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Ten ways to protect your intellectual property

Intellectual propertyIntellectual property (IP) theft is surprisingly common. If you haven't taken steps to protect your logos, designs, trade marks and copyrighted material, there may be nothing you can do to prevent it. Here's how to make sure people keep away from your (IP)

  1. Create a policy. Establish a policy for all of your intellectual property - including all patents, designs, trade marks, copyrights and domain names.
  2. Prevent theft through contracts. Ensure all your employment and consultancy contracts clearly state your ownership of any intellectual property developed for you.
  3. Check that your idea is original. Use patent and trade mark searches early in the development of new products and processes to establish whether someone else has already protected them.
  4. Take expert advice. To ensure that any trade mark you develop is properly protected, contact a trade mark agent for advice about searches and registration.
  5. Record the evidence. Keep a log of evidence that records the development of intellectual property (for example, dated and signed copies of drawings and drafts).
  6. Make a patent application. Filing an initial patent application could give you time to develop or sell your idea, to complete market research or raise finance.
  7. Look overseas. Take advice on whether you need to protect your intellectual property in overseas markets.
  8. Assess it at every stage of development. Consider whether new designs for the appearance of all or part of your product are worth protecting with stronger design registration.
  9. Make sure your material is copyrighted. Identify those of your materials that are already protected by copyright. Add the copyright symbol, your name and the creation date to emphasise this.
  10. Prosecute IP thieves. Maintain patent and trade mark protection and enforce your rights by identifying breaches and pursuing offenders if the commercial case justifies the cost.