Intellectual property dos and don’ts for innovative companies
Lewis Hands of Handsome IP highlights some common issues innovative companies encounter
Lewis Hands, of Handsome IP, is a specialist patent lawyer , practising in the UK and Europe. He regularly holds ‘IP clinics’ in association with Business Links and the IPO. He gives an example of the kind of issues companies encounter.
“‘Company A’ wants to make a product for use in the construction industry, which is a variation of a product made by ‘Company B’. A knows that B has a related patent application.
“We check to see if the patent has been granted – it has. We study it to see what it actually protects and assess whether A’s new product falls within its scope. It does but, with a slight redesign, it won’t. We file a patent application to protect A’s new product and apply for a Registered Design for its look.
“A European Community Registered Design provides protection in all 27 member states. In addition, we apply for a European Community Registered Trade Mark (which also provides EU-wide protection) for the new product’s brand name.
“Company A starts making and successfully selling the new product. B starts copying it. A asks us what to do. We check to see if B’s product falls within the scope of A’s patent application. It does, so we request accelerated examination of the patent application at the IPO. We also contact B to draw their attention to A’s patent application.
“B prefers to talk, rather than fight. A agrees a licensing arrangement, in exchange for a lump sum and royalties.
“Patents are a protection and a potential source of revenue,” says Hands, who goes on to list the following basic ‘do’s and don’t’s’ for growing businesses:
– Ensure as an employer that you own the intellectual property rights that your employees create.
– Keep new intellectual property confidential until at least a patent or registered design application is filed.
– Ensure you have non-disclosure agreements in place before talking to outside companies (whether they be suppliers or customers).
– Use a patent attorney or trade mark attorney, as appropriate, in the handling of your intellectual property. It is money well spent.
– Innovate to keep ahead of the market.
– Remember that a patent can be used to STOP other people from doing something. It does not give the owner the right to do something.
– Involve your patent attorney early in the development of new products and avoid wasting time inventing something already known and to ensure you don’t infringe others’ intellectual property.
– copy other people’s products without talking to a patent attorney first.
– talk about your new ideas until you have some protection in place.
– do it yourself. You may well end up with no protection and have wasted your time and money.
– give away your intellectual property. License it!
– forget R&D tax credits. The government want to encourage you to invest in R&D. Talk to your accountant about it.