Property is a resource of financial value and something that an organisation needs in order to function as a business. Intellectual property is basically the intangible assets to a company such as data and software. Employees are the brainpower behind intellectual property because they are the ones that come up with all the ideas such as brands, inventions, trade secrets and software.
Intellectual property can set organisations apart from competitors and helps maintain longevity and profitability, and this is exactly why it needs protecting just as much as physical assets.
Intellectual property is a bit more confusing than physical property when it comes to categorising it. If you have an idea for a book, that isn't intellectual property, however, if you were to write your ideas down, that is intellectual property that needs protecting.
Intellectual Property Laws
There are several different forms of intellectual property rights available in the UK, each with their own formalities, levels of protection, and duration period. It is crucial that any individual who creates a product follow the correct procedure.
Intellectual property laws secure and enforce legal rights to inventions, designs, and artistic works. Just as the law protects ownership of physical property like personal property and real estate, it also protects the exclusive control of intangible assets. The purpose of these laws is to give an incentive for people to develop creative works that benefit society, by ensuring they can profit from their works without the fear of others stealing their ideas and designs.
Non-disclosure agreement (NDA): It's important when circulating confidential information that it stays on a need-to-know basis. All parties involved in knowing this information need to sign an NDA. This is a legal contract that protects any non-public business information whereby the people in the know agree not to disclose it for a defined period of time.
Patent: A patent gives exclusive rights to an inventor over their new invention for a limited time period. During this time, nobody else can make, use or copy the invention.
Registered design: A registered design protects the style of a product, whether that is its shape, packaging or surface design. Patent and registered designs can be confused, but a patent covers a new invention whilst a registered design focuses on the look of a product.
Trademark: A trademark is a logo, words, or a combination of both, that represents a brand or an organisation. It helps to keep a brand unique and identifiable.
Copyright: This gives creators of original work, certain exclusive rights. This law gives the owner of a work the right to say how other people can use it.
Intellectual Property Lawyers
An intellectual property lawyer's day-to-day tasks can incorporate a wide array of activities:
- Issuing notices to parties infringing on a client's rights (so if there are any signs of company A copying company B, the lawyer for company B will issue company A with a notice of infringement)
- Trawling through various patent registries in relation to a new product, innovation or idea brought forward by a client – it is the lawyer's job to check the product hasn't already been made, therefore preventing their client from copying someone else
If any disputes arise, an intellectual property lawyer will be required to initiate discussions between parties, as well as challenging decisions and rulings that might go against their client's interests.