Patents • Designs • Trade Marks
Intellectual property is of importance to every product that you develop. Giving consideration to intellectual property should become part of your standard product development cycle.
There are two fundamental questions that you have to ask yourself:
- Are there any existing IP rights that may prevent me from doing what I want to do?
- Is this an opportunity to create new intellectual property for my business?
Other people have IP rights too!
The first of these questions is the more important. There is absolutely no point in developing a product that you cannot commercialise if doing so would infringe existing IP rights.
Fairly early-on in the development of any product you should consider whether you are free to manufacture and market it without infringing the IP rights of others. Does anyone else have a patent or registered design that your product will infringe? It is dangerous to assume that there is no protection simply because there is no similar product on the market (there may be a patent that has not been exploited), or even because there is a product, because even if the business making that product does not own any relevant IP, they may have been granted a licence to do what they are doing.
If you infringe a patent, whether you know about its existence or not, the patent owner can demand that you stop manufacture, and claim monetary damages from you for up to six years production.
If you plan to make significant investment in your new product, make sure that you are not paying for a product that you cannot manufacture.
There are many different types of patent search that can help to answer this question. As always, the type of search chosen is a trade-off between cost and certainty. In some ways, patent searching is like insurance: paying a small amount up front can save large losses later.
Dont give your work away.
If you dont take steps to protect your product, you have effectively become your competitors‘ R&D department. Anyone will be free to use your ideas.
You can use the patent system to protect new technical features in your product. Patents can provide broad protection for your technology, and act as a deterrent to potential copyists.
You must not act too late.
A valid patent can be obtained only if a patent application is filed before the product is made public in any way. I am always willing to look at a new product during its development to advise whether patenting might be appropriate. Normally, I make no charge for doing this.
If you have spent time and effort making your product look good, you can protect its appearance by registering its design. A registered design is infringed if a competitor makes a product which looks similar to yours. You can use design registration to develop and protect a "house style" for your products.
Unlike patents, a design application can be filed after your product is made public. However, it is highly advantageous to delay filing for as short a time as possible to minimise the risk that you will loose rights.
There is a low-cost European system that allows designs to be protected throughout the EU for little more than the cost of a UK national filing.
A unique identity.
When you choose a name or a logo for your product, you must take care to ensure that it is free for use. The importance of obtaining a professional trade mark search cannot be overstated. If you inadvertently infringe someone else's trade mark rights they can demand that you change your mark. This has an immediate effect on any advertising or publicity material in which you have invested. You may also be forced to recall products and pay damages.
To protect your own position, give consideration to registering your own name or logo as a trade mark. A registration offers powerful protection of the mark, and ensures your continuing right to use it.
A registration helps you to protect the market you develop and the reputation attached to your trade mark.
If you have any queries at all, please give me a call. I am always willing to have an initial discussion free of charge and without obligation.