IP Guide for SMEs
IP rights in a nutshell
- Patents protect your inventions, whether products or processes. Your invention must be new, inventive and with practical application.
- Trade marks protect your brand and product names and symbols. Use ® if registered, ™ if not.
- Designs protect the visual appearance of your products and their components.
- Copyright protects your literary, artistic, or musical material, such as brochures, manuals, advert content and radio jingles. Keep good records and keep a dated copy of your work safe.
Your project IP checklist
Developing a well balanced IP portfolio can give you the competitive edge and increase the market value of your business. Licensing, sale or commercialization of your products or services, protected with IP rights, can generate income for your SME. If you are using IP that belongs to others, it is important to consider the licensing or purchase opportunities available to you in order to avoid a dispute or litigation.
Timing is key and you should build IP action points into your business and project plans, and be prepared to allocate budget for IP.
Start of project
- Are you free to use your idea or name? Check for existing patents, designs, trade marks and domain names.
- Check contract terms with third parties (eg, confidentiality and ownership agreements).
- Secure your own IP rights. File for patents, designs, trade marks and domain names. Patent applications must be filed before public disclosure so consider non-disclosure agreements with developers.
Ongoing and mid-project
- Feature IP in project reviews.
- Document development work and contributors (inventors, designers, etc).
- Check further for existing third party IP while you can still potentially steer round it: use searches to clear significant design choices.
- Again, review and secure your own IP rights.
- Check that any existing IP rights you have do indeed correspond to the product you are developing.
Pre-launch of product
- Do a quick re-run of clearance searches.
- Check again that you have already filed for IP rights that correspond to the product you now intend to launch.
Cost effective strategies for protection
Many new and growing companies have tight budgets to generate, protect and commercialise their IP. Getting professional advice is invariably worthwhile, as there are many pitfalls for the uninitiated. We understand the need for commercially focused, timely and cost effective advice, tailored to your individual business needs.
General UK costs and timeframes
These may vary considerably depending on the complexity of the subject matter involved. For an indication of costs for your specific situation please contact us for more information.