Getting Started

Protect your company’s intellectual property

It’s vital to safeguard your business’s ideas and inventions – we answer the most common questions about the process

Protect your company’s intellectual property

It’s vital to safeguard your business’s ideas and inventions – we answer the most common questions about the process

Protect your company’s intellectual property

It’s vital to safeguard your business’s ideas and inventions – we answer the most common questions about the process

Image credit: Adobe Stock

For founders of fast-growing businesses, the intellectual property (IP) you develop is likely to be your most valuable asset. The ideas you come up with underpin your business and dictate its success or failure. But those ideas require protecting under the law to prevent rivals from copying them and profiting from your inspiration. Despite the importance of doing so, very few SMEs fully protect their IP – in fact, only 21% have the proper protections in place, according to a survey of 436 small businesses by the IP firm Mewburn Ellis and polling company YouGov.1

Here are the key questions you might have when thinking about protecting your IP.

What are the different types of protection available for your intellectual property?

Patents protect new inventions such as chemical compounds, software innovations or machinery. Patents are awarded only if the invention is new and is something that can be made or used. If an application is successful, patent owners can prevent others from using their invention for a limited period of time.
Trade marks are applied to branded goods or services and most often protect a brand name or logo. When awarding trade marks, regulators look for something that is distinctive and can be relied upon by consumers to provide consistency.
Copyright protects original expression in artistic works, including literature, drama and music. If a work is copyrighted, others are prevented from copying it, providing the creator with control and the opportunity to monetise their creativity.

When should I start thinking about IP protection?

“As early as possible,” says Richard Goddard, President of The Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys (CITMA). “Your IP could be your most valuable asset, so make sure you take the decision to protect it properly. When a business goes public for the first time or enters a new market, it’s vital to ensure that it’s free to use its trade mark and is able to stop unauthorised third parties from using or registering its mark.”

Why is it important for small and fast-growing businesses to protect their IP?

“IP protection is a form of insurance; it enables you to stop somebody stealing your idea,” says Robert Watson, Partner and Patent Attorney at Mewburn Ellis. “It provides that early security, and, from an investor’s point of view, it helps you show that you’ve thought about what you own in the non-tangible sense. What a patent application cannot do is show that your idea works.”

How do I prepare?

“The first thing to be sure about is that you own what you’re trying to protect,” says Watson. “Say you’re a start-up and you’ve contracted out some work – do your contracts make sure that you own the work you’ve contracted out? That applies across the IP spectrum.

“Then you need to make sure you keep good records of what you’ve done and what you’ve thought about. And when you’re talking to a patent attorney, tell them what didn’t work as well as what did. Knowing what didn’t work can help define the boundaries around what to apply for.”

Goddard says conducting full searches of relevant trade-mark registers for trade marks that could conflict with yours is essential – it’s best to do this before you start to build your business and reputation.

“The UK works on a ‘first to file’ basis, meaning that until you apply for a trade mark, it’s potentially up for grabs,” he explains. “Once registered, though, you have a monopoly right on that mark, which gives a far greater deal of protection.”

What is the role of an IP attorney?

“They advise, guide and help you discover what there is to protect,” says Watson. “It could be a patent for an invention. It could be a trade mark for a brand. Whichever IP attorney you talk to will be thinking about the IP that exists and what we can do to protect it. We will help with the process because it’s complicated. It’s amazing the number of people who think they can do it themselves.”

How long does it take for a patent to be awarded?

“A typical timescale would be between three and five years, although that can be accelerated,” says Watson. “There are schemes such as the green channel for any green inventions.”

What sort of advice does a trade-mark attorney provide?

“Chartered trade-mark attorneys not only advise you on what trade marks you should protect and how, they also take a commercial and strategic view on your intellectual property to help organisations thrive,” says Goddard.

“They will work closely with a business to understand what’s important to them – making sure they retain control of their IP. They will advise on what can be registered, what possible conflicts might occur and help enforce their rights against infringers. They will be there with the business every step of the way.”

What should a business do if its trade mark has been infringed?

“The issue of trade-mark infringement is relevant to all businesses, from sole traders through to multinational corporations,” says Goddard. “Having a solid portfolio of registered trade marks puts brand owners in a strong position should a third party infringe their rights.

“There are a number of ways a chartered trade-mark attorney can help – a great first step is to speak to an attorney who can advise you of your options.

“If it comes to litigation, the system in the UK is geared towards businesses and, via the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court, offers a low-cost and usually quick resolution.”

To find a patent attorney, visit cipa.org.uk; to find a trade-mark attorney, visit citma.org.uk.

