Mark, let’s start at the beginning – what is Intellectual Property?
Every business, large or small, will have some level of Intellectual Property. Ultimately, Intellectual Property refers to those intangible assets which are unique to your business and have arisen from your creativity. To give a few examples this could range from:
• Your company name
• A domain name
• A patent for a product that you’ve developed
Many think of IP in the form of a new product. However, Intellectual Property can also exist in areas that wouldn’t necessarily jump to mind – such as if your business changes a product or a process, these changes then become your Intellectual Property.
What are the key Intellectual Property challenges businesses face and are they changing?
Intellectual Property infringement can be a significant challenge to businesses of all sizes. In today’s world, information is so widely available and so quickly accessed that, yes, I think this has increased the exposure of businesses when it comes to Intellectual Property infringement.
Globalisation of knowledge, finance and sales has led to potential infringement coming to light earlier and the financial impacts greater than ever before.
Challenges businesses may face when it comes to IP infringements can include
• Recognising an infringement has taken place
• Knowing when and how to act if you do become aware of an infringement
• Taking care not to infringe on the IP of others
Businesses do need to take care not to infringe on another party’s Intellectual Property. This can be inadvertent, not knowing that a Third Party has already registered that particular IP. Some large corporations are very hot on IP enforcement – could your business, particularly if you run a small business with limited resources, cope if challenged with injunction or other legal action?
How can businesses protect their Intellectual Property?
Recognising that you hold IP, and then establishing its value is the first step to being able to adequately protect it.
I would say that a vast majority of businesses, especially smaller businesses, don’t necessarily recognise that they hold IP and therefore don’t know what value it has to their business.
I advocate to businesses that we work with that this should be their starting point; a two-step process to follow which can help achieve this objective is:
– Create an IP register – list all of the Intellectual Property that your company holds. You can start small – your company name, logo, branding etc and then look at what other assets your business has that could be classed as IP
– Work out to what extent your IP has commercial value – this generates priority over which IP really matters to the business. One way to assess value of your IP is to identify which of your IP, if challenged, could have significant impact on the business – such as the impact on future earnings and revenue. For example, if your business name/brand is of significant value to your business could you cope and bring in the same level of revenue if you were challenged and forced to change the business name?
How can intellectual property insurance help?
Despite exposure to Intellectual Property infringement increasing, we still see that a majority of businesses aren’t insuring against this risk.
There are many facets to Intellectual Property insurance, although I would say it is not well understood and possibly underestimated is the cover it can provide.
Many people think of the legal aspect of Intellectual Property insurance which can cover the legal costs of bringing or defending an IP infringement claim as well as any court awards made as a result of a claim against your business. But many may not understand the additional value it can provide in, for example, the ability to insure the historic IP registration costs or the future income that will be derived from the IP.
IP insurance is also particularly useful for protecting smaller businesses against big entities infringing on their IP.
An issue we’ve been seeing for a number of years now is copying – particularly in the consumer/electronics industry where there are big opportunities for fast commercialisation.
For example, we may see a small business developing something novel. Once that product is brought to market, bigger entities can de-engineer and then copy the product. Alone, a small company won’t have the resources to sue or take legal action, something which larger corporations may take advantage of. The merit of having IP insurance in place is that the smaller business then has the resources to challenge the big Corporate.
Here at Anthony Jones we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to the types of intellectual property insurance which are available as we feel this is so vital for business owners to understand. You can find the guide at the end of this interview so do give it a read.
Do I need to register my Intellectual Property?
Legally, you’re likely to have more rights if you register your IP but when it comes to insurance, then no. You can obtain insurance for registered IP (patents, trademark etc) but equally you can obtain the same insurance for IP which is not registered.
You may, for example, have a good reason why you do not want to register your IP – once registered, IP becomes public knowledge which may be something that you want to avoid.
If you do want to insure unregistered IP then there are likely to be additional questions asked during the insurance process to ascertain how you stop third parties from getting hold of the IP you have developed. For example, how you ensure that manufacturing process is separated out whereby no single entity, other than you, has knowledge or access to the whole manufacturing process.
If you have any questions about Intellectual property insurance or your small businesses needs don’t hesitate to get in touch with us – we are always happy to help. Call us on 020 8290 9080 or alternatively email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Read our guide to Intellectual property insurance here: IP Leaflets Feb 2017