Monday 19 December 2022

New Year, New Beginnings

Fireworks at Midnight on New Year's Day
Author Clarence Ji Licence CC BY 2.0  Source Wikimedia Commons


The New Year is an opportunity for the formation of new businesses, the launch of new products and services, the opening of new business premises and all sorts of other new business initiatives.   There will be a business plan for most of those initiatives but many of those business plans will lack an important component.

That missing component will be intellectual property and the reason why it is important is that it protects your investment in branding, design, technology and creativity.  Without such protection, it will be so much easier for competitors who have not spent time and money on research, development or marketing to filch your business.

The way to prevent that from happening is to identify the advantages that attract customers to your business. It may be your reputation in the marketplace, the look of your products or the way they work or are made.  You may need an IP audit to identify those advantages (see How to use an IP Audit 19 Jan 2022 NIPC News).  Once you have identified what attracts customers to your business you must choose the optimum protection.   That is not necessarily the most expensive.  A patent will give you extensive protection for up to 20 years but if the invention is likely to become obsolete in a year or two you may prefer to rely on trade secrecy or unregistered design right.

Whatever intellectual property right you choose to protect your asset you must be prepared to pursue infringers and defend challenges to your rights. Infringement, invalidity and revocation proceedings take place in the High Court.   Unless the claim is for £10,000 or less and does not involve patents, registered designs, semiconductor topographies or plant varieties it must be brought in the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court where recoverable costs are limited to £80,000 or the Patents Court or Intellectual Property list where such costs are unlimited.   The only way that most small businesses can afford such costs is by taking our specialist IP insurance (see the IPO's Guidance on IP Insurance on the government website).

Unless you are confident that you can raise several hundred thousand pounds at short notice, IP insurance is not a nice-to-have extra but as much a necessity as your staff, plant and premises.   Just as you make provision for recruitment, rent and equipment leases or acquisition in your business plan you must do the same for your IP rights and their legal protection and enforcement.   In an extreme case, failure to do so could threaten the existence of your company.

If you are about to undertake a new venture in the New Year I wish you every success.  If you have questions or concerns feel free to contact me at 020 7404 5252 during normal business hours.  Alternatively, you can send me a message through my contact form at any time.