For many, intellectual property (IP) is an abstract concept that seems elusive, and businesses are often surprised when they discover that not only do they have IP, but it could increase the value of their business, attract investment and be financially lucrative.
So, what is IP?
Intellectual property is the result of creativity. Inventors and innovators come up with new and novel ideas that then could be protected in one of several ways. Patents, trade marks and registered design rights are legal documents that enshrine ownership and usage rights in law. There’s no registration process for copyright or trade secrets but these too are effective forms of protection.
Patents Protect Inventions
Patents protect new things such as products, apparatus, compositions and systems. They also protect new actions; methods of making, doing or using.
- Patent example: The lightbulb!
Trade Marks Indicate the Source of a Product or Service
Logos, words, signs, patterns, sounds, animations, colours and smells can be registered as trade marks.
- Trade mark example: The McDonald’s golden arches!
Copyright Protects Original Forms of Expression
Written works, books, screenplays, scripts for performances, computer code, artistic works, pictures, paintings, photographs, stage designs, architectural designs, musical works, dramatic performances and choreography all attract copyright protection.
- Copyright example: Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone!
Design Covers the Appearance of Products
2D or 3D shapes, decoration and ornamentation can all be protected by design rights.
- Design example: The Coca-Cola bottle!
Trade Secrets mean keeping things quiet
Trade secrets protects information that is not known to the public. This includes ways of conducting business, methods of business, data and most known; recipes.
- Trade secret example: The Coca-Cola recipe!
What are the benefits?
Protecting your ideas prevents third parties using them. For example, protecting the name of your product means that should anyone else try to copy you (and ride on the results of your hard work), you will have the legal right to stop them. We often see big names publicly arguing; the Marks & Spencer v Aldi Caterpillar row played out on Twitter gaining a huge following earlier this year.
You could also attract on investment. For those that watch Dragons Den, you’ll be familiar with the way the ears prick on Dragons once an entrepreneur in the Den says the word ‘patent’. A patent shows that you “own” the technology and gives investors a level of surety that they’ll be able to commercialise the product or mechanism without other businesses bringing the same thing to the market in competition.
If you don’t want to market your creation yourself, you could raise money through licensing the right. This means another person(s) or business(es) will pay you a fee, or royalty, so that they can use it. Shutterstock is a popular platform that allows you to pay a fee to use pictures and videos owned by a third party.
In 1996 Marvel filed for bankruptcy in the USA. To save the business they first licensed their IP: the rights to Blade, X-Men and Spider-Man were all used to raise money. They then used their IP to get a $525million loan from the bank. Captain America, Ant-Man, Cloak & Dagger, The Avengers, Black Panther, Nick Fury, Hawkeye, Doctor Strange, Power Pack and Shang-Chi were all used as collateral. Today Marvel Entertainment LLC’s net worth is estimated to be around $5billion.
For more information please join us for our webinar with the BIPC on Thursday 4th November at 11am. Sign up here!
The best intentions
Banksy can draw. We know that.
He can also lose. In his book, Wall and Piece, Banksy famously said that “copyright is for losers” because of the difficulties he has experienced trying to enforcing copyright in his works.
But does he know how to win? Apparently not, given his losing streak in recent, well publicised trade mark cases...
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