You’ve heard about intellectual property (IP), but you are convinced that your business does not involve any aspect related to IP. Wrong!
When you started your business, you thought of something that would distinguish you from the business next door. It might have been a different attitude to client service, or a better way of serving your clients, or you invented something that is really unique and which was successful in the open market. In fact, if it weren’t for your novel approach to business you would probably not be in business today.
This is where intellectual property comes in. Your business name and branding, which is associated with your improved client service, forms the basis of a trade mark. The company’s name, logo’s, slogans and get-up are protectable intellectual property rights. You would not want the competition to duplicate your business’ branding, or name or get-up, and the legal basis of your protection is trade mark law. You can protect your business interests by registering certain of your marks, be it your name, logo or a distinguishing slogan.
All your business processes, which ensure better client service and more efficient methods of operation, are know-how that you developed and which are of value to the business. You would not want to see this valuable knowledge in the hands of your competition and it is therefore imperative to have proper contracts with all employees and contractors to protect your business know-how. Common law protection of intellectual property forms the basis of protection of know-how.
Maybe you invented something that are being well received in the market and which forms a substantial portion of your business. This invention may form the basis of a patent. A patent will protect you against competition that may want to copy your invention. If you are an industrial designer and your designs are being copied, it may be time to think about registering your aesthetic and functional designs. A registered design protects the novel appearance of an article.
At some stage your business may grow to such an extent that you want to start duplicating your business success. You might consider franchising your business outlets. A properly drafted franchise agreement, which incorporates all aspects of your business, from the get-up of the business to the supply of proprietary goods is a specific form of an intellectual property license. In reality, the question is not if your business is built on intellectual property, but rather how you deal with intellectual property in your business.