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Securing IP rights for a new product or design can seem like a big expense, but the benefits gained from a patent can be invaluable
Once you know you’ve got a product or a design worth developing, then you should start thinking about securing your Intellectual Property (IP) rights. Robert Games from Intellectual Property attorneys, Albright IP looks at the process manufacturers need to undertake and why the benefits gained from a patent can be invaluable.
As you start to develop your idea you can start to undertake your own basic internet searches to see if your product is already on the market.
From here you need to limit who you talk to about your idea or product. The IP disclosure rules mean that if you accidentally disclose your invention then you won’t be able to get a patent and your options for protection will be extremely limited.
The next thing to do is to talk to an IP attorney about how to best protect your idea. Remember, IP protection can be applied for while you are still finalising your product and before the final design is completed.
More than protection – IP builds value
When financing a new design or innovation there is always a friction between available funds and what needs to be done to develop your idea. Quite often, patents and associated IP will not be a priority. However, it’s important to remember that IP does allow you to quickly create value in the business.
In the UK, trademarks can be protected indefinitely; designs can be protected through registration for up to 25 years and patents offer protection for up to 20 years. This IP value (dependent on what you do) could last for the lifetime of the business, or certainly for the lifetime of the product that you’re trying to promote. Through the Patent Box tax relief system, a patent can also give you significant tax savings.
But be warned, get your IP wrong and it can be a very costly process. If you spend money on product development and branding but don’t consider IP early enough, then you run the risk of being copied or unwittingly copying someone else.
Why use a patent attorney?
The legal process of obtaining patents is relatively complex. It is also essential to get it right first time. This is because if your first attempt at a patent application falls short, you have essentially disclosed your product to the competition without protection.
When applying for a patent there are many ways you can potentially handicap yourself from the outset. For amendments to the application to be allowable downstream, they must have basis in the application as it was filed.
It is therefore essential to include plenty of descriptive wording at the beginning that can be drawn upon later for amendments. A patent attorney will be experienced at crafting such wording and will have a good idea of what may come in handy later. Inventors will of course understand the technical complexities of their own products and innovations, however, they may not be best placed to phrase these technical features in the kind of language expected by patent examiners.
Patent offices apply rigid and highly specific rules to decide whether an application is allowable, and it can be difficult to foresee and understand their objections if you are not familiar with these rules. An experienced patent attorney will know what to expect and will be able to draft your application with the examination in mind, giving you the best possible chance of obtaining a granted patent.
Think about your end game
It’s very hard when starting a company to think about succession planning and if you may eventually want to sell your company. If you do, then IP will play a big part.
As part of the due diligence for a sale, any purchaser will want to know that they have the exclusive right to use the brands and products which have been established. They will also want to know that they are not at risk of infringing other people’s patents. The seller will need to show that all their IP has been filed correctly to get maximum value.
My advice would be to talk to a patent or trademark attorney at the earliest point to develop a strategy setting out how you should approach your IP. The penalty for getting it wrong can be severe but a patent can create value, increase profitability and help to secure the future of your business.