From start-up to market – the importance of IP along the way

Frances Salisbury, partner at patent attorneys Mewburn Ellis LLP, discusses the importance of IP for start-up companies. In this introductory article, what exactly do we mean when we talk about ‘intellectual property’...

Intellectual property is a legal term that refers to “creations of the mind”. Every business has some IP of some kind, and this IP is an asset that should be protected. The real value of some businesses lies in their IP – it’s what gives them the competitive advantage.

Some types of IP protection arise automatically, but for others you need to undergo an application process. Several types of IP right are available, depending on the type of idea you have. Patents are used to protect technical ideas, such as new or improved products or processes, provided they are new and inventive compared to what was already known at the filing date of the patent application. It is important to keep new ideas secret until you have applied for a patent – otherwise, it might not be possible to obtain valid protection.

Registered design protection is available to protect new aspects of the appearance of your product. Some protection for designs arises automatically, but to be able to enforce it you have to be able to prove that the infringer actually copied you, and didn’t come up with the design independently. If you apply for registration, however, it’s not necessary to prove that they copied your design to enforce your right.

Tomorrow… Copyright and trademarks.