Intellectual Property: What it is and who needs to protect it?
First published in Composites Australia Magazine 2014
Whether large or small, a business may have Intellectual Property (IP) in its brand, products, or processes. If these set the company apart from competitors, then they are probably worth protecting.
Understanding the value of IP and integrating it into a commercial plan has proven to be smart business practice for companies large and small.
For Victorian start-up Carbon Revolution — developer of the world’s first one-piece composite carbon fibre wheel — managing the company IP has been pivotal to its success in raising funds (see page 15).
Investors are unlikely to take you seriously or invest in the company unless they can see there is some form of IP in place for the underlying technology,” says founder and Director of R&D, Dr Matthew Dingle.
IP is defined as “content of the human intellect deemed to be unique and original and to have market place value, and thus to warrant protection under the law”.
The type of IP relevant to a business will depend on the nature of that business.
Trademarks are relevant to most businesses in the context of business/ product/service names. They identify the goods or services of a trader, as distinct from those of other traders. It is worth noting that a registered business name does not provide any legal right to stop others using that name.
In the composites industry, IP can also reside in a manufactured product, a method of making the product, or even in the equipment used to make the product. In that case, patent and/or design protection may be relevant.
Patents protect the way things work, what they are made from, or how they are made. Designs protect the way a product looks; for example, its shape.
IP rights provide a legal mechanism for a business to prevent unauthorised copying or use of their IP. But IP provides more than the ability to enforce rights against a potential infringer.
As a business tool, IP can be used to benefit your business in various ways.
For example, IP can
- be licensed or sold just like realestate
- assist with attracting investmentor securing grant funding
- enhance the sale price of abusiness
- be used as a bargaining tool in the negotiation of business deals.
It goes without saying that IP in itself is not the key to business success; unfortunately, hard work is still required! However, if effectively managed and used to its full potential, a business’s IP can be its most valuable asset.