I’m starting a new business, what do I need to know about intellectual property?


According to The Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve 75% of business value lies within intangible assets .

So whether you’re creating the latest gastro pub, a slick new fashion label, the next blockbuster novel, a new smartphone app, or a product providing huge advancement in technology, you need to understand intellectual property (IP), the intangible aspects of your business that you can’t touch or see, in order to prosper.

Protecting your ideas

If you’ve set up a new gastro pub or a fashion label, the way people will know about the tasty food you cook, or the stylish clothes you design is because of the brand. It is therefore key to ensure you understand trade marks, the legal mechanism for protecting your name and brand.

If you’ve written a novel and you’re looking at what you need to do next as you take it to market, then understanding the associated IP will be an important part of your future success.

Are you clear about what aspects of your book is protected by copyright? Who designed the cover and do you own any IP resulting from this creation? Have you considered protecting the name?

If you’ve developed a new smartphone app, it is important to understand what aspects of software are protected by IP.

You may have copyright in your code, but beware that this has limited value. If your software provides some technical advantage over other similar software, you could even have invented something patentable.

Furthermore, aspects of the look of your software, such as GUI icons, may be protectable by registered designs. And don’t forget to consider how trade marks could help protect the name of your app.

For any advancement in technology it is important to consider what aspects of your new technology could be protected by a patent. But also, don’t forget to consider whether the look and name of your product could be protected too.

Developing your IP

If you haven’t thought about any of the above rights yet, then don’t panic. Some IP exists as soon as you create something, so you may already have some IP.

When creating a new company, it is always worth thinking about who owns the IP associated with the company. From the design of your company logo, to the idea that is your company’s USP – it is essential to make sure that the owner of the IP is clearly defined.

Growing pains

As your company grows, so too does the creation of new IP that you identify – capture and protect it as you go. Make sure that you understand the value of and develop an appropriate IP capture system.

Finally, don’t forget that while IP can provide you with exclusivity to an idea or name, it can do the same for your competitors. As such, don’t forget to think about other companies’ IP and how they could affect your business.

Answer last updated: 17 Jan 2018