IP assignment

CHAPTER 6

Intellectual Property

 

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This is a long chapter – but a very important one! Understanding Intellectual Property (IP), and how to protect it, is one of the biggest ways to ensure business success and longevity.

What is IP and why do I need to protect it?

IP stands for Intellectual Property. It refers to the various rights to do with ownership of intangible property. IP is often one of the most valuable aspects of the business, especially for innovative businesses that capitalise on their smarts. This is because IP is the thing that makes your business unique and differentiates it from your competitors.

The most common types of intellectual property are:

types of intellectual property

There are some other types of IP too, such as designs and plant breeders rights. You can speak to a lawyer to help you figure out which types of IP protection you need.

How do you protect your IP?

There are 3 main ways to protect your IP as a small business.

  1. Intellectual property and confidentiality clauses in all of your contracts.
  2. Intellectual property assignment deeds and non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).
  3. Registration of trade marks or patents.

Intellectual property and confidentiality clauses in contracts

Ensuring that contracts you sign contain appropriate intellectual property and confidentiality clauses is a crucial aspect of protecting your business IP.

You’ve put a lot of hard work and creative thinking into your business – and so whenever someone comes into contact with any of your IP or confidential information, you don’t want the risk that they could take it and claim it as their own! That said, you can’t keep everything a secret or you won’t be able to meaningfully work with anyone else.

Having well drafted contracts with your employees, contractors, service providers, suppliers, customers – basically anyone that comes into contact with your business – is an important safeguard. It can be hard to know exactly how to word it, but having a lawyer draft these contracts, giving particular attention to the IP and confidentiality provisions specific to your business, will give you that peace of mind.

Intellectual Property Assignment Deeds and NDAs

An IP Assignment Deed is a legal document that transfers ownership of the IP created by one person to someone else.

For example, imagine you run an app company and hire a software developer to write the software code for your app. By default, the software developer will own the copyright in the code they create. But as the app company, you’d want to have full ownership of that code so that you can use it in everything you do with your app. You can get the software developer to sign an IP Assignment Deed so that the IP in the code belongs to your company.

If you’re engaging in confidential commercial discussions, you can also use an NDA or a confidentiality agreement. If other parties sign this legal document, they are prohibited from dispersing or using confidential information you share during your discussions.

Registration of Trade Marks

Registering your business name and logo as a trade mark is a key way to protect your business’s brand, image and reputation. Registration gives the business exclusive use of the trade mark within certain classes of business activities. If you don’t register a trade mark, someone may come in with a very similar name or logo and prevent you from using yours.

If it is very early days for the business it might seem too soon to consider, but as the business becomes established it will become increasingly more important to register the trade mark. It takes at least 8 months to register a trade mark, sometimes longer. It is possible to apply for a trade mark by yourself – see here for more information. However, it can be pretty confusing to figure out if you’ve done it properly and it’s normally a good idea to get a lawyer to help you.

Registration of Patents

Registering a patent is a way to give you exclusive commercial rights to your invention (a monopoly). The process of registering a patent can be very technical, and it is normally a good idea to seek expert advice.

The type of patent you hold will determine the duration of your protection.

  • A standard patent lasts for up to 20 years.
  • An innovation patent only lasts for up to 8 years.
  • Pharmaceutical patents can last up to 25 years.

In conclusion…

In this chapter, we’ve learned about the different types of IP and how to protect them so that they are adding value to your business. It’s a lot to consider – if you’re not sure you’re making the right choices, you’re welcome to contact us and ask about how we can help!

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Tell us about your legal issue and we’ll put together a fixed fee quote for you.

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