How to protect your intellectual property
- 1 Ensure employment and consultancy contracts clearly state your ownership of all intellectual property developed for you.
- 2 Use patent searches early in the development of new products and processes to establish whether they are already protected by someone else.
- 3 Keep a log of evidence recording the development of intellectual property: for example, dated and signed copies of drawings and drafts.
- 4 Keep new inventions secret until you have decided whether their commercial viability justifies the cost of patent protection.
- 5 Consider alternatives, for example, rapidly capturing a market niche to discourage new competitors.
- 6 Consider filing an initial patent application to give you the time to develop or sell the idea; contact a patent agent for advice.
- 7 Contact a trade mark agent for advice on trade mark searches and registration to ensure that any trade mark you develop is properly protected.
- 8 Take advice on the extra steps needed to protect your intellectual property internationally.
- 9 Maintain protection for patents (for up to 20 years) and trade marks while the commercial case remains by paying renewal fees as necessary.
- 10 Identify your designs (for the shape or appearance of an article) which are automatically protected by design right.
- 11 Consider whether new designs for the appearance of part or all of a product are worth protecting with stronger design registration.
- 12 Identify materials which are automatically protected by copyright; add the copyright symbol, your name and the creation date to emphasise it.
- 13 Enforce your rights by identifying breaches and pursuing offenders, but think carefully before initiating uncertain and expensive legal action.
- keep records and evidence of all your intellectual property
- Use searches before investing in ideas which may already be protected by someone else
- evaluate the commercial justification for investing time and money in additional patent, trade mark or design protection
- take advice from patent and trade mark agents
- be prepared to try to enforce your intellectual property rights
- disclose new inventions before planning protection
- assume protection will automatically prevent infringements of your rights
- take legal action without carefully assessing the merits and potential costs of your case