Thursday, 7 January 2021

What Every Startup and Small Business in Wales should know about IP

Wales from the International Space Station
Author Chris Hadfield NASA  Public Domain



Jane Lambert

I should first like to wish my readers in Wales and the rest of the world a Happy New Year. With continued lockdowns in Wales and many other parts of the world, there could not be a more depressing start. But the world will recover.  New businesses offering new products and services will continue to be launched creating new highly paid jobs in Wales.

The success of those products and services will depend on their branding, design, technology and creativity. It is those attributes that I call "intellectual assets" that gives one business a competitive advantage over all others.  A good idea by one competitor is likely to be adopted by others. To some extent that is a good thing and is to be encouraged because that is how science and society advance.  But not if the effect is to deprive the person who dreamt up the idea and invested in developing it from benefiting from it.  That would eventually stifle innovation and creativity.

It is obviously fair that an author designer. inventor or other intellectual asset creator who invests his or her time and money on developing a new product or service should recoup his or her investment and maybe earn a little extra on the side but consumers should not have to pay through the nose for the product or service forever.  The laws that strike a balance between the interests of the author, designer, inventor or other creator and the public are known collectively as "intellectual property". Examplers of intellectual property rights are the 20-year monopoly of the manufacturer, sale and use of a new invention known as a "patent" or the lifetime plus 70 years protection against unauthorized copying of a work of art or literature called a "copyright".

Earlier this week I was discussing possible topics for webinars for the Enterprise Hub with Emily Roberts of M-SParc (the Menai Science Park near Gaerwen on Anglesey).  I proposed two topics:

  • One was on IP and funding similar to one that the Intellectual Property Office had run on 8 Dec 2020 entitled 'How to use your IP to unlock financial opportunities' to be presented on World Intellectual Property Day on 26 April 2021; and
  • The other was the changes to intellectual property law following the expiry on 31 Dec 2020 of the transition period provided by the agreement for the UK's withdrawal from the EU.
Emily replied that both topics seemed engaging to her but she asked: " Is there any you’d think more appropriate for a smaller or start-up business?"

I replied with the synopsis of a 40-minute talk that I had given many times before and which I shall give again on 9 Feb to the Bradford Network:
  • "What are your business's assets? Is it its good name, the experience of staff, quality of service, design or technology?
  • Are you making full use of those assets? Licensing revenue, collateral for borrowing and means of attracting investment
  • How can you secure those revenues? Trade marks for brands, patents for tech and design registration for the appearance of goods plus the free IP rights like copyright
  • How do you set about getting those rights? How long does it take and how much does it cost?
  • How do you face down challenges to your rights? Litigation and insurance
  • How do you budget?
  • What licensing and other revenues can you expect."
Obviously, a talk to entrepreneurs and other business owners in  Northwest Wales will have to be different from the one I would give to a similar audience in Yorkshire because the economies and cultures of the two regions are quite different even though some issues and solutions are universal.

Emily liked the proposal and drafted an Eventbrite card for the talk which she will publish when she has chosen a date and time for the event.  I for my part will draw up slides and a PDF handout designed specifically for businesses in Wales with such information as local advice and information services and useful websites that can be downloaded from Slideshare.

Anybody who wants to discuss this article or IP, in general, may call me during office hours on 020 7404 5252/  Like many other people I am working from home for the duration but our new phone system can forward your call to me wherever I happen to be at no extra cost.  Alternatively, you can send me a message through my contact form.  Incidentally, if you do call I would welcome a chance to practise my Welsh conversation.   I am halfway through an internet training course in Welsh, there are not too many Welsh speakers nearby and I can't visit Wales until it is safe and lawful to do so.

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