Brand protection: IP matters

Across the pond Samsung and Apple are both challenging the jury’s decision to award Apple $1bn in damages in a patent-infringement case. Apple’s lawyers believe the award is not big enough, and are asking for an additional $700m in damages and interest, whilst Samsung’s legal team wants a retrial, claiming that the head juror may have been biased.

Interesting stuff, but many will feel a disconnect from big money lawsuits that don’t reflect the daily everyday reality of most small and medium sized enterprises. Despite this, intellectual property matters should be a key consideration for SMEs looking to get ahead and protect their brand and ideas.

Contact lawyers
The most important first step when thinking about the intellectual property needs of your business is to contact an intellectual property lawyer. Even the smallest of businesses may have a logo, idea, innovation or slogan that defines them, and in many cases if that slogan is not protected, then it can be copied.

There is no suggestion here that every small business needs a trademark registration, and in lots of cases IP law will probably not be a viable or needed recourse for your business. However being aware of the issues is the biggest part of the battle.

Understand your business IP needs
Case law in intellectual property shows that business ideas are only as good as the measures taken to protect them. Whilst some of your content will automatically gain legal protection under copyright law, other elements like innovations, designs and logos will require registration, either as a trademark or as a patent.

If your business engages outside consultants, freelancers or designers then you should consider the ownership of their work. In many cases ownership in work carried out by an employee vests in the employer, but the situation is different with outside contractors and this is something you must think about before getting someone in to complete work for your business.

Contact law advice to find out how to ensure your right to reproduce and use work is retained and not lost to a hired contractor. This will need to be done in writing, so ask for an intellectual property lawyer’s help.

Prevent an infringement
Sometimes being up to date with your IP law requirements isn’t enough, but you can help your business stay protected by ensuring that employees sign confidentiality agreements and keeping hard copy design work and ideas locked away. If your work is not protected then be careful to have outsiders sign non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements before you show them your work.

You find Intellectual property solicitors in London or across the UK in the FindLaw UK solicitor’s directory.