletcher | 2 May 2022 | 2 years ago

The creativity of entrepreneurialism and dynamism of disrupters tend not to be associated with the rigidness of rights, rules, and regulations. It’s easy to see how entrepreneurial businesses may feel creativity could be hampered with bureaucracy and get wrapped up in red tape.  

To mark World Intellectual Property Day (26th April), Daniel Fletcher, solicitor at Forbes Solicitors looks at the key benefits of why businesses should be embracing IP rights and celebrating World IP Day and how IP rights help forward-thinking businesses to achieve their goals.

The backdrop  

The Government has set out a Counter-Infringement Strategy which will work towards making UK intellectual property rights and those rights owned by UK businesses internationally, the best protected in the world, setting a gold standard globally.

This will benefit businesses should any third parties look to infringe on any of the IP rights that they hold. The Government is aiming to tighten up on infringement of IP, and the Strategy looks at the fundamental processes and structures needed for effective collaborative working on IP infringement over the long-term.

The Strategy really shines a light on IP crime, which SMEs can particularly fall victim to. The Government stated: “IP crime is often considered by criminals as a low-risk but very high-reward crime. The IPO’s new strategy highlights the link between IP crime and other serious criminality such as money laundering, causing significant harm across communities. The strategy recognises that increased public awareness and criminal enforcement are complementary elements in addressing these harms. It commits to working toward a time when IP infringement is seen as socially unacceptable to all, while delivering intelligence driven enforcement action against the perpetrators of IP crime.”

The benefits  

For businesses, the benefits of embracing the IP regulations and protecting their IP rights include the fact it enhances the market value of the business and can be the key to unlocking businesses ideas and turning them into profit-making assets.

IP allows businesses to create an image or brand for the business and market its products and services. Companies can monetise the IP that they own through assignment (sale) and/or licensing, and IP can also increase the competitiveness of the business in the relevant marketplace.

Furthermore, businesses will also be able to stop third parties from using their brands and taking advantage of the reputation and goodwill they have built up if they have the right protection in place.

What does it mean for your business?  

  • Protect first, market second – once businesses have disclosed inventions or marketed them, it is likely that patentability is lost, so it is important to get protection in place before selling.
  • You can probably trade mark more than you think – businesses may feel that only words or logos can be registered as a trade mark when this is incorrect, as a registered trade mark can be ‘any sign’ which is capable of (a) being represented in a manner that enables the registrar and public to determine the subject matter afforded to it, and (b) distinguishing the goods or services of one undertaking from those of others. Trade marks can also be personal names, slogans, letters, numerals, the shape of goods or their packaging and, to a lesser extent, colours, sounds, smells and moving images, providing they meet the requirements of a trade mark.
  • You don’t have to register copyright to protect it –in the UK, copyright is an automatic right that subsists when the work in question was made or published. Businesses commonly misunderstand copyright protection with that afforded to registered trade marks.
  • Beware of larger companies using their IP rights to challenge you as a smaller competitor – with reference to David and Goliath scenarios, smaller businesses commonly see larger businesses as using their IP rights to “bully” smaller competitors. While there is legislation in place to protect parties against unjustified threats, it is arguable that this does not go far enough and this is coupled with relatively open-ended grounds for infringement in the UK (particularly for registered trade marks, where it is possible for the proprietor of any similar trade mark covering similar goods and/or services to bring an action). It is vitally important that appropriate legal advice is sought prior to carrying out any rebranding and destruction exercise.
Embracing their IP rights can provide businesses with a clear competitive advantage and for SMEs should be viewed as an opportunity for growth rather than a hurdle to overcome. The UK is home to some world-class businesses that continue to reinvent themselves on a global stage. Investing in innovation and protecting new ideas will be key not only to businesses’ individual success but also to a thriving UK economy.

Topic

Legal

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