Our purpose is to highlight the need for a strategy before starting work that is likely to generate “intellectual property” or IP.
Examples of intellectual property include:
• Copyright – This things you write, make or produce (i.e. creation of brochures, marketing materials, design drawings, videos etc.)
• Patents – your inventions
• Trademarks – the names of your products or brands (i.e. logos)
• Design rights – the design or look of your products
So, why is intellectual property important?
Intellectual property is largely an economic right. By being the owner of intellectual property you have the exclusive right to exploit it, sell it and to license it. Without intellectual property law, creators and inventors would have little economic incentive to invest their time, money and effort in innovation.
If I create it, it’s my intellectual property, correct?
The default position in law is that whoever creates the intellectual property is the owner of it. However, the exception to this rule relates to employees who create intellectual property in the course of their employment; in those circumstances intellectual property is owned by the employer.
However, if you engage a graphic designer to create a new logo for your business then the designer is the owner of the logo despite the fact that you may have paid for it. This can become a major issue when you come to sell your business or raise investment as you will not own what might be one of your principal assets. It is crucial that business owners understand intellectual property ownership issues from an early stage and address them by way of written agreement.
The value of confidentiality in IP
Confidentiality is also particularly important in respect of inventions. Be careful who your invention is shown to and ensure that non-disclosure agreements are put in place before any disclosures are made or prototypes distributed for consideration or further development. Any disclosure of the invention before applying for patent protection could prevent you from registering the patent.
Learn from the mistakes of others
Finally, you may have read a recent story in the news about the first inventor of the ATM, James Goodfellow. He developed a cash-issuing machine and associated PIN and in 1966 he patented the invention in 15 countries for which he received $15! However, his ATM machine was beaten to the market by a rival and he joins a long list of Scottish inventors who failed to gain the recognition and monetary rewards which should have come with commercialising an invention which is now ubiquitous.