For founders of fast-growing businesses, the intellectual property (IP) you develop is likely to be your most valuable asset. The ideas you come up with underpin your business and dictate its success or failure. But those ideas require protecting under the law to prevent rivals from copying them and profiting from your inspiration. Despite the importance of doing so, very few SMEs fully protect their IP – in fact, only 21% have the proper protections in place, according to a survey of 436 small businesses by the IP firm Mewburn Ellis and polling company YouGov.1

Here are the key questions you might have when thinking about protecting your IP.

What are the different types of protection available for your intellectual property?

Patents protect new inventions such as chemical compounds, software innovations or machinery. Patents are awarded only if the invention is new and is something that can be made or used. If an application is successful, patent owners can prevent others from using their invention for a limited period of time.
Trade marks are applied to branded goods or services and most often protect a brand name or logo. When awarding trade marks, regulators look for something that is distinctive and can be relied upon by consumers to provide consistency.
Copyright protects original expression in artistic works, including literature, drama and music. If a work is copyrighted, others are prevented from copying it, providing the creator with control and the opportunity to monetise their creativity.

When should I start thinking about IP protection?

“As early as possible,” says Richard Goddard, President of The Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys (CITMA). “Your IP could be your most valuable asset, so make sure you take the decision to protect it properly. When a business goes public for the first time or enters a new market, it’s vital to ensure that it’s free to use its trade mark and is able to stop unauthorised third parties from using or registering its mark.”

Why is it important for small and fast-growing businesses to protect their IP?

“IP protection is a form of insurance; it enables you to stop somebody stealing your idea,” says Robert Watson, Partner and Patent Attorney at Mewburn Ellis. “It provides that early security, and, from an investor’s point of view, it helps you show that you’ve thought about what you own in the non-tangible sense. What a patent application cannot do is show that your idea works.”

How do I prepare?

“The first thing to be sure about is that you own what you’re trying to protect,” says Watson. “Say you’re a start-up and you’ve contracted out some work – do your contracts make sure that you own the work you’ve contracted out? That applies across the IP spectrum.

“Then you need to make sure you keep good records of what you’ve done and what you’ve thought about. And when you’re talking to a patent attorney, tell them what didn’t work as well as what did. Knowing what didn’t work can help define the boundaries around what to apply for.”

Goddard says conducting full searches of relevant trade-mark registers for trade marks that could conflict with yours is essential – it’s best to do this before you start to build your business and reputation.

“The UK works on a ‘first to file’ basis, meaning that until you apply for a trade mark, it’s potentially up for grabs,” he explains. “Once registered, though, you have a monopoly right on that mark, which gives a far greater deal of protection.”

What is the role of an IP attorney?

“They advise, guide and help you discover what there is to protect,” says Watson. “It could be a patent for an invention. It could be a trade mark for a brand. Whichever IP attorney you talk to will be thinking about the IP that exists and what we can do to protect it. We will help with the process because it’s complicated. It’s amazing the number of people who think they can do it themselves.”

How long does it take for a patent to be awarded?

“A typical timescale would be between three and five years, although that can be accelerated,” says Watson. “There are schemes such as the green channel for any green inventions.”

What sort of advice does a trade-mark attorney provide?

“Chartered trade-mark attorneys not only advise you on what trade marks you should protect and how, they also take a commercial and strategic view on your intellectual property to help organisations thrive,” says Goddard.

“They will work closely with a business to understand what’s important to them – making sure they retain control of their IP. They will advise on what can be registered, what possible conflicts might occur and help enforce their rights against infringers. They will be there with the business every step of the way.”

What should a business do if its trade mark has been infringed?

“The issue of trade-mark infringement is relevant to all businesses, from sole traders through to multinational corporations,” says Goddard. “Having a solid portfolio of registered trade marks puts brand owners in a strong position should a third party infringe their rights.

“There are a number of ways a chartered trade-mark attorney can help – a great first step is to speak to an attorney who can advise you of your options.

“If it comes to litigation, the system in the UK is geared towards businesses and, via the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court, offers a low-cost and usually quick resolution.”

To find a patent attorney, visit cipa.org.uk; to find a trade-mark attorney, visit citma.org.uk.

For founders of fast-growing businesses, the intellectual property (IP) you develop is likely to be your most valuable asset. The ideas you come up with underpin your business and dictate its success or failure. But those ideas require protecting under the law to prevent rivals from copying them and profiting from your inspiration. Despite the importance of doing so, very few SMEs fully protect their IP – in fact, only 21% have the proper protections in place, according to a survey of 436 small businesses by the IP firm Mewburn Ellis and polling company YouGov.1

Here are the key questions you might have when thinking about protecting your IP.

What are the different types of protection available for your intellectual property?

