If you own an item of property, you have the right to do certain things with it such as selling it to a third party for an agreed price. You also have the right to prevent other people from doing certain things with your property, such as using it without your permission. These ‘property rights’ are easy to understand in relation to tangible items such as houses, cars, clothes etc. However, the law also provides for similar rights in relation to intangible property like the software code used in an app or the design of a new logo. These rights in intangible property are known as ‘intellectual property rights’ (IPRs).
IPRs can be of great value to individuals, businesses and industry sectors, e.g. technology, music, artistic work and literature. But do you understand how to commercialise their use and protect your businesses?
IPRs cover a range of legal rights which vest in ideas expressed in particular forms. The IPR is not enshrined in the idea itself, but instead in the particular form in which the IPR is expressed.
For example, you may develop a new and unique electronic consumer entertainment product and the software that it needs to perform its functions. The software and operating instructions you develop will be protected by copyright, the shape of the product may be registrable as a design, the product itself may be patentable if it is a novel invention and the logo you choose for the product may be registrable as a trademark. You would also need permission from the owners of the relevant IPRs to access and use any entertainment content owned by third parties on your product platform (e.g. streaming music or downloading films).
IPRs are also usually key to protecting the ‘brand’ of your business, including the reputation and goodwill you have developed, from being exploited by others. For example, your businesses’ trading name could be protected as a trademark, and any internet domain names incorporating your business name could also be registered.
Some IPRs are capable of registration, whilst others either do not require registration or are not capable of registration in the UK. The advantage of having a registered IPR is that it usually makes enforcement of the IPR against unauthorised use easier.
If you would like to understand more about IPRs and how to maximise their worth, please contact us for a copy of our brief guide.