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What is intellectual property and why does your business need to protect it?

Why do you need to think about IP?

Protecting your business or idea is fundamental if you want to successfully develop your creation.  Intellectual Property (IP) is a form of original creation that can be bought or sold.

IP law is used to protect ideas or businesses, by granting the owners certain exclusive rights to various intangible assets, such as: brands, designs, songs or intellectual creation.

The UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) states that there are four principles types of IP: patents, trade marks, designs and copyright, although there are also other ways to protect your business, such as confidentiality agreements.

The IPO lists a variety of ways that IP can be used to protect businesses or ideas:

  • To find out whether your creation already exists
  • To identify useful technologies that could help you develop your idea
  • To licence-in other outside technologies to assist in developing your idea
  • To work together with other businesses or organisations to enhance your idea’s development
  • To create your own trade secret, which will protect the process, construction and formulation of your product
  • To file for a patent to protect your business from competitors
  • To protect the originality of your business name and website
  • To protect documents, such as brochures, from copyright
  • To ensure investors sign a confidentiality agreement

The exclusive rights allow owners of intellectual property to benefit from their creation and can provide financial incentive for investment in the business.

James Dyson, the designer and inventor of Dyson vacuum cleaners, learnt the importance of protecting his designs the hard way.  His Ballbarrow design was patented and owned by the company Kirk-Dyson for whom he worked, and so when he was ousted by the shareholders, he left without his design.  This was a mistake he vowed never to repeat again.

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