Inspiration has struck you for a brilliant business idea. You do some market research and discover that no one else is offering anything similar right now. There is a market! Now you start to worry, what if someone else …? Our Business and Innovation Advisor Tom is on the case with advice and five top tips!
Thankfully, those who come up with new ideas, such as inventors, artists and business founders are granted certain exclusive rights to commercialise their creations for a specified duration. These creations are known as intellectual property or IP. Crucially, an idea alone is not intellectual property. IP is something unique that you physically create. For example, an idea for a book doesn’t count, but the words you’ve written do.
So, business ideas as such cannot be protected but you can use a combination of copyright, design registration, trademarks and patents to protect the important details:
Copyright: Original artistic works, including: software, pictures and drawings.
Registered Designs: How things look: their appearance; physical shape and configuration.
Trade Marks: Product names and brands, including: words; logos; colours and sounds.
Patents: Something new and inventive that can be made or used
Protection is granted automatically for some types of IP, such as copyright. Other types of IP, such as trademarks and patents, need to be formally registered. In the UK, the Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO) is the official government body responsible for IP rights. It is also a great source of guidance on all aspects of IP.
My Top 5 Tips for IP Creators:
- Do your research – you have already been smart and verified that people want your product. Now you need to research the IP. Even if you can’t find any evidence that a product exists in the market someone may have filed a patent. If you have come up with a great name for your business and you can’t find anyone using it on Google, does someone already own the Trade Mark? Use the UK IPO database search facilities and find out what is already out there. This could save you a lot of time and money!
- Keep it to yourself – not because others will steal your idea, you actually need to be good at selling your idea to others and enlisting their help to make it happen. However, if you invent something new and share it publicly it can no longer be patented. So, learn to talk about the benefits of your invention and keep exactly how it works, a secret.
- IP is valuable – Ideas alone are worthless. When you turn them into IP you create valuable assets. These will not only help you build a business but can also be sold or licensed to others.
- Make sure it works – James Dyson spent 15 years and reputedly made 5,127 prototypes to perfect his cleaner. Prototype and test till you know you have something that works before investing in IP Protection. If you come up with a great name for a product or business, test it out with potential customers first. Build a landing page, a social media site or create some business cards and go networking. Watch for peoples’ reactions.
- Get advice – protecting IP can be expensive. Seek help and guidance to navigate your way through what can be a commercial minefield. Remember also that SIE can help fund your IP Protection.
If you’d like to talk to a Business and Innovation advisor, you can contact them directly via the SIE website.
This article originally appeared in Ignite Magazine, Issue 14.