How to protect your business' intellectual property

Copyright has failed to really keep up with changes most notably how digital content can be protected. The Government is consulting at the moment about how the copyright regulations could be updated to take into consideration the digitisation of content from music to books.

In an attempt to combat what has become an increasing tide of digital copyright infringement most notably via file sharing websites, the Government rushed the Digital Economy Act 2010 through Parliament. The Act is one of the main foundations for the delivery of the Government's Digital Britain initiative.

Download factsheets relating to copyright and copyright infringement and the Digital Economy Act You can also download the full 2009 Digital Britain report or a summary of the Digitial Britain report.

How to fight IP theft

Even the smallest of businesses should take practical steps to protect its IP. However, there may be times when your enterprises IP has been infringed. You then need to decide how your business reacts to this alleged theft.

The IPO annually publishes its IP Crime Report that gives details of IP theft and what is being done to combat this. Taking qualified legal advice is essential. If the infringement has taken place outside of the UK, agreements including the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which forms part of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Agreement comes into play.

Dino Wilkinson, Senior Associate (communications, media and technology), Norton Rose (Middle East) LLP commented: "A copyright owner may claim relief by way of damages, injunction or other remedies for copyright infringement in the same way, as they would be available in relation to an infringement of any other property right.

"Usually, a copyright owner would initially look to prevent the copying from occurring (or continuing to occur) by seeking some form of search order, freezing order or injunction. Other remedies that may be available under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1998 include orders for "delivery up", seizure of infringing copies or forfeiture. The financial remedies available include damages or an account of profits."

Small business IP protection checklist

To ensure your business has adequately protected its IP, follow this checklist:

  1. Identify the materials that need to be protected via an IP audit.
  2. Check if IP protection is available in all the territories your business operates in.
  3. Register your IP with all the appropriate authorities.
  4. Put in place safeguards to prevent your IP from being infringed including tracking the use of materials your business has licensed.
  5. Develop IP protection policies and communicate these across your business.
  6. Ensure your business is fully aware of the legal options open to it in the event of an alleged IP infringement.

The IP in your business could have taken significant resources to develop so it makes commercial sense to protect this property. The Government has already addressed some of the issues with patent law, and is now turning its attention to copyright and how the digital market has changed what IP means and how these properties need to be protected. If your business hasn't taken any steps to protect its IP, what are you waiting for?