Focus on: Intellectual Property

Focus on: Intellectual Property

The 26th of April is World Intellectual Property (IP) Day.

This is a great opportunity for you as a business to think about how intellectual property impacts on your business and what it means when trading internationally.

David Hopkins, AKA “IP Dave” explains everything IP right here…

So what IP assets are you likely to have?

Your business will have a range of knowledge assets which may or may not be important to the success of the business and related to your USPs.

Usually, the brand is an important element of the business. The hard work you have put into quality, service, product innovation, delivery systems and channels to market helps you keep ahead of the competition. This area can be protected by a trade mark. It can be a name, logo, strapline, shape, colour and lots more either on its own or in combination. It is not an accident that all top 100 companies have trade marks.

A registered trade mark is a registered right and territorial so even if you have a UK trade mark it affords no protection overseas. This can cause issues as often there is a first-to-file rule, so a Chinese company may register your mark in China for example.

Automatic rights

Some areas of IP are automatically protected and one of the key areas is often copyright. It applies to a wide variety of knowledge assets including logos, photos, brochures, drawings, coding and lots more. The key area in this area is proof of ownership, just paying for something does not mean ownership. You may legally drive a hire car but this does not mean you own it, sell it or give it away.


Elements impacted by copyright include;

  • Software (including your web site)
  • Database
  • Training material
  • Logo
  • Photographs
  • Signs/images
  • Video/filming
  • Newsletter
  • Educational material
  • Plans
  • Reports
  • Books/booklets
  • Diagrams

Trade secrets & confidential information

These could be important to your business. A trade secret is a process, tool, mechanism, or formula that is not publicly available and is kept secret by its owner to maintain an edge over your competitors. 

Common trade secrets include:

  • Sales methods;
  • Distribution methods;
  • Consumer profiles;
  • Advertising strategies;
  • Lists of suppliers, clients etc.;
  • Manufacturing processes.

So what can your business do to protect all this valuable IP?

Be proactive

For a business taking your products or services with strong intellectual property protection to overseas markets is a great opportunity to access new markets and quickly grow a business.  A well-developed IP strategy linked closely to the business plan can map a route to realise this goal, support KPIs and reflect the strength of the internal management of a business.

Due diligence

The first step is to ensure that you are not inadvertently infringing a third party’s rights.   A few years ago, I met someone who was just about to go to France to a trade show with a range of perfume.  She had done a Google search and found nothing.  I then explained she should do a trade mark search and she sat beside me and did a search.  She discovered that another company had already registered that name in France a few years before. 

Benefits of identifying, owning and strategically protecting intellectual property

Why does IP matter to your business?

  • Exclusive rights to use the asset where it is protected;
  • Stop others copying the asset;
  • Demonstrates good internal management to third parties;
  • Helpful in negotiating with third parties (distributors, suppliers, joint ventures, licensing etc,);
  • Risk mitigation;
  • In the event of an M&A or exit the IP will play an import part in the value of your business.

Forward Planning is a key to Success

So, in the first instance having a clear picture of where overseas markets are is important.  I have often heard businesses saying they want global protection but when asked usually have an eye on a small number of geographic regions. For those who have never exported why not look at Europe, by the way, this includes Southern Ireland which may be a good place for some businesses to start. 

“Successfully going international is about strategically planning where you want to trade. Time and budgets are often limited and this is very much the case with IP”.  Your IP is important to your business and we can help you on this important journey”

Linda Middleton-Jones founder of International Trade Matters

Some ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s


  • Searches to ensure you can do what you plan to do. Owning a Ltd Company name does not automatically give you the right to use it in trade. Ensure you conduct trade mark searches in territories of interest.
  • Ensure when you commission third parties to create copyrighted work such as logos, photos, drawings, plans, images and websites there are assignments of copyright in the T&Cs or understand exactly what you can and cannot do with commissioned works
  • Identify an IP professional as soon as you can. You don’t need to instruct them but you know where to find them quickly.
  • Build up your knowledge of intellectual property. Why not come to a workshop?
  • Include the businesses’ protected IP in business plans, marketing collateral and investment pitches
  • Keep confidential information secret (not password 123). If the idea can be patented don’t tell anyone until your patent has been filed.
  • Create an IP Strategy
  • Strategically protect your IP. Do you really need to globally protect your brand name? only you know the answer
  • Include IP into contracts
  • Create an IP champion within a business


  • Ignore this important area. Be proactive
  • Do not assume that IP is going to be expensive. It should be seen as a relative cost. The cost of a UK trade mark (IPO fees) for example starts from £170 and lasts for 10 years. After this period it can be renewed
  • Forget to include IP into pitches and collateral (these are valuable assets)
  • Forget to train staff about IP

Check out the official World IP Day page!

Want to know more?

David Hopkins provides comprehensive, business-specific advice to SMEs and large corporations, ranging from an initial gap analysis to a full IP audit. Get in touch today to secure your most valuable and vulnerable business assets!

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