Different Types of IP
IP is an umbrella term. It covers many different forms of intangible property each having equally as many or more bodies of law associated with them.
It is important to know what kinds of IP rights you may be entitled to, to help give you a commercial advantage over the competition and to help build on your organisation’s value. It is rumoured that Coca Cola’s intangible assets are worth more than their tangible assets. You can imagine the loss they would suffer it their branding was able to be freely used by others.
Here are two examples of businesses and types of IP protection they may have.
The ICEHOUSE (r) business growth centre
- Trade mark protection in the brand “The ICEHOUSE” and in sub brands. Some of the trade marks are registered others are unregistered trade marks.
- Know-how and confidential information in the form of client lists, business methodologies, processes around the assessment of businesses for commercialisation, internal administration systems and many more.
- Copyright protection in website look and feel, text and images, manuals, course materials, contact lists.
YikeBike(r) folding electric motorcycle
- Patents and patent applications (through an IP holding company) in at least 12 countries for various aspects of the product.
- Trademark protection for the brand “Yikebike” and any sub brands
- Copyright protection in:
- the engineering drawings for the motorcycle
- the control system software for controlling operation
- operation manuals and user manuals
- marketing content.
- Business operation sensitive information and know how. And likely to have the next and still secret version of product on the drawing board.
Some key points about the core forms of IP
- Protects inventions and innovations in products and processes (including software).
- An invention must be novel and inventive.
- Last for a maximum term of 20 years.
- They can boost the first mover advantage by keeping competitors more than one step behind, potentially for 20 years.
- Must be applied for before the invention is made public commercialised, though some exceptions exist for a limited time period.
- Can be expensive to get depending on country.
- Can take time to be granted so for some inventions they are not suited (e.g. for short lifecycle products such as toys).
- May be a prerequisite for investors before funding.
- The strongest form of IP for innovations – as a result are much more licensable/saleable/investor favoured.
- Protects only the look or aesthetics of an article.
- Infringed by products that look the same of similar.
- Lasts for about 10-16 years depending on the country.
- Relatively cheap.
Registered trade marks
- Protects a brand under which a product or service is sold.
- Prevents competitors from selling the same or similar goods under the same or similar brand name.
- Not expensive.
- No expiry as long as the trade mark is renewed and used on a regular basis (e.g. coca cola).
- Works on a first to file principle – the first person to file an application for the mark gets the rights.
- Automatically protects you throughout the territory in which it’s registered.
- No need to demonstrate that your brand has a reputation that will be harmed by the infringing brand.
Unregistered trade marks.
- Free – no registration required.
- In order to enforce the unregistered trade mark, and you show that the brand has been damaged. This is expensive and may not provide certainty of outcome.
- Prevents from being copied such things as:
- software, data bases, lyrics to songs, user manuals, marketing brochures
- engineering drawings, architectural designs, photos, sculptures,
- music and film.
- Automatic. No registration required but in order to enforce it you must prove copying took place.
Trade secrets and know-how
- Protects only confidential information and secret information.
- You must treat is as confidential and then it’s still only enforceable against those who know it’s confidential.
- Can last forever so long as the secret is not able to be reverse engineered or become independently derived.
- Once in the hands of others it can be difficult, and usually impossible to retrieve.
- Difficult to detect and prove misappropriation and as a result are hard to value and license/sell.
- Can be costly to keep especially in larger organisations where limited need-to-know disclosures are not always possible.
This flowchart is a helpful guide. You should note that all situations are different. There is no substitute for discussing your situation with an IP expert to help decide the appropriate course of action.
Because situations differ, the above must not be used as a substitute to seeking professional legal advice.