THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Innovation and enterprise blog

20 March 2015

Five tips for understanding intellectual property

Every business has intellectual property (IP) of some sort. However, when working out how to manage and protect it, it can be hard to know where to start! Below are some of our tips for businesses who want to begin understanding and managing their IP.

1.       Understand the different types of intellectual property

There are many different types of intellectual property protection, covering areas from art to inventions. The main ones are copyright, trademarks, patents, and designs, but know-how and trade secrets are also forms of IP commonly found within businesses. Your business may have more than one of these types, so understanding how they work, how they’re protected and the differences between the different types is essential.

2.       IP audit

Conduct a basic IP audit of your business. What IP do you have, is it protected, and how long does that protection last? Do you licence any of your IP to other people? Is there any associated costs/income? Putting this information together in one document will help you to plan your IP strategy, and keep track of your assets.

3.       Check your agreements and licences

IP use is often governed by contracts and licences. If you are commissioning work, is IP covered in your agreements with the contractor? If you licence other people’s IP, do you keep records of the licences? Employment contracts often also include an IP clause, and you may have non-disclosure agreements to cover trade secrets. An overview of your paperwork will help ensure that you haven’t missed anything.

4.       Embed IP within your business strategy

IP doesn’t exist in isolation from the rest of your business. Whilst IP can be a business asset, applying for protection often has associated costs, so it’s good practice to assess your IP strategy as part of your overall business plan, rather than separately.

5.       Seek help!

There are plenty of resources for businesses looking to find out more about intellectual property. Here at the Business & IP Centre we run a number of workshops and webinars covering IP topics. Our next webinar ‘Intellectual Property for Business’, funded by the Intellectual Property Office, is coming up on the 27 March 2015, and will give you a good understanding of the basics.

The Intellectual Property Office also has a number of tools to help businesses, including the ‘IP Health Check’ and ‘IP Equip’.  

For legal advice, the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys and Institute of Trademark Attorneys are good places to start. We strongly advise you to ask a patent or trade mark attorney before proceeding with using or applying for rights.

Sally Jennings on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

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