What Steps Should I Take to Protect my Business Intellectual Property?

October 14, 2021

By Siobhan Williams

Intellectual Property (IP) is vitally important to businesses. For many businesses, IP constitutes their single most valuable asset and for others, it is as valuable as their plant, premises and stock. IP can be used as a lever to secure finance for company growth and is a commodity in the UK business sector, so it is important that it is protected.

There are a range of steps that you can take to protect your business IPR, including the following:

  • Commissioning an IPR audit will help you identify what IPR you have in your business and what steps you can take to protect and exploit it. Many business owners are not aware of the extent of the IPR that they own, nor what they can do to protect and exploit it.

  • An IPR development plan will ensure that you have in place an active program to ensure the identification, protection and exploitation of your IPR. An IPR development plan will build on the work done by an IPR audit and formulate a strategy as to how your business IPR can be developed, thereby enhancing the value of the business.

  • You should devise a system for monitoring the illegal exploitation of your IPR by third parties, including online. You should be prepared to take legal action when necessary to protect your IPR. Use of copyright and other ownership notices may put off a third party from infringing your IPR in the first place.

  • Take appropriate steps to register your IPR such as patents, trademarks and design rights. By registering your IPR you will have a much higher degree of protection legally if your IPR is exploited by third parties. The legal options open to you will include applying for a court order (injunction) to stop the third party from taking the offending action and also suing them for damages.

  • Where your employees are engaged in generating your IPR, it is important that the ownership position is clear. This can be achieved through carefully drafted contacts of employment, appropriate policies and also your employee handbook.

  • When using the services of third-party consultants to help develop your IPR, it is crucial to ensure that the ownership of the IPR vests in your business at the end of the process.

  • When dealing with other third parties such as customers and suppliers, always use professionally drafted contracts to ensure that your IPR is protected. Also, when requested to sign another party’s terms of business, make sure that you take legal advice to ensure that you do not inadvertently give away any legal rights in your IPR.

  • Some legal rights in your IPR will arise automatically, for example copyright. Although there are no registration requirements in relation to copyright, you will still need to ensure that you retain evidence of your original development work.

  • If you have a group company structure, you may wish to consider sheltering ownership of your IPR in a non-trading holding company. This can be an effective way of protecting ownership of your IPR by sheltering it from the inherent risks of business trading. However, it is always important to take appropriate tax advice in relation to such strategies.

If you would like a free, no obligation conversation about how we can help you with the above, please contact Siobhan Williams on swilliams@darwingray.com / 02920829124.

 


Stephen Thompson

 

 

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