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Making the Most of Intellectual Property

Friday, 5 October 2012

Intellectual property is in constant use by businesses. Every time an employee uses an office computer, there are licences that operate to determine the terms of that usage. When employees produce drawings or work on presentations, copyright laws operate to protect that work from being used unlawfully by others.

Most business owners are aware of the existence of the basic intellectual property rights such as copyright, patents and trade mark. There is also wide recognition of problems such as piracy. However an issue that often exists, particularly in small businesses, is a lack of knowledge which prevents them from exploiting intellectual property to its fullest extent.

What Intellectual Property Do You Have?

A good starting point for any business when looking at intellectual property issues is to consider the intellectual property that is used. Periodic audits can be effective; even if only to ensure that resources are not being wasted on redundant or duplicated IP licences for example.

Usually there will be a mixture of intellectual property in any business. Some will be owned by third parties which a business must pay to use. The company may have its own intellectual property such as trade marks which it uses to promote its business and help customers identify its products or services. The business may also own intellectual property which it cannot use itself because it has no application or because other more profitable rights are prioritised for investment.

Avoiding Disputes

The immediate priority with intellectual property should be to protect your own from abuse by third parties. You should also ensure that you are not unlawfully encroaching on other third party intellectual property rights.

Abusing intellectual property can carry hefty penalties if third parties owners sue you. If in doubt about the use of intellectual property, it is best to seek professional advice. Difficulties can be avoided if appropriate agreements are in place.

If you are facing the possibility of a dispute, preparation is important. You should identify the nature of the rights being challenged and attempt to identify the ownership of those rights. If you think that you may have encroached on third party rights, consider whether you have a defence. Again, it is important that you seek professional advice at an early opportunity to help assess the legalities of any potential dispute.

Exploiting Your IP Rights

If your company owns intellectual property rights that it does not or cannot use for its business, it may be able to exploit them by offering them to third parties to use commercially. This can be done by an assignment whereby the rights are permanently transferred for a premium or the rights can be licensed for a fixed period of time for a fee.

If you need advice on protecting, using or avoiding disputes in relation to intellectual property, Rollingsons has experienced lawyers who can assist you. For more information please contact James Crighton via e-mail or by telephone on 0207 611 4848.