Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is of importance to every product that you develop. Giving consideration to intellectual property should become part of the product development cycle.

Remember that other people have IP rights too!

  • At some stage in the development of any product you should always consider whether you are free to market it without infringing the IP rights of others.
  • Does anyone else have a patent that your product will infringe?
  • It is very dangerous to assume that there is no protection simply because there is no similar product on the market.
  • If you infringe a patent, whether you know about it or not, the patent owner can demand that you stop manufacture, and claim monetary damages from you for up to six years’ production.
  • If you plan to make significant investment in your new product, make sure that you are not paying for a product that you cannot manufacture.
  • There are many different types of patent search that can help to answer this question.  As always, the type of search chosen is a trade-off between cost and certainty.
  • In some ways, patent searching is like insurance: paying a small amount up front can save large losses later.

Don’t give your work away

  • If you don’t take steps to protect your product, you have become your competitors’ R&D department.  Anyone will be free to use your ideas.
  • You can use the patent system to protect new technical features in your product.
  • Patents can provide broad protection for your technology, and act as a deterrent to potential copyists.
  • You must not act too late.  A valid patent can be obtained only if an application is filed before the product is made public in any way.
  • I am always willing to look at a new product during its development to advise whether patenting might be appropriate.  Normally, I make no charge for doing this.
  • If you have spent time and effort making your product look good, you can protect its appearance by registering its design.
  • A registered design is infringed if a competitor makes a product which looks similar to yours.  You can use design registration to develop and protect a “house style” for your products.
  • Unlike patents, a design application can be filed after your product is made public. However, it is highly advantageous to delay filing for as short a period as minimise the risk that you will loose rights.
  • There is a low-cost European system that allows designs to be protected throughout the EU for little more than the cost of a UK national filing.

A unique identity

  • When you choose a name or a logo for your product, you must take great care to ensure that it is free for use.
  • The importance of obtaining a professional trade mark search cannot be overstated.
  • If you inadvertently infringe someone else’s trade mark rights they can demand that you change your mark.  This has an immediate effect on any advertising or
  • publicity material in which you have invested.
  • You may also be forced to recall products and pay damages.
  • To protect your own position, give consideration to registering your own name or logo as a trade mark.
  • A registration offers powerful protection of the mark, and ensures your continuing right to use it.
  • A registration helps you to protect the market you develop and the reputation attached to your trade mark.