A Comprehensive Guide to IPR and How You Can Protect It

 

Our current ‘sharing economy’ has raised eyebrows and concerns regarding the safe-keeping of
our Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), especially in recent times due to continuing Brexit
negotiations and what this means for businesses that comply with this legislation. IPR is the
backbone of every business and is in some cases far more valuable than physical assets.
In simple terms, and as defined by the Gov.uk website – IPR is protection against assets that
belong to you and your business from being stolen. The types of assets in question could be in
the form of branding, products, inventions and anything else that is produced by you or your
business.


The Sharing Economy has coined a concise definition by Global Sharing Economy expert
Benita Matoska as “a socio-economic ecosystem built around the sharing of human, physical
and intellectual resources”. Whilst the benefits of sharing have helped businesses grow and
foster positive collaborations, it has brought a sea of issues surrounding IPR which has raised
the question of how businesses should move forward to protect, prevent and take action on
breached IPR.


Today we will be sharing with you a comprehensive guide to on how you can protect your IPR for your business in today’s economic climate, but before this we will briefly shed light on how
Brexit will be contributing factor. This guide will also provide steps to take if you feel suspicion
arising and your intellectual property being violated.

How Intellectual Property will be impacted as a result of Brexit:


The official CIPA website details the following:

  • The Court of Justice of the European Union 
    • When Brexit is in full affect, The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU)
      will halt any say over UK – related matters, but this potentially leaves room for
      UK courts to still pay attention to the Board of Appeals (BoA) decisions.
  • Data Protection
    • A complication may arise due to informal decisions by the Information
      Commissioner’s Office (ICO), with particular concern of sensitive data being
      passed across borders. However this may be laid to rest due to online security strategies
      which are regularly reviewed and updated to reinforce data protection measure – and will continue to do so.
      ○ The ICO and their forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
      taking effect next March will also have a part to play in relation to the effect it has
      to your IPR. More information on this new act can be found on the ICO website.
  • Copyright
    • In accordance to the Berne Convention, the UK will and must continue to protect
      existing and future copyright. However after Brexit there may be changes to how
      copyright may protect digital content due to its impact from EU competition law.
  • UK, PCT and EPC Patents
    • Representation rights of UK-based European Patent Attorneys, as well as the
      European Patent Convention (EPC) will be unaffected after Brexit. Both the
      Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) (and EPC) are not pieces of EU legislation and
      therefore will also not be affected.

Although IP infringement is generally easy to identify, it’s something that any company should endeavour to avoid. Taking preventable measures of your assets falling into the wrong hands will prolong peace of mind and development through your business.

Here are ways to keep on top of your IPR and protect it:

  •  Ensure all areas of your IP are covered
    ○ Trademarks, Registered Designs and Patents are areas you must apply for to
    fully abide and reinforce your IPR
    • Trademarks cover the name of your product or service and give you the right to take legal action anyone using or imitating your trade mark, including counterfeiters.
      • Legally display the ® symbol next to your logo or name, warning potential threats against using it, as well as sell and licence your trademark to third
        parties.
    • Patents are reinforced to protect your ideas and inventions and give you
      the right to take legal action against those who replicate, import or sell
      without given permission from your company.
    • The Initial Public Offering (IPO) states the item must be unique, and not
      something that exists already or modified.
    • Registered designs allow you to literally register a design in the form of a
      physical shape are protected from being stolen, but must be renewed
      every five years (up to a total of 25 years as confirmed by the IPO).
    • Copyright and design rights under UK law are automatically protected.
  • License your IP
    • By licensing your IP with another member of party or business you then grant
      them permission to make use of your assets without breaching IPR laws.
      •  This is made possible to another company providing they return a fee via
        ‘Licensing Out’, or you can ‘License In’ to make use of another company’s
        IP for your business needs.
  • Research on Companies House
    • If a business name has been established it’s highly recommended to search for
      company trademarks via Companies House online.
      • Though this doesn’t actually protect your IPR (assuming the trademark
        has been taken) this is an action that can save another business from
        making a claim against you
        ■ Fortunately - researching a trademark is easy and free to do on the gov.uk
        website.
  • Make use of search engines
    • You can do this by copying exact phrases from your online (or offline) copy into
      Google or Bing
      • If content is copied from any of your online resources this will display on
        your search results.
  • Identify early what can expose or potentially harm your IP
    • By doing this you can map what aspects of your ideas are able to be protected
      through copyright, patent or trademark.
      • This will ensure any company pitches that expose your potential creation
        are less likely to be replicated.
  • Enforce policies within your business
    • By enforcing a policy within your business this ensures employees who produce
      any form of IP take the necessary steps to protect the company’s own rights, by
      educating them on the process of protecting your IPR and legislations.

