12 May 2021

What scale ups need to know about protecting intellectual property rights: Caterpillars at War

Why scaleups need to protect their intellectual property rights



When supermarkets lock heads in battle, particularly when they do so through chocolate caterpillar cakes, it is hard to have much sympathy. The Twitter spats between Marks & Spencer and Aldi have provided much amusement around here (Aldi is leading on the laugh-o-meter front in the Lawbox Design headquarters currently). In fact, the mere mention of chocolate cake has frankly got us all thinking about putting the kettle on, rather than musing about intellectual property rights.

However, whether it be Joe Lycett changing his name to Hugo Boss to support small business rights, or the more serious discussions going on around Covid-19 vaccine patents, intellectual property rights matter to companies, often more than the negative headlines they may create.

why does intellectual property matter for a scaleup business?

We know that there is value in a name – Coca-Cola, Disney, or Apple for instance – these brands have spent many years creating their brand and beware anyone who tries to copy them. BUT if you have only just started your journey on the road to global brand domination you might be forgiven for thinking that protecting IP rights is just for companies with the time to argue over caterpillars. Think again!

Protecting your intellectual property rights early on is not as hard as some may make it look, plus doing so at an early stage in the development of your scaleup can prevent massive headaches down the road. Here we give our top tips on what you should think about with regards to protecting the IP in your scaleup business.

automatic vs. IP protection you have to apply for.

You might assume that because you have come up with something you own it. To an extent you are right. Certain things are given automatic protection: those are things to which you then own the copyright. You own the copyright where you have created original written work, sound or music, film or television recordings. Whilst you don’t need to, you can flag that you own the copyright in these things by putting a © and the year of creation.

what sort of thing might be covered by copyright?

Copyright covers website copy, drawings of new products, and other original works including poetry, novels, movies and songs, computer programmes and software code – even architecture (including a building or even a model of a building).

The other type of IP protection that is offered automatically is over design rights. Whilst you can register your design to get more protection, you also already have some protection over things you have designed (namely the shape of objects). Designed a triangular computer? That would be covered!

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what makes up a brand and how can you go about protecting it?

It goes without saying that every business wants to build awareness around its brand. It wants the name of its company to be the first thing that pops into a customer’s mind when they are thinking about buying the product or service it sells. It will go to a lot of effort to build up all the things around the company name that make it the company of choice.

protecting your intellectual property.

We have pulled together a list of things we are most frequently asked questions by our scaleup clients when they need help protecting their intellectual property.

Q. Is my Company name protected?

A. When you register your company with Company’s House, you have some degree of protection around your name. However, you can also register the name as a trademark (if you meet the requirements).

Q. What about the names of my products?

A. Again, if you meet the requirements (including that they are unique, not offensive or misleading, or too common or non-distinctive) you can apply for a trademark.

Q. Is my logo covered by those design rights you talked about?

A. No, again this is one for a trademark application.

Q. How about inventions?

A. Here you can apply for a patent – once again there is a list of requirements and be warned the process can take some time to complete!

Q. You mentioned web copy, what about our web address?

A. You have no automatic right to own a domain name. If you want to own a specific URL then you need to purchase the domain name and there is nothing stopping someone from purchasing a domain with your company name featured within it (unless they are passing themselves off as you, but even that doesn’t mean you can get the domain back).

careful who you speak to about your IP.

If you have to apply to register one of these rights, be careful who you speak to! You aren’t protected until you have registration, and some applications can take months (or even years) to kick in. If you need to speak to someone about something you haven’t registered, and it isn’t in the public domain, think about using a non-disclosure agreement (NDA).

you mentioned a headache, I feel one coming on now!

All of this might have brought you back to the beginning of the article and thinking: “what’s the point, I am not M&S, and even they have now got into a fight about caterpillars”. Well, the point is that intellectual property covers so much of what we do as a business. It is where the value sits in your scaleup and its why big companies care so much about protecting their IP.

As your scaleup business grows and you look to bring in investment or perhaps look to enter into new partnerships or develop other more creative business ideas and structures, your value will come under the microscope. Not having your value protected will be a big deal. If you haven’t protected your intellectual property, what do you have left to offer?

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intellectual property box.

If you want help protecting your intellectual property and understanding what you should, or shouldn’t protect, then our Intellectual Property Box could be just the thing! Our intellectual property package for scaleups offers a complete toolkit for securing your IP and our up-front pricing ensures that you know just what you’re getting. Get in touch now to find out how we can help your business.

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