If you ask most small businesses about their intellectual property (IP) it’s likely that the majority would say “My what?” or “I don’t get involved in that. I’m just a small business.” The reality is that most small businesses already have intellectual property – and don’t even realise it. They don’t realise that some forms of intellectual property are an automatic right, requiring no application process or fees. They don’t realise that intellectual property is a business asset in the same way that equipment and premises are business assets. It’s just that IP is an intangible asset. It might not be something you can actually touch but it can potentially be the biggest asset that a business – of any size – can have.
Copyright(protecting a large range of creative works which for many businesses includes such things as website content, promotional literature, photographs and music).
Having IP and being aware of how you can use it often makes it easier to gain investment in your business. IP assets make you more attractive to investors. You may wish to licence your IP to others to generate further income.
Names, logos and slogans
Your business has a name and you provide products or services which may have names. You may have logos and slogans related to them. As customers become more aware of your products and services these names, logos and slogans gain value. The more well-known and reliable your services are the greater the value. The “Coca Cola” name has been valued at around £40 billion – an extreme example but it shows the significance of the name. It is the biggest asset the company has.
Your business / product names, logos and slogans may all be assets you could protect in order to prevent competitors from using something similar. Such protection could prevent others from benefiting from your reputation and taking customers from you. This is the purpose of trade marks.
If your business has a website, the content of the website is protected automatically by copyright. The big question is – who does that copyright belong to? In the first instance copyright always belongs to the person who creates the work so if you create your own website you will own the copyright. If someone else designs the content for you they will own the copyright – and paying them does not give you the copyright. It needs to be transferred, or “assigned” to you in writing. So do you own your website or does a web designer own it? If you use photographs or music on your site do you own them? If you didn’t create them do you have licences to use them? The same applies to any creative work done for you by someone outside your business. Do you actually own what you think you own?
If you develop or manufacture new products yourself an awareness of patents and registered designs can be beneficial – not only in terms of protecting what you have but also as a means of finding out what your competitors are doing. By keeping an eye on newly published patent specifications you can monitor new developments in your area of business.
So before you dismiss intellectual property as something which doesn’t concern you think about whether adding value to your business is important to you; consider whether avoiding infringing the rights of others is significant and ponder on whether increasing your awareness of your competitors would be useful.
If the answer is yes, then intellectual property is important to you. If you’d like to be enlightened further contact or visit us......
Business and Patent Information Services
Leeds Central library