Protecting the Value of Your Business – The Importance of Intellectual Property
8 February 2023
Corporate & Commercial
In recent weeks, we have witnessed household names proactively seek to protect their intellectual property rights via the legal system. Swiss watch maker Rolex is no stranger to intellectual property litigation and does not tread lightly when it comes to protecting its brand having recently ordered ‘Oyster & Pop’, a UK based children’s clock maker, to change its name saying people may link it to the Rolex Oyster Perpetual watch.
Sportswear manufacturer Adidas was recently involved in proceedings to prevent fashion retailer Thom Browne from using four white stripes on its luxury clothing, arguing that the four stripes imitated Adidas’ three stripes logo. On this occasion the New York jury found in favour of the defendant, but the ruling certainly didn’t deter Adidas who publicly stated that it would continue to vigilantly enforce its intellectual property rights going forward including a potential appeal.
Bloomberg notes that Adidas has filed around 90 lawsuits since 2008 in what it has described as a successful proactive strategy for the company. These are high level/high value examples of brand protection, but the premise remains important for all business owners, whether one is involved in a start-up or an established and profitable business. A lot of time, money and effort goes in to building a successful business from the ground up and the brand itself becomes increasingly valuable as a result. It is easy to see that where a brand is unique and/or valuable, it is worth protecting.
The four primary types of intellectual property are Patents, Trademarks, Copyrights and Trade Secrets, each offering protection unique to the IP in question. In the UK, the Patents Act 1977 provides statutory protection for the inventor of an original product or process for up to 20 years. If a patent application is successful, the inventor will have sole right to the production and sale of their product for 5 years (renewable annually thereafter up to a maximum of 20 years).
A trademark on the other hand is a distinguishable indicator that is unique to a product or brand. There are many types of trademarks that can be registered, the most common of which are logos and names. Albeit more difficult, it is even possible to register things like patterns and sounds that are unique and distinguishable.
Copyright deals with original material and the right of the creator to exclusivity over their creation. It is commonly used to protect artistic, literary, and musical productions, providing the copyright owner with the right to licence and assign the copyright as they so choose.
Finally, Trade Secrets are utilized where a person or business may wish to protect information that is commercially valuable and puts them at an advantage over competitors in their respective industry. For example, they may wish to protect a recipe, manufacturing process or marketing study. Trade Secrets will not have been publicly disclosed and are often protected by non-disclosure agreements, a useful tool in the field of intellectual property.
The process for registration of intellectual property can vary greatly depending on the type of protection that one wishes to pursue. As per the Intellectual Property Office, registration of a trademark can take up to 4 months, while patenting an invention can take up to 5 years. Registration can be complex, requiring detailed documentation to be submitted to the Intellectual Property Office and it is important to ascertain which type of protection is needed before considering an application. This will save time and money in the long run and offer adequate protection for your business and brand.
If you wish to discuss any of the points raised in this article or any matters relating to intellectual property, please contact the commercial team at MKB Law.
This article is for general guidance only and should not be regarded as a substitute for professional legal advice.