Understanding IP: The Devil is in the Detail

Intellectual property or “IP” has grown in prominence in recent years. The buzzword is heard in every corner of the business world and it is ubiquitous for good reason – it is the intangible commercial fabric by which businesses thrive.

Yet despite its importance, many business owners often fail to appreciate its true value and broad applicability, often not even understanding the many differing forms of IP that exist within their own enterprise.

The fact is, everyday businesses are developing IP rights. Yet these IP rights can take a variety of forms – sometimes they might squarely fall into the category of obvious traditional IP rights, such as the development of a brand or trade mark, the development of a product design, or the development of a novel invention; other times IP rights might be interwoven into the day-to-day activities of a business and therefore less apparent, such as the ongoing development of confidential information, business models or publications via social media.

Irrespective of their form, these IP rights constitute valuable commercial assets, which should be protected and maximised by a business. Yet the devil is in the detail when it comes to understanding and valuing IP, given the many nuances of the complex system. For obvious reasons, without the benefit of professional advice, many business owners fail to understand the volume of IP being generated in their business, its commercial value and how their actions may affect it.

For instance:

  • Employee & Contractor Engagements: Businesses will automatically own copyright in the work produced by their employees, but not that of Contractors/Freelancers. Any work produced by a Contractor/Freelancer will remain property of that individual, unless assigned to the business. When a business’s terms and conditions profess to sell IP as part of a client engagement, this can become an absolute minefield for legal issues if it is partially owned by one or more Contractor/Freelancer, particularly when the business represents that they own what’s being sold under the client engagement. For this reason, it pays to consider a business’s commercial documentation holistically, to avoid contradiction and also to ensure that it collectively achieves the desired outcome.
  • Social Media Promotions: Sharing, posting and publishing content on social media platforms can affect a business’s ability to seek IP protection in products because of Public Disclosure. It’s therefore important to consider your IP position and what may become an “iconic” piece worth protecting, before showcasing newly developed products to the world at large.
  • Product Development & Confidential Information: Businesses spend huge amounts of time and money developing products and services. Often the details are freely disclosed to suppliers and manufacturers without any parameters in place. Confidentiality Agreements should be used to protect this investment and securing information regarding the inner-workings of a business or its products.

Seeking professional IP advice is therefore crucial to unlocking a business’s potential and also realising the true benefit of the intangible value that lies beneath. Likewise, avoid unnecessary and potentially detrimental risks.

We offer a number of services designed to identify, secure and leverage a business’s intangible assets, including IP audit and advisory packages designed at leveraging growth through the power of IP. For more information on the process and benefits of our IP audit and advisory packages, please contact us.