Louise Allford is Communications Manager at the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). Here she talks about the importance for designers and businesses to think carefully about their intellectual property and take the right steps to protect it.

Did you know that intellectual property (IP) is one of the most valuable assets your business will own? It could account for over 70 per cent of the value of your business.

50 per cent of UK small businesses think it’s important to prevent others from copying the look or appearance of their product. In fact, IP is particularly important in the creative industries. It can help you protect your brand, designs and artwork from potential copycats and infringers.

Designer Nicole Jelbert, founder of Nicole Phillips England, talks about how her designs were copied and the impact it had on her business.

Top tips for IP protection

Venturing into IP for the first time can seem daunting. The most important thing to remember is, you’re not alone. Hundreds of thousands of businesses have gone through this process before and have encountered every imaginable problem, raised every conceivable question and fallen at every possible hurdle along the way.

Based on their experiences, here are three top IP mistakes to avoid:

  1. Assuming IP isn’t relevant to you

Every business owns or uses some form of IP. It should be part of your business plan from day one. Don’t wait until your business is established and successful before protecting your IP, as it may be too late. Researching to see if your logo infringes someone’s trademark may feel like a waste of time, but it could help avoid problems in the future.

  1. Believing your registered company name is safe without a trademark

If you've registered your business with Companies House, it doesn’t give you sole ownership for your name. However, registering your company name as a trademark could allow you to stop others in your industry trading under a similar name.

  1. Mistaking the use of material as ownership

Using or copying someone else’s work without permission or a licence could result in legal action. You need to be aware that if you commission a third party to carry out work on your behalf (eg developing a website), they will own the rights.  You need to put a contract in place to transfer the copyright to your business.

Help for your business

IP for Business is a range of online support tools from the IPO which offers help, information and guidance on IP. Designed to help you identify and protect your IP assets, the toolkit includes:

  • IP Equip – A free, interactive e-learning tool to help you identify assets which may be protected by IP rights
  • IP Equip app – A free app available for iOS and Android devices, offering IP information at your fingertips
  • IP Health Check – A free online tool to help businesses assess, identify and add value to their IP
  • IP Master Class – A popular CPD-accredited course on IP for business professionals, which can be completed face-to-face or online

For further information on the IPO, or intellectual property in general, visit its website here.

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