How to value your IP – part 1

Time and performance pressures on business owners can be unremitting at times, but perhaps for many, never so hard as now.

When business owners/managers have got through with dealing with regulation and compliance, sorting HR issues, monitoring competitors, controlling expenses, and dealing with supply and manufacturing issues, it doesn’t leave much time to consider what Intellectual Property (IP) the business may have, the issues that come with it and its value.

What follows this week is some basic knowledge of the key aspects of IP, with next week’s update looking at some tips to help you try to maximise your commercial position and minimise the many risks of IP infringement.

What do we mean by IP?

The following are a simple set of definitions to help businesses get an overview of the area.

  1. Copyrights – The main types of copyrights are literary (written words) and artistic works (drawings, pictures diagrams, mats, charts, plans etc). In terms of how long copyright runs for, the starting point is generally 70 years from the year the work was first published/made available or from the death of the author.
  2. Trade marks – these can be text with or without stylisation, logos and any symbolised appearance (such as a strapline) that could be recognised as associated with a particular company. Trade marks may be registered or unregistered, which would be where a company has used a mark for many years and has built a reputation and association with this mark. Remember that registered trade marks can then be renewed indefinitely i.e. have unlimited term of protection.
  3. Designs – again these can be registered on a central register or may be unregistered . i.e. where they are simply used in the course of a business. Designs protect the appearance of a product ( e.g. mobile phones, car shapes, footwear, website pages etc). The time limits for protection are generally 25 years for registered designs but for unregistered, the term is much shorter and can be three, ten or fifteen years dependant on various factors.
  4. Patents – these are in relation to and protect genuine innovations that can have industrial application. Areas that can feature patents can be IT tech , software, components, formulations and products for example. Processes can also be protected by a patent, such as looking at an existing product and working out a better way to make it. Generally, a patent lasts for 20 years.

Fundamentally and as we have said in earlier updates, the types of IP set out above are potentially valuable company assets and can and should contribute significantly to a company’s valuation.

The common feature to all of them though and the key thing to take away is ownership.

The key advice we always give is how vital it is to try to establish the owner of the ‘rights’ in question.

For trade marks, registered protection could enable the owner to stop a competitor using the same or similar mark for products or services that might be the same or similar to theirs.

However for patent and registered designs, the benefits of registering or recording IP allows the owner to be in the position to be able to take action against a competitor should they try to make a product,  stock it, offer it for sale, use it or import it, without consent.

This is a very general guide – please get in touch if you need any of this expanding or want any specific advice to your circumstances.

We offer bespoke advice and support both for existing IP and around IP considerations when setting up or buying any business, licensing and assigning IP, protecting IP as part of commercial contracts or thinking about any collaboration or joint venture.

Please drop me an e mail or message if you need any further details.

Stay safe and well.

Roger