The contents of these pages are intended for general information only. This information does not and cannot constitute legal advice. The situation will differ in each case and depends entirely on its own circumstances. It is emphasised that the reader, when faced with one or more of the circumstances outlined above (or any other question relating to IP) should obtain specialist professional advice that will address his or her own particular case and circumstances.
Introduction: Intellectual Property is the name given to a collection of specialised areas of law which relate to the products of intellectual labours and business creation. Intellectual Property rights bestow a degree of exclusivity in their subject matter and are thus regarded as a legitimate type of monopoly. This category of monopoly rights principally encompasses Copyright, Trade Marks, Patents, Designs and Confidential Information.
In its different forms, Intellectual Property (which is often simply referred to as “IP”) represents the intangible assets behind your business, which will include the ideas, ingenuity, creativity, inventiveness, methodologies and data/information (which can even include contact/client lists and timetables/schedules etc) generated in the development and running of that business, as well as outcomes or products resulting from their use, the brands (whether corporate or product brands), and the goodwill and reputation associated with those brands. Indeed, because they identify a business and/or its products brands will represent the sum of those assets.
Controllable assets: Intellectual Property rights, if managed properly, are therefore business assets you can control more than almost any other business assets. This is particularly true in these economically challenging times where that other critical business asset, cash, is at a premium and reserves in the form of loans and overdrafts are subject to the control of a bank. IP rights cannot be a substitute for cash but they can be valuable tools for generating income. It is also recognised that IP rights can be valued for accounting purposes (an issue still not free of controversy) and can also constitute security, but strong IP rights enhance your capacity to generate repeat business.
Apart from cash (in whatever form) and personnel, Intellectual Property rights will be the principal business assets of the twenty-first century. Premises and equipment are usually only leased or hired, and whether owned or not, they can be replaced or repaired in the event of loss or damage. By contrast, Intellectual Property, if lost or damaged, cannot be ‘replaced’ or ‘repaired’. One wonders about the relative success (until recently) of the United States economy even in the face of much cheaper competitors, but part of that success must be due to that country’s more aggressive (and progressive) approach to Intellectual Property, and its willingness to invest in Intellectual Property.
This is not a demand for more oppressive Intellectual Property laws. This is an encouragement to those in business to recognise the importance of Intellectual Property in business, and to treat such assets in the same way as they treat their most valuable assets.
It is not an exaggeration to state that IP rights will feature prominently in the commercial battlefield, whether the objective of a business is to attain supremacy, market leadership, or simply survive.