IP to protect online industries

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Elliott Davies

A boom in new and emerging online industries, has seen phrases such as Fintech, Blockchain, and UX Design become second nature. But with the rapid growth of online industries, are businesses forgetting their intellectual property (IP)? And if so, are they vulnerable to competitors? Elliott Davies at IP firm Wynne Jones IP, explains how IP can protect the online business boom

What is Intellectual property?
Intellectual property is the product of original thinking, including inventions, designs, literary works and names. Each can be protected with intellectual property rights (IPRs), including patents, designs, copyright and trademarks.

A patent protects technical ideas or inventions, such as new processes or products, whereas a trademark protects a new brand, such as a name or logo.

Copyright protects original literary and artistic works, including books, music, and computer programs, and can prevent copying and distribution of protected works, whereas design rights protect an aesthetic appearance of a product.

Why are IP rights beneficial and how are they registered?
Intellectual property rights assert ownership of an original creation and enable the proprietor to control the exploitation of these creations.

Often an idea requires significant initial investment in research and development to ensure its success. Failure to register IP could see your idea exploited and your investment, and profit, lost.

When registering IP, patents, require a formal registration process, whereas other rights including copyright arise once work has been created.

Trademark and design rights can exist in both unregistered and registered forms. However, the registered right offers better protection, since there is no requirement to prove ownership, compared with unregistered rights.

What IP can be protected in fintech?
Everything from the code, to new technology, to the brand name can be safeguarded.

The name and branding of a company, for example, is protected by trademarks, while the software is protected by copyright.

The overall process in the software may also be protectable with a patent if it has a real-world technical effect.

A particular product or service offering may attract many IPRs, each of which should be separately considered.

Do external developers have IP rights?
Employers typically own the IP rights to technology created by an employee during employment.

However, certain technical sectors, such as fintech, require expertise from numerous external consultants to help with the development of products and services.

In this scenario, employers should execute clear agreements with consultants to clearly identify ownership of the IPRs which arise during the consultation,
and where necessary, assign the IPRs to the employer.

What IP rights can be protected in UX Design?
UX designers are responsible for creating iconic design features, which enable consumers to interact with everything from remote controls to mobile phones.

With a business’s success dependent on the consumers’ ability to differentiate its product from others, design rights are a dominant IPR in this sector.

Design rights can prevent competitors from creating similar user interfaces, online icons, and design features, which could otherwise mislead consumers
and damage the product’s reputation.

How can IP protect emerging industries?
With emerging online industries striving to be innovative, research and development is key. As such it is essential that companies invest in IP to protect their R&D spend, which is crucial to helping them remain competitive and prevent unauthorised exploitation of their technology.

Trade secrets are an alternative IPR, which require that information or technology is kept confidential. In order to utilise this, the information must be kept secret, have commercial value, and measures must be put in place to keep the information secret.