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IP: Protect your brand from the competition

Creating, protecting and enforcing IP can be the key to building and maintaining value in the business.

Law

Retailers who recognise this, can protect the reputation and goodwill associated with their brand and also ensure that they have a legal remedy against someone making unauthorised copies of their designs and innovation.

How to protect and build value in intellectual property

The basic steps are as follows:

  • Identify what IP you own. For designers and retailers that will generally be a combination of brand and design. Where the product contains some novel technical element such as a new fastener, intelligent fabric or method of construction patent protection may be available. It is important that this process of identifying IP starts at an early stage of the process, as the possibility of protecting it can easily be lost if ideas are disclosed or shared before steps are taken to protect it.    


  • Consider registering IP where you can. Patents (protecting inventions), Trade Marks (protecting brand names and logos) and Registered Design (novel product designs) can be registered. Owning registered Trade Marks, Design or Patent makes it easier to prove ownership and stop would-be copycats. It also allows those rights to be licensed to third parties.


  • Put in place a program to monitor brand and design infringement and act quickly if there are any infringements.


Basic costs for obtaining registered IP protection can range, with application costs for a simple UK trade mark starting at under £500. Obtaining Patents is the most expensive form of protection particularly if protection is sought outside the UK.  It is therefore important to weigh the potential completive advantage against the costs of registration in terms of prioritising protection.

The risks of not protecting

Retailers invest heavily in developing and promoting the reputation of their brand. Failure to proactively protect that brand against unauthorised use can allow others to free ride on that investment and ultimately end up damaging the value of the brand.

Often imitation products will be of inferior quality, so not only will they divert sales away from the genuine products they may also destroy a brand’s reputation for quality. There are many businesses whose sole purpose is to spot new products and innovations entering the market and seek to take a share of that market.

A company without IP protection will be in a weak position to do anything to stop that.

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