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Jul 8th 2013

Guide to Intellectual Property (IP) Rights

Intellectual Property rights may be a particular concern for you. Is your development something that should be covered by a patent? Do you know or do you need help deciding this? There are some guidelines (or actually rules) for this:

  • Do get a professional’s guidance. This is actually free (usually) in the first instance. Most patent attorneys will give an hour or so free advice. It is worth every minute. There are lots of firms. Deyns is an example.
  • Don’t talk, write or communicate with anyone about it. If it can be proved that you told someone about it before your formal patent application was made it will make your patent void. It is known as putting the information in the ‘public domain’.  The best way to protect yourself at the earliest opportunity is to get your patent application done. It will cost about £400 to £500 to have it done professionally.
  • Once you have made the application you do have some protection. Still don’t talk to people about it unless you have got them to sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement). This binds the parties to confidentiality. It is also important because you may wish, at a future date, to cancel your existing patent and re-apply (usually necessary because your patent application has got ahead of your commercial position – patents are very expensive once granted). If you haven’t got a company under NDA and they know about it the information is deemed in the public domain. There is a model NDA on the Patent Office website.
  • Do you have something that could have a patent? There are 3 criteria for deciding whether or not an invention is patentable. It must be novel (no one else has already done it), commercially applicable (there is a commercial application for it) and there must be inventive step (although novel, it would not be an obvious development to someone skilled in the field of the application).
  • How do I establish if it is worth making a patent application without spending a lot of money through a patent attorney? Novelty – look at the patent office website. They have a quite sophisticated search engine that will allow you to search with relative ease. Obviously, do some web trawling as well. Commercial application – obvious and you should be able to answer this yourself. Inventive step – this is a complex one to answer – particularly with European patents. Ask your patent attorney.
  • If my product is not patentable, is there any other sort of intellectual property I need to consider? Yes. In this country the big one is copyright – this covers what is called designright in US patent systems. Basically, it is the look and feel of your product. If, for example, you sold a sweet drink in a bottle the same shape as the coca cola bottle with a red label and white writing, it is possible you could be infringing a designright or copyright in this country. You just need to register your trademarks and officially identify that you are placing a copyright on your product/literature etc. To make sure you get it right have a quick chat with your patent attorney but it should be very cheap – there isn’t much to it.

Confused or need further help? Our design division Newbury Innovation offer expert consultancy and advice, contact us now.