Patents protect new inventions such as chemical compounds, software innovations or machinery. Patents are awarded only if the invention is new and is something that can be made or used. If an application is successful, patent owners can prevent others from using their invention for a limited period of time.
Trade marks are applied to branded goods or services and most often protect a brand name or logo. When awarding trade marks, regulators look for something that is distinctive and can be relied upon by consumers to provide consistency.
Copyright protects original expression in artistic works, including literature, drama and music. If a work is copyrighted, others are prevented from copying it, providing the creator with control and the opportunity to monetise their creativity.

When should I start thinking about IP protection?

“As early as possible,” says Richard Goddard, President of The Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys (CITMA). “Your IP could be your most valuable asset, so make sure you take the decision to protect it properly. When a business goes public for the first time or enters a new market, it’s vital to ensure that it’s free to use its trade mark and is able to stop unauthorised third parties from using or registering its mark.”

Why is it important for small and fast-growing businesses to protect their IP?

“IP protection is a form of insurance; it enables you to stop somebody stealing your idea,” says Robert Watson, Partner and Patent Attorney at Mewburn Ellis. “It provides that early security, and, from an investor’s point of view, it helps you show that you’ve thought about what you own in the non-tangible sense. What a patent application cannot do is show that your idea works.”

How do I prepare?

“The first thing to be sure about is that you own what you’re trying to protect,” says Watson. “Say you’re a start-up and you’ve contracted out some work – do your contracts make sure that you own the work you’ve contracted out? That applies across the IP spectrum.

“Then you need to make sure you keep good records of what you’ve done and what you’ve thought about. And when you’re talking to a patent attorney, tell them what didn’t work as well as what did. Knowing what didn’t work can help define the boundaries around what to apply for.”

Goddard says conducting full searches of relevant trade-mark registers for trade marks that could conflict with yours is essential – it’s best to do this before you start to build your business and reputation.

“The UK works on a ‘first to file’ basis, meaning that until you apply for a trade mark, it’s potentially up for grabs,” he explains. “Once registered, though, you have a monopoly right on that mark, which gives a far greater deal of protection.”

What is the role of an IP attorney?

“They advise, guide and help you discover what there is to protect,” says Watson. “It could be a patent for an invention. It could be a trade mark for a brand. Whichever IP attorney you talk to will be thinking about the IP that exists and what we can do to protect it. We will help with the process because it’s complicated. It’s amazing the number of people who think they can do it themselves.”

How long does it take for a patent to be awarded?

“A typical timescale would be between three and five years, although that can be accelerated,” says Watson. “There are schemes such as the green channel for any green inventions.”

What sort of advice does a trade-mark attorney provide?

“Chartered trade-mark attorneys not only advise you on what trade marks you should protect and how, they also take a commercial and strategic view on your intellectual property to help organisations thrive,” says Goddard.

“They will work closely with a business to understand what’s important to them – making sure they retain control of their IP. They will advise on what can be registered, what possible conflicts might occur and help enforce their rights against infringers. They will be there with the business every step of the way.”

What should a business do if its trade mark has been infringed?

“The issue of trade-mark infringement is relevant to all businesses, from sole traders through to multinational corporations,” says Goddard. “Having a solid portfolio of registered trade marks puts brand owners in a strong position should a third party infringe their rights.

“There are a number of ways a chartered trade-mark attorney can help – a great first step is to speak to an attorney who can advise you of your options.

“If it comes to litigation, the system in the UK is geared towards businesses and, via the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court, offers a low-cost and usually quick resolution.”

To find a patent attorney, visit cipa.org.uk; to find a trade-mark attorney, visit citma.org.uk.

 


 

Please note that clicking a link will open the external website in a new window or tab. Links from this website exist for information only and we accept no responsibility or liability for the information contained on any such sites. The existence of a link to another website does not imply or express endorsement of its provider, product or services by us or St. James’s Place.

 

Sources:

1 UK SMEs left exposed by failure to protect IP, Mewburn Ellis and YouGov, April 2021 (Based on a survey sample size of 436)

 

 


 

Please note that clicking a link will open the external website in a new window or tab. Links from this website exist for information only and we accept no responsibility or liability for the information contained on any such sites. The existence of a link to another website does not imply or express endorsement of its provider, product or services by us or St. James’s Place.

 

Sources:

1 UK SMEs left exposed by failure to protect IP, Mewburn Ellis and YouGov, April 2021 (Based on a survey sample size of 436)

 

 


 

Please note that clicking a link will open the external website in a new window or tab. Links from this website exist for information only and we accept no responsibility or liability for the information contained on any such sites. The existence of a link to another website does not imply or express endorsement of its provider, product or services by us or St. James’s Place.

 

Sources:

1 UK SMEs left exposed by failure to protect IP, Mewburn Ellis and YouGov, April 2021 (Based on a survey sample size of 436)