Intellectual property rights will allow you to protect the brand that you have developed for your business, inventions that you or your business creates and the goodwill that your business has generated. Goodwill can often be priceless; it is essentially the association of quality goods and services with a brand name - which can be your business name.
Every business, be it small and local or large and international, should be taking advantage of these rights - some of which can arise without the need for registration.
You should be considering the following rights in your business:
Copyright: this right arises automatically and protects original works, including entrepreneurial works, which are recorded in some way. The work need not have any artistic merit; something as simple as a brochure describing business services can be protected by copyright as long as it is original. Copyright can be used to stop the unauthorised copying of work for a period of up to 70 years. For businesses that use original, written documents or pictures/images, copyright is an indispensable right.
Trademarks and passing off: these rights protect marks that distinguish a business' goods and services from those of others - essentially, a 'brand name'. Trademarks must be registered but after registration, can last in perpetuity. Passing off claims can be used to protect unregistered marks. As long as the name or brand is known to potential customers and the use of a similar mark has caused confusion causing damage to the business, an action for passing off will succeed.
Design rights: the novel and individual character of the visual appearance of a product or part of a product can be protected by both registered and unregistered design rights. These rights can last for up to 25 years.
Patents: inventions can be few and far between and are often not easy, or cheap, to come by. It is prudent to take all the necessary patent-registration steps as swiftly as possible to ensure that the idea is kept for the benefit of the inventor. Patents grant a 20 year monopoly to the inventor and are available for inventions that are new and involve an inventive step.
Confidential information: this is not protected by intellectual property rights in the classic sense but can sometimes be the most important and valuable asset to a business. As long as the information remains a secret, the right arises automatically. It also protects information that has been disclosed in circumstances that impose obligations of confidence and can stop ex-employees from disclosing information without authorisation.
Valuable assets like brand and goodwill are vital components for commercial success. They should be made a business priority; Greenaway Scott can help you identify what rights you and your business have and take the steps needed to ensure you are protected.
The information contained in this article is for information purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. If you require further information, our commercial team would be more than happy to assist you. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 029 2009 5500 to speak to one of our team