Intellectual property has been a hot news topic recently. From the Chinese planning new IP laws to combat illegal downloads, and former FT Editor, Andrew Gowers leading an independent review into IP rights in the UK, to the thorny issue of digital rights management that has been highlighted with the French passing a new copyright law. The world of IP has been an eventful place of late. So, as a creative business or person, how do you protect, exploit and manage your intellectual property effectively? Cheryl Rickman, from Own It, provides a step-by-step guide.
What Is Intellectual Property? From the music we listen to and the books we read, to the computer software and products we use in our daily lives, each is a product of human creativity, and that creativity is protected. It is these creations of the mind, once expressed, that make up intellectual property (IP).
There is no IP protection in the UK for ideas or concepts, only for expression of those ideas or concepts. So, products, technical solutions and new inventions are protected by patents and design rights; literary, artistic, dramatic and musical works are protected by copyright; and brand names, words, sounds and even smells are protected by trade marks. (Even the ‘smell of freshly cut grass’ has been trade marked by a Dutch perfume company that uses it to give tennis balls their aroma).
Therefore, in business, everything, from your own designs, software, brand, packaging and logo should be protected. In a nutshell, all of your mental and creative ‘outputs’ can be transformed into tangible ‘commodities’ so that you can licence, sell, trade, divide or retain your rights to those ‘commodities’.
So, as well as making sure your own creative efforts are rewarded and protected, by properly managing your IP, you can:
·Gain the competitive edge by carving out a strong position for your brand, products and services and prevent your competitors from copying you. ·Increase your company’s market value, both before and after flotation. If you have various relevant patents in place and have registered your trade mark, you’ll find it easier to access venture capital and will be much more investor-friendly as a result. ·Create a strong credible brand and corporate identity to persuade more customers to do business with you. ·Avoid expensive litigation from those rights you may have infringed had you not fully understood IP. ·Prevent others from trading off your own creative endeavours
Managing your IP and Unlocking The Value Of Your Creativity STEP-BY-STEP
PROTECT YOUR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY
·Put in place a simple confidentiality agreement with a client, potential manufacturers or investors BEFORE you start negotiations. You can download free sample contracts from http://www.own-it.org) A well drafted agreement will specify the type of information to be protected, how long the duty of confidentiality is to last and to whom the information may be disclosed.
·Assert your rights. Mark the author/publisher or creators name on all copies of your work, along with the date and country. © (Name of owner) (Year of creation).
·Put registered design rights and other IP renewal dates in your diary. Never forget IP rights or domain name renewals.
REGISTER AND SECURE IT
·Register designs, patents and trade marks, visit http://www.patent.gov.uk
·Secure domain names to safeguard your brand.
·Ensure any designs, trade marks and patents you register or apply for are the same as those you intend to market.
·Use a Creative Commons licence if you want to control and share your IP. You can choose to allow reproductions of your work but not for commercial purposes or other methods of use, so some rights are reserved instead of all. Visit http://creativecommons.org for more information.
MAKE THE MOST OF ONLINE RESOURCES
Heres a bunch of useful resources to help you stay on top of your IP and maximise its value.
Own Its free services range from basic IP information to advanced legal support for Londons creative businesses, through online resources and specialist seminars, contracts, workshops, and, free IP clinics for one-to-one advice from IP lawyers. All of this is provided free of charge by experts whove been there and done it. Forthcoming free events include Valuing IP on May 24th 2006. See http://www.own-it.org/events
The Authors Licensing and Collecting Society Limited (ALCS) is the UK rights management society for writers.
Provides information and advice on copyright issues, plus patents, registered designs and trade mark info.
The Creators' Rights Alliance brings together the major organisations representing copyright creators and content providers throughout the media -- particularly, television, radio and the press.
Design and Artists Copyright Society (DACS)
Of particular interest for inventors and product/industrial designers, Ideas21 is network devoted to invention and innovation, and is supported by government, industry and private organisations.
Institute of Patentees & Inventors
Royalties Reunited. If you're a session musician, recording artist or backing vocalist, Royalties Reunited is the place for you to find out if you are owed money - and claim it. Registration is completely free.
Cheryl Rickman is author of The Small Business Start-up Workbook ([http://www.smallbusinessworkbook.com]), runs her own business - webcopywriter.co.uk and edits intellectual property resource own-it.org
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Article Submitted On: April 18, 2006
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