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The trade marks, patents and other intellectual property (IP) in your business can be valuable assets. Learn how to protect IP from being exploited by others.
- Ensure employment, freelance and consultancy contracts clearly state your ownership of all intellectual property developed for you.
- Use patent searches early in the development of new products and processes to check whether they are already protected by someone else.
- Keep a log of evidence recording the development of intellectual property: for example, dated and signed copies of drawings and drafts.
- Keep new inventions secret until you have decided whether their commercial viability justifies the cost of patent protection.
- Consider alternatives: for example, rapidly capturing a market niche to discourage competitors.
- Consider filing an initial patent application to give you the time to develop or sell the idea. Contact a patent agent for advice.
- Contact a trade mark agent for advice on trade mark searches and registration to ensure that any trade mark you develop is properly protected.
- Take advice on the extra steps needed to protect your intellectual property internationally.
- Maintain protection for patents (for up to 20 years) and trade marks while the commercial case remains by paying renewal fees as necessary.
- Identify your designs (for the shape or appearance of a product) which are automatically protected by design right.
- Consider whether new designs for the appearance of part or all of a product are worth protecting with stronger design registration.
- Identify materials which are automatically protected by copyright. Add the copyright symbol, your name and the creation date to emphasise it.
- Enforce your rights by identifying breaches and pursuing offenders, but think carefully before initiating uncertain and expensive legal action.