How do you protect your ideas from being stolen?

5th November 2014

Recently we had some computer equipment stolen from our office (the thief was soon caught!). But as well as minding our physical security, we also need to watch that no-one is plagiarising our designs. Creations of the mind (ideas, inventions, images, designs and literary work) all fall under the umbrella of Intellectual Property (IP) and are protected in law by patents, copyright and trademarks.

How can you protect your IP?  

  • Do an audit – what IP assets do you think you need to protect?
  • If it’s important to you – or to your competitors – patent it. This means filing a document with the Intellectual Property Office.
  • Learn the basics about IP protection and reduce your costs by doing a Google patent search.
  • If you have something potentially very valuable to protect, don’t take chances – consult an IP lawyer or professional advisor.
  • Enshrine your legal rights in writing from the start, ie. whenever you work with someone, have a contract or Non-Disclosure Agreement that identifies and protects what’s yours.
  • Patents take considerable time to process so file your application as soon as possible, especially if you need protection from copying by overseas competitors.

What is The Intellectual Property Act?

The Intellectual Property Act helps UK businesses protect their IP rights, both in the UK and abroad. The law was recently reviewed and updated with new measures due to be implemented by late 2015.

What are the new changes?

The act will help to unblock the current global backlog of applications by allowing applicants to file one application with the International Bureau of the World International Property Organisation (WIPO) which protects their designs in multiple countries.

Interestingly (to us!), where a design has been commissioned by a company, the company will not be the default owner of the design, it will belong initially to the designer.

The penalties are pretty stiff too – it will be a criminal offence to copy a design registered in Europe without authorisation and can be punished with a hefty fine and imprisonment of up to ten years although it must be proved that the copying was done intentionally.

What will the benefits be?

Ultimately the updated Act will help to simplify and clarify the design protection process, reduce costs for UK businesses, and improve access to IP protection for small and medium sized companies.