Protecting your Intellectual Assets

Security precautions are vital for any business, and all companies invest in measures such as locks and even CCTV systems to prevent thefts but such measures are ineffective in protecting what could be your most valuable asset: your Intellectual Property.

Intellectual Property (IP) includes all those things that make up a franchise business: the content of your company manuals, know-how and expertise, designs, technology, reputation and most importantly, your brand names and logos.

You can't physically lock these up, so they must be protected using Intellectual Property Rights such as Trademark Registrations, Registered Designs and Patents, and through the use of Copyright Law. ip21 is an IP specialist with a team of Trademark and Patent Attorneys who can identify, protect and enforce your IP rights. ip21 is recommended by Franchise Development Services and has recently become an FDS Associate. Whether you're an existing franchisor or planning to franchise your business, we can help secure your IP rights in the UK, Europe and throughout the world.

Key assets for all businesses are brand names and logos - these can be protected through Trademark registration. In fashion-led fields, brand identity is crucial, with buyers prepared to pay a premium for branded products. For other sectors, the brand might provide confidence to consumers that the products are safe and reliable. But

for all businesses, it's the brand that leads your customers to you, and is at the heart of franchising.

To register a Trademark, it must be capable of acting as a badge of origin, so it can't be merely descriptive of the products, or lack any distinctive quality. The mark must also be sufficiently different from other registered marks used for the same kind of products or services. ip21 can advise on this.

A Registered Trademark allows you to stop others using the mark - or something similar to it - for the same kind of products or services. But be aware that a UK Trademark only has effect in the UK. We can also help with overseas registrations.

Additionally, beware of other people's rights: you run the risk of infringing other Trademarks if you don't check what's already registered. For new businesses, or following a rebranding or launch of new products, this can be a particularly costly mistake.

Apart from the costs of reprinting publicity material and the like, you could be sued for Trademark infringement. A clearance search can establish the availability of any proposed mark, and can pave the way for your own registration.

Other forms of IP protection such as Design Registration can also help to extract the most value from your Intellectual Assets. If your business concerns any form of technology, then Patent protection could also be an option; you should discuss this with a Patent Attorney before disclosing it to the public.

Reported by Peter Wilson