Although keeping on top of your IPR is a preventable measure to ensure you’re protected
against any other party infringing your rights. However, in the event you still feel your IP has
been breached, having full knowledge of your IPR and the steps you can take to report breach
of your IP can help you deal with this safely, ethically and efficiently.

Here are actions to take if someone is infringing your Intellectual Property:

  • Identify the area or type of intellectual property that is being infringed
    • By identifying the area (copyrighted material, patents, trademarks or designs) you
      will be able to determine your rights before proving the theft and making a claim.
  • Document everything in relation to the IP infringement
    • If the material in question is online – taking screen captures of the material being
      posted and keeping this on file can be an effective way to track individuals
      unlawfully sharing it.
      • Keep dates of any online or offline activity used my unauthorised third
        parties.
  • Identify who had or has access to your IP
    • To prove the theft occurred you need to prove who it was – this becomes difficult
      if the IP is published online as almost everyone has access to it.
      • Sites like who.is are able to identify who is hosting your assets (which is
        particularly useful for online material).
      • ActionFraud specialises in national fraud and cyber crime reporting, and
        contains a Business Reporting Tool to record multiple instances of
        fraudulent use of your assets efficiently.
      • If the IP in question is a trade secret, then it’s possible to narrow down
        who took part in the theft as this information should be regarded as limited
        to select individuals.
  • Report it
    • FACT (Federation Against Copyright Theft) is a recognised leader in disrupting
      and protecting IPR for businesses whether the property in question is physical or
      digital.
  • The Publishers Association
    • The Publishers Association are an excellent way to report publishers across the
      education, academic or consumer markets and have their own portal to search
      pirate sites that are using your assets.
  • European IPR Helpdesk
    • Whilst Brexit isn’t in full effect yet, use of the European IPR Helpdesk offers free
      of charge support across your business through their helpline, training and
      extensive glossary and FAQ section.
  • Utilise Social Media
    • With our sharing economy in mind, social media networks specifically have areas
      on their websites to complete and submit a copyright claim with full instructions.
      • Ecommerce websites like Amazon and eBay also have a disputes page to
        file a claim
  • Use information provided by the Intellectual Property Office
    • The IP Office housed by the UK Government contains a vast amount of
      resources that go into great detail of each IP law and licence, laws and practice
      and consequences of infringing IP law to keep you informed of your rights.

The ICO and their forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which will take
effect next March will also have a part to play in relation to the effect it has to your IPR. The
GDPR must be abided by particularly in the event you do dispute the infringement of your IP by
another party.


Whilst IP is an on-going, inevitable issue in the world of business, knowing your IPR through our
resources and tips provided in this guide will aid in protecting your business against your assets
being infringed. With this in mind, our transition to Brexit will bring about more questions and the question is how we can continue to invoke our IPR when the time comes?


Further Reading:

The Chartered Institue of Trademark Attorneys

The Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys

Protecting Your Ideas – British Library

Startup Donut on Protecting Intellectual Property

The UK is Leaving The European Union...So What Now For IP Rights in Europe?

A Guide to Intellectual Property Offences

Importance of Intellectual Property in Business

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