The business implications of Intellectual Property - Business Works
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The business implications of Intellectual Property

by Luke Burton, Manager, Business & IP Centre, Newcastle Many business owners regard intellectual property (IP) as a matter isolated to inventors, manufacturers and global corporates. In reality, IP is an issue that can affect businesses of all shapes and sizes and is as much about protecting ideas and creations as it is about patenting formulas and designs. Luke Burton, Manager of the Business & IP Centre in Newcastle explores further.

All business owners recognise the importance of building awareness and credibility of their brand, whether they sell a business-to-business service or a consumer product. That's why billions are spent every year in brand development, audits, refreshes and marketing. When it comes to protecting a brand however, many of the same businesses are fairly unaware of the processes and steps available to them.

if you have created it, then you probably own the IP rights

Intellectual property is about more than just trademarking a brand. It also covers everything from the editorial content of your website and sales literature to your company name and software developments. For those in the arts, it even includes works such as photographs, paintings and musical compositions. It is important to remember, if you have created it, then in most circumstances you own the IP rights to it, so protection could be very useful.

When starting up businesses, much emphasis is placed on brand equity and its importance for targeting and growing customers but IP is often deprioritised. Things may start off small but who knows which businesses are going to become the next big successes?

Consider some of the most renowned global brands. Coca Cola was established in 1892 and its famous curly lettering was created free of charge. Fast forward to today and it enjoys 94% brand recognition and, still holds the market-leading position over its competitors, despite the development and release of many copycat cola products. Whilst Coca Cola couldn't have foreseen the global success it would enjoy, the fact its founders had the foresight to trademark the brand in such an early part of its history meant it has always been effectively protected to ward off brand infringements.

without adequate protection your brand can potentially be harmed or mimicked

Whilst there are obvious reasons for trademarking a brand name relevant to a product, there is still merit in legally protecting ideas before anyone else tries to commercialise them. Without adequate protection your brand can potentially be harmed or mimicked, which in some instances could lead to either a costly legal battle or brand demise.

Effectively protecting the IP of your creations can also prove a fruitful revenue stream photographers and musicians are the best example of this, as they request a royalty fee is paid every time one of their songs or images is used.

While the idea of IP can be daunting, it doesn't have to be. When I meet businesses that are considering it I always talk them through a checklist of questions and together we weigh up the pros and cons. Before committing to anything it is important they have first done plenty of research, to check no-one is already using that brand idea or name. One of the major misconceptions is that registering a company name and web domain is safeguarding your brand. But that won't stop a competitor from using or impersonating it.

Seeking professional advice on how to protect all elements of your business at an early stage has real potential to reap benefits in the longer term. No business should underestimate the importance of protecting their intellectual property.

Luke Burton is manager of the Business & IP Centre Newcastle. The Partnership delivering the Centre comprises Newcastle City Council, Newcastle Science City, Northumbria University and the British Library, with support from the European Regional Development Fund. For more information please visit:

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