Small businesses are the lifeblood of most economies in terms of their capacity to innovate and so to create wealth and employment. This will particularly be the case if, as some economists are forecasting, manufacturing activity continues to recover and to strengthen. However, the innovation and development of new products and processes is a demanding task, and the resources of time and money which may be left over to deal with intellectual property issues are sometimes limited. So the question which is often asked “How can we protect our rights?” often goes without a satisfactory answer. The purpose of this article is to consider some basic guidelines to ensure worthwhile protection is achieved.
What is Intellectual Property?
There is often a certain amount of confusion about the nature of Intellectual Property rights, illustrated in questions such as “How can I copyright this trade mark?” or “Can I register this copyright?” So it is important to recognise that Intellectual Property covers a wide range of rights, including:
● Trademarks, registered or unregistered, indicate the origin of goods or services from a particular supplier and are frequently the focus of its goodwill in relation to the goods or services concerned. They are of indefinite duration and in the case of registered rights are renewable at 10 year intervals. In general terms, registered trademarks are easier to enforce than unregistered ones;
● Domain Names consist of the names by which individuals, companies or organisations are known on the Internet, and are cheap and easy to obtain. Ownership of a trademark gives no right to ownership of a domain name, nor does registration of a domain name entitle the owner to register a trademark for the same name or protect against infringement of a third party’s trademark.
In practice, disputes between the owners of trademarks and domain names are not uncommon and, if not resolved amicably, may involve the courts or in the UK the Dispute Resolution Service provided by Nominet UK.
● Copyright and similar rights protect the intellectual effort involved in the creation of original literary, artistic and other works.
Find out more by downloading the full article: Intellectual Property – Guidelines for small businesses