By Matthew Jefferies, Partner at leading global intellectual property firm, Marks & Clerk
The focus of this year’s World Intellectual Property Day was on young tech founders. As innovation continues apace, and the young minds of today create ideas that can drive positive change at both a community and global level, it’s essential that they know how to protect them. History has proven that well protected ideas are the ideas that are most likely to succeed.
When it comes to building a business, especially one that is framed with a social purpose in mind, getting IP rights in place from the outset is key. In doing so, entrepreneurs are not only able to protect themselves, but they can also maximise the opportunities they have to benefit the wider community. However, in the rush to scale up and drive change, all too often IP rights get forgotten – a fact which is further compounded by IP rights being deemed as both daunting and costly.
In 2021, global patent filings surged to a record high of 277,500 international patents filed, an increase of 0.9% on the previous year, according to the United Nations World Intellectual Property annual overview. This is a clear sign that globally, innovation is far from slowing and to ensure that pace continues, it is essential that young entrepreneurs are given the right tools to protect their ideas.
So with that in mind, we’re sharing insights on what young inventors must consider when it comes to protecting their intellectual property:
1.Understand what you need to protect and seek the right safeguards
If technological innovation is at the heart of your products and services, seeking patent protection may well be critical to your future success. Indeed, investors are likely to deem solid patent rights as critical when making investment decisions. If you plan to invest significantly in marketing and in the appearance and aesthetics of your products and services, you will need to consider seeking registered protection for your trade marks and designs. As a general rule, seeking to register your IP rights at an early stage will likely result in protection of broader scope and with a higher likelihood of validity.
2.Consider the territorial scope that you require, now and in future
Whether it is trade mark, patent or design protection you are seeking, rights are registered on a country-by-country basis. Should you expand internationally in the future, rights applied for at an earlier stage may be insufficient. Unfortunately, especially when it comes to patent and design rights, early decisions can be irrevocable. As such, you need to have an eye on the future from the outset. The same applies when conducting a freedom-to-operate exercise. For example, just because you have established freedom to operate in respect of a brand name in one country does not necessarily give you the same rights elsewhere.
3.Revisit your protections as you grow
As your range of products and services evolve in line with your business, so too should your IP protection. You should regularly review your IP protection to make sure it is in line with your current and future commercial objectives. It is particularly important to review your protection prior to launching any new product or service.
4.IP rights are more than just a competitive advantage
The basis for seeking registered IP rights is to establish a monopoly in the market place. Rights therefore have a value that can often be realised as a financial value. Rights can be licenced (in or out), bought or sold, used to raise investment, and even used as collateral for loans. When considering whether to seek registered IP rights it is important to take decisions using a multi-dimensional approach.
To help unlock value from IP protection, and successfully navigate the sometimes-daunting world of IP law, young entrepreneurs should seek advice from experts in the area. Not only will this ensure that they have the right protections in place, but it will also ease the burden of doing so and ensure they can feel confident that they’re safe from infringement, and their business is given the best chance to succeed.