Throwing Brexit and COVID-19 into the mix of the general strains of running a business and this past year has probably been one of the most challenging for organisations of all shapes and sizes.

At any time, but even more so during times like these, it is important that organisations look after their valued IP. This ensures that the key components, which make your business distinguishable, are protected and feeds into a focus on resilience – whether this is by licensing assets or deterring copycats.

Protecting your products

There are a number of options available to organisations to protect the originality and provenance of their business offering:

  • Trade marks - can cover the name of a product or brand as well as a logo, and even sounds;
  • Patents –protect novel inventions or processes, which could be machinery or methods of production;
  • Trade secrets – covers confidential business information, such as client lists or recipes;
  • Design rights –can operate to protect such aspects as the shape and decoration of a product; and
  • Agreements – whether licence or collaboration agreements, it is important to have written terms to determine the basis upon which you are working with third parties.

Opportunity in adversity

With disruption comes opportunity. Whether it relates to goods or services, changes in circumstance brings with it changes in consumer spending habits and requirements, which can allow for diversification. This past year saw a number of distilleries offering hand sanitiser and car manufacturers building hospital ventilators. In some instances, businesses may use their own IP and underlying raw materials to assist with this change of tact but it can also open the doors to collaboration.

Where two parties are coming to the table, having protected rights makes determining the parameters and respective IP ownership easier, as it is clearly distinguishable. In these scenarios, the commercial benefits of having a written agreement, setting out each party's position cannot be overlooked. This prevents any confusion later down the line as to whose IP is whose and, if relevant, what any royalty split may be.

At a time when all revenue avenues are crucial, having ensured that key aspects of a business are protected can provide a lead over competitors. It can also appease concerns and deter others in the market from exploiting such commercially crucial components of your business.

Resilience from rights

Having an IP protection and enforcement strategy assists to put organisations in as strong a position as possible to move forward in times such as these. It is worth seeking advice to explore all avenues of protection available and determine which approach would best serve to protect your brand and business.