Protecting your intellectual property - checklist

Reviewed by Johan Qvarfordt, Head of Partnership & Sales, Digip AB.

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The trade marks, patents and other intellectual property (IP) in your business can be valuable assets. Learn how to protect IP from being exploited by others.

  • Track your existing intellectual property. This can include innovative ways of working, product designs, services, company names, domains and brands, bespoke databases and software
  • Ensure employment, freelance and consultancy contracts clearly state your ownership of all intellectual property developed for you.
  • Use patent searches early in the development of new products and processes to check whether they are already protected by someone else.
  • Keep a log of evidence recording the development of intellectual property: for example, dated and signed copies of drawings and drafts which can act as evidence of ownership in the event of any future dispute.
  • Keep new inventions secret until you have decided whether their commercial viability justifies the cost of patent protection.
  • Consider alternatives: for example, rapidly capturing a market niche to discourage competitors.
  • If you need to disclose your ideas, consider using a non-disclosure agreement.
  • Consider filing an initial patent application to give you the time to develop or sell the idea. Contact a patent agent for advice.
  • Contact a trade mark agent for advice on trade mark searches and registration to ensure that any trade mark you develop is properly protected.
  • Take advice on the extra steps needed to protect your intellectual property internationally.
  • Maintain protection for patents (for up to 20 years) and trade marks while the commercial case remains by paying renewal fees as necessary.
  • Identify your designs (for the shape or appearance of a product) which are automatically protected by design right.
  • Consider whether new designs for the appearance of part or all of a product are worth protecting with stronger design registration.
  • Identify materials which are automatically protected by copyright. Add the copyright symbol, your name and the creation date to emphasise it.
  • Enforce your rights by identifying breaches and pursuing offenders, but think carefully before initiating uncertain and expensive legal action.

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