What can I protect?
The government agencies which register intellectual property rights publish clear basic guidance on their official websites to help new businesses identify which rights they need to protect. Such guidance is unbiased, reliable and regularly updated.
IPReg recommends that new businesses start by consulting the following sites, which are all the responsibility of government bodies operating in the IP field:
- The UK Intellectual Property Office (“UK IPO”) – registers patents, designs and trade marks in the UK
- The Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (Trade Marks and Designs) (“OHIM”) – registers trade marks and designs in the European Union
- The World Intellectual Property Organisation (“WIPO”) – administers systems for international protections of patents, designs and trade marks
- The European Patent Office (“EPO”) – handles collective filings for patents in signatory states
- The United States Patent and Trade Mark Office (“USPTO”) – registers patents, designs and trade marks in the USA
- Information site developed by the Governments of Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore
- UK Government sponsored information site replacing the BusinessLink advice service
Using the information provided on these sites, a new business can identify key areas for possible protection (e.g. will you file for a patent, a design, a trade mark or all three?) and the countries where this action may be needed. More specific advice on the steps needed may be offered if a telephone or email enquiry is made to help desks at these bodies, but they are likely to recommend consulting a professional advisor as well.
Bear in mind that a specialist IP advisor cannot usually advise on matters such as company formation, tax structures or the commercial potential of your business proposition.
You may need to seek legal and accountancy input too – although multi-disciplinary advice firms can often provide information covering all these topics. The British Library Business and IP Centre runs useful seminars for new businesses covering commercial topics, but book early!