When you start a business, it’s natural to be overwhelmed by a lot of things that demand your immediate attention – ideas and strategies for developing your business, securing funding, asserting your brand in the market, developing key partnerships, developing your digital marketing and more. While you expend your energy, time and resources on covering all these aspects, it is possible that you relegate Intellectual Property (IP) rights and protection for later, judging it ‘not so important for now’. It’s possible that you even completely forget about it.
However, seeking protection for IP rights is critical for startups and must not be delayed. It is indeed strongly recommended to take steps to protect your business’s IP rights to avoid unnecessary and expensive complications. It is essential to take the time to understand what IP is all about and develop an IP strategy to protect your business and its long-term vision.
What is Intellectual Property?
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) provides this definition:
Intellectual Property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.
The intangible nature of IP gives it a distinct position from other forms of property, like land. As a landowner, you can build a fence around your property and protect it. However, as an author, what can you do if someone replicates your book and sells it at a lower value? The purpose of protecting IP iis to encourage innovators to continue creating useful intellectual products for consumers. However, to protect their ownership of these products and their exclusive rights, innovators must first obtain registration. Depending on the type of IP that has been created, there are various ways by which they can be registered.
IP rights, like any other right, may be used, sold or licensed for profit and should be seen as an investment.
What are the types of Intellectual Property protection?
There are various forms of IP rights, as follow:
These are the rights given to artistic and literary creations. A musical composition, a piece of writing or a performance can be protected by means of copyright.
A trademark gives exclusive rights to businesses to use a particular name or symbol to identify their company, their products or services. The period of protection is normally 10 years and can be renewed indefinitely.
· Industrial Designs
This includes the ornamental or aesthetic aspect of an article produced by industry or handicraft.
· Geographical Indications
This is a sign mentioned on goods with a specific geographic origin, bearing typical characteristics of their particular place of origin.
· Confidential Information/Trade Secrets
Information that has commercial value and is protected from being shared.
· Layout Designs of Integrated Circuits/Topographies
This refers to the three-dimensional character of elements and their connections on an integrated circuit.
A patent is the result of an inventive process or design. A patent provides protection to the innovator or the owner for a limited period of time.
Why should you protect your Intellectual Property rights?
IP theft is very real, and startups – like companies of all sizes and ages – run the risk of having their unique IP rights infringed upon. They should therefore seriously consider securing them. Here are three reasons why:
1. For legal monopoly
You may have a great idea for a product’s or business’s name, and just as surely, there will be other businesses or individuals that may want to use an identical or confusingly similar trademark. Proper registration will give you the right to stop third parties from using and/or registering identical or similar marks.
2. Protect your brand’s goodwill
Obtaining protection for your brand is critical to build a strong image and establish a successful business. As a startup, your very first step in securing your brand should be to trademark your business name and/or symbol and the name(s) used for your products and/or services, especially if it will be a large part of your marketing efforts. Find out how to register a trademark in Singapore.
3. Reduce counterfeiting
Most if not all the well-known brands are being counterfeited. Manufacturing goods and distributing them under another brand name is an offence. And any bad experience that a customer has with a counterfeit is likely to affect the original brand and its goodwill. IP protection can deter such occurrences and custom registration can stop such goods at the border through effective legal actions.
You can make it harder for someone to copy your products or services and sell them under your brand name by taking a few active measures:
· Document everything, and file the evidence away.
· Obtain the relevant legal protection for your IP via proper registration.
How to protect your Intellectual Property
Protecting your IP translates to protecting your business and is therefore justified at the earliest stage of your business. You will need to consult with an IP expert to learn which aspects of your business require IP protection, namely trademarks, designs, copyrights, etc. As stated above, it is recommended that these actions be taken early in the start-up process, even before you set up a company and launch a website, bearing in mind that IP protection is something that investors look favourably upon.
For a startup ecosystem to grow, and for innovation to thrive, IP rights and their protection must be considered as an asset, and not as a cost centre.
At IPHub Asia, we help protect the IP rights of startups. If you have any questions regarding IP protection or require solutions for your trademark and design rights in Asia, do get in touch.You can also visit our website to know more about what we specialize in and the trademark and IP services we offer.