Your brand sets you apart from your competitors. But have you thought about protecting your brand?
Your brand exists as a means of communicating what to expect from your business, organisation, product or service and is something that you have invested in from the concept stage of your business. What you do and how you do it are driven by your brand values, and decisions you make define your brand.
To put the value of a brand into perspective, think about some of the top global brands such as Coca Cola, Apple, Microsoft, Virgin. When you think about these brands, you will probably think about a product or service, or even a promise of an experience which defines your expectation of that brand. Your brand has this power too, and who knows, one day it might be sitting in the top 100 global superbrands!
Your brand is a valuable asset to your business and you’ve invested time, energy & money in getting your business established. You’ve created your brand, built a great customer base and are delivering fantastic products and services that you are really proud of and that your customers value and love. Even the nerdy accountants place a value on a brand – it’s called goodwill and is valued as an asset in the balance sheet of your business.
Your brand is worth protecting.
Intellectual Property – trade mark, patents, design rights, copyright
Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is part of the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and provides protection for your Intellectual Property. Their website www.ipo.gov.uk offers a wealth of information regarding protecting your brand, designs and inventions.
Protect your brand by registering your Trade Mark
You can protect your brand by registering your ‘Trade Mark’ with the Intellectual Property Office. A trade mark is your brand identity; for example words, logo’s or a combination of both, that distinguishes your goods or services from those of your competitors. The only way to register your trade mark is to apply to the Intellectual Property Office. It’s a straightforward process and can be done online.
Registering your trade mark costs £200 (price at January ’17) which provides protection for your trade mark in one business classification for 10 years. If you apply online you currently receive a £30 discount.
You can carry out a trade mark search to make sure that your trade mark has not already been registered. If you are at business start-up stage, it’s worth doing a search to make sure your chosen name hasn’t been registered by someone else. Please remember that registering a company name at Companies House or an internet domain name with a registrar, does not mean that the Intellectual Property Office will automatically accept that name as a trade mark. These registrations do not give you exclusive right to use that name. Also, a domain or company name registration may infringe someone else’s trade mark.
By protecting your trade mark you are protecting your brand and all the goodwill you have built up with all the great work that you are doing. A registered trade mark is your property, which means that you can sell it or franchise it, or let other people have a license that allows them to use it.
Here’s a summary of protection available for your other forms of intellectual property –
Protect inventions with a patent
If you invent a product or process that could be commercially successful and valuable, you could apply for a patent which can protect your invention from being made, used, imported or sold by anyone else without your permission in the country the patent was granted.
Protect your designs
Design protection is given to the way a product looks. In the UK there are two ways of protecting your design – you can rely on Design Right or you can apply for a Registered Design.
Design Right gives you automatic protection for the configuration of an original design, i.e. its three-dimensional shape. Design Right allows you to stop anyone from copying the shape or configuration, but does not give you protection for any of the 2-dimensional aspects, for example surface patterns.
Registered design gives you total rights of ownership over the appearance of a product, protecting both the 3-dimensional and 2-dimensional features of a design. If you wish to protect a pattern that you intend to apply to textiles for example, a registered design would be appropriate.
Copyright is an automatic right
Copyright is an automatic right which you do not need to formally apply or pay for. Copyright protects sound recordings, films, broadcasts and original artistic, musical, dramatic and literary works. This includes photographs, sculptures, websites, computer programs, plays, books, videos, databases, maps and logos. Copyright arises as soon as the work is “fixed”, for example written down, recorded or stored in a computer memory. You should use © followed by your name and the date to indicate when it was created and by who.
You are responsible for enforcing your intellectual property rights. If someone uses your intellectual property without your permission, they may be infringing your IP rights and you may be able take legal action against them. Seek advice from a legal professional (such as a Patent or Trade Mark attorney) before entering into any disputes.
Your intellectual property is one of your most valuable business assets. It can increase your competitiveness and contribute to your businesses success. As the owner of intellectual property you have the right to license it or sell it, or transfer that right to someone else. It’s worth protecting.
This blog was first written in 2013 and published by Sage and Yahoo! Finance . I hope that it helps small businesses understand a little bit about their intellectual property rights and how they can take steps to protect their intellectual property. It’s easy to do and worth doing.