The theme for this year’s World IP day is ‘IP & SMEs: Taking your ideas to market’ and we want to share with you some information about IP and how to protect the products and services you are taking to the market.
Working as we are in the area of intellectual property (‘IP’), we get to work with creative individuals whose ideas grow into something bigger. The manifestation of these ideas into a distinct form needs to be protected. SMEs are also based on the manifestation of ideas, and have a need for IP protection as much as larger enterprises do.
What is IP?
IP, or to give it its full name Intellectual Property, are the intangible property rights which can be obtained to protect creations of the mind, such as new inventions and modifications, literary and artistic works, the outward appearance of a product, and symbols, names and images used in commerce.
IP is an integral component of any successful business. Companies of all sizes are at a risk of having their ideas, products or services infringed and it can happen in any territory. Copy-cats can reduce your market share, resulting in slow growth or loss of revenue. Losing market share early on in a business’s development can be devastating as well as costly and time consuming. If you don’t have your legal protection in place, it may prove futile to to try stop an infringer.
The different types of IP
The different forms of IP provide different rights and obligations and have different rules for claiming protection. As with other types of property, IP is protected by law which allows the proprietors of such property to earn money or recognition from their inventions or creations, while preventing others from making use of this property.
- A Patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention. Generally speaking, a patent provides the patent owner with the right to decide how – or whether – the invention can be used by others. In exchange for this right, the patent owner makes technical information about the invention publicly available in the published patent document.
- An Industrial Design constitutes the ornamental or aesthetic aspect of an article. A design may consist of three-dimensional features, such as the shape or surface of an article, or of two-dimensional features, such as patterns, lines or colour.
- A Trade Mark is a sign which allows consumers to recognise and distinguish the goods or services of one enterprise from those of other enterprises. Most businesses make use of names and logos as the most basic identifier of their products. Sounds, shapes, patterns, colours, motion marks and hologram marks can all act to identify a product or service as well and can be registered.
- Copyright is a legal term used to describe the rights that creators have over their literary and artistic works. Works covered by copyright range from books, music, paintings, sculpture and films, to computer programs, databases, advertisements, maps and technical drawings. This right arises automatically to benefit the author and it protects the tangible form of an idea that is the expression of an idea in a visible or audible form. Copyright does not protect ideas or concepts while they are in vague form.
- Trade secrets are IP rights on confidential information which may be sold or licensed. Typically, a trade secret protects a recipe, a process, formula, pattern or method. If such information is used or disclosed without consent by others contrary to honest commercial practices, it would be regarded as an unfair practice.
Next week we will look at the value of IP to SMEs and consider the impact of recent developments on IP management for SMEs.