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Intellectual Property disputes can happen if another business, or an individual, infringes your intellectual property. Conversely, you might find your business on the receiving end of an allegation of intellectual property infringement. For either situation, access to an expert Intellectual Property lawyer can help you to ensure that your brand is full
Intellectual property is a concept in law that is used to describe creations of the mind. As a business owner, this can include things that you or your business has invented and designs or concepts you have created.
Intellectual property can also refer to the things your business uses to establish its identity to others, including the brand names of the products you sell and trading styles your business trades under, as well as the logos, symbols and images it uses.
Although your business might not produce them, it is also worth noting that literary works and pieces of art also count as intellectual property or the writer or artist who created them.
The laws in England and Wales, together with EU and international law, provide different rights and protections to your intellectual property. What these rights and protections are will generally depend upon what type of intellectual property is in question. Below, we’ve summarised the five main categories of legal protection afforded to the intellectual property of your business.
If you have created a literary or artistic work, then as the creator of that work, you will have certain rights, known as copyright. Whilst most people will know that copyright covers works including books, music, paintings, sculptures and films, what some business owners might not realise is that it can also cover computer programs, databases, adverts, maps and technical drawings.
The legal concept of copyright gives you two different types of rights. Firstly, as the creator of a piece of work covered by copyright, you or your business has economic rights, meaning you are allowed to derive financial reward from the use of your copyrighted works.
Secondly, as the creator you have certain moral rights which allow you to claim authorship of your works, to oppose any changes to your work that might harm your reputation, and also to authorise the use of your work or to place restrictions on how it can be used by others.
As a business owner, you may create a new product or process in the course of running your business. If this is the case, then you can apply for a patent, which is an exclusive right granted to protect the intellectual property of your invention.
In order to get a patent granted on your invention, you must put in all the relevant technical information in the patent application. Your patent application can be viewed by the general public, through services such as Ipsum, the Online Patent Information and Document Inspection Service.
If your patent application is successful, then you will usually receive exclusive rights which you can enforce to stop others from exploiting your invention commercially. As the patent holder, you have to give consent to others before they can make, use, distribute, import or sell your patented invention.
The concept of trademarks has developed over thousands of years, dating back to times when craftsmen would put their unique signature or mark on the things they made. In the present day, trademarks are signs which are used by a business to distinguish its goods or services from those of other business which may offer similar products.
A trademark will protect your intellectual property by conferring exclusive rights to your or your business over the use of your trademark. Usually this protection will last for 10 years, after which time you will have to renew it.
These days trademarks don’t necessarily have to be a sign, they can be any combination of words, letters, or numerals. Increasingly, companies are also applying trademarks to drawings, symbols and the particular styles of packaging they use. It is also possible to apply a trademark to other assets that are particular to your business or the products you produce, including fragrances, colour shades or even sounds.
An industrial design describes the look of a product that your business makes, this includes its shape, the surface used and any aesthetic features. Industrial designs also cover patterns, lines and colours used on the product. The industrial design of a product is what makes it attractive and appealing to consumers so it is important to protect your industrial designs in order to protect the commercial value of your product.
The protection of the intellectual property of an industrial design in the UK is covered by both European Union and UK laws.
The EU laws apply to community designs, where a design is “the appearance of the whole or a part of a product resulting from the features of, in particular, the lines, contours, colours, shape, texture and/or materials of the product itself and/or its ornamentation”. A design that is in some way novel, or one with an individual character, can be protected under the EU law for 3 years, or for up to 25 years if it is specifically registered.
There are also additional protections available under UK law for Design Rights, and Registered Designs. Design rights, for example, offer 10-year protection for the shape, internal and external dimensions of an original design.
The fifth major type of protection for an item of your intellectual property is a Geographical Indication. A Geographical Indication is a sign that can be used on goods made by an individual or a business if they have a specific geographical origin and possess, in the words of the World Intellectual Property Organization “qualities, a reputation or characteristics that are essentially attributable to that place of origin”.
Geographical indications are most commonly applied to food and drink, but they can also be used to protect other products. Protecting a product based on a geographical indication involves one of three approaches, a special regime of protection, the use of a certification or a mark or an alternative method which focuses on the business practices involved in creating the product that is to be protected.
Using someone else’s intellectual property, whether that is something they have invented, a patent they hold for a particular product or process, data they have acquired or even the logo of their business without permission is known as infringement.
Infringement of your intellectual property can occur when any of the forms of legal protection listed above are breached by someone else (with the exception of copyright, as there are some circumstances in which the limited use of copyright material without the permission of the copyright owner is allowed).
As a business owner, it is your responsibility for enforcing your intellectual property rights, which may include taking legal action against another business or an individual if you discover they are infringing your intellectual property rights.
Whilst it might be possible (and in many cases, preferable) to solve an intellectual property dispute out of court, you also have the option to pursue a civil court case against another business or an individual who has infringed your intellectual property.
At Canter Levin & Berg, our Dispute Resolution Solicitors will help you to enforce your intellectual property rights, providing you with expert legal advice to protect your intellectual property through legal action.
Our solicitors will work on your behalf to resolve your Intellectual Property dispute quickly, cost-effectively and with minimum risk and disruption. We will investigate the suspected infringement, gathering evidence and using intellectual property experts to help determine the extent of any infringement. In order to calculate the potential financial impact that the infringement has had on your business, we will make use of expert accountants.
As Dispute Resolution Solicitors, our priority when dealing with any intellectual property dispute will be to resolve it quickly, cost-effectively and with minimum risk and disruption to you and your business. In the first instance, we would seek to resolve your intellectual property dispute through mediation or collaborative law.
If it is not possible to settle your case in this way, our solicitors are fully capable of defending your rights through the courts, in order to reach the best possible outcome for you, including compensation for the damage that the infringement to your intellectual property has had on your business.
To find out more about how we can help if you are involved in an intellectual property dispute, call the Intellectual Property Solicitors at Canter Levin & Berg on 0151 239 1000 today. Our solicitors offer a free 10 minute telephone consultation allowing you to outline the nature of your Intellectual Property Dispute and giving our Solicitors a chance to offer you some initial advice as to your best course of action in the circumstances.
We also offer fixed-price consultations with our solicitors at our Liverpool offices. These consultations can be useful if you are involved in a particularly complex intellectual property dispute. Prices for our consultations are £100 for 30 minutes or £200 for a 1 hour consultation, inclusive of VAT. You can book your consultation with our Intellectual Property Solicitors today by calling 0151 239 1000.