Protect your intellectual property

You’re a small business and you’ve got a patent on a product that you think is going to storm the market. Then someone comes along with a product that is remarkably similar to yours. What can you do – turn to lawyers for advice though this may cost you a packet?

No, first ask for an opinion from the government’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO).

While the UK IPO is the organisation that grants patents, it now also offers a service for getting an expert view on whether a product has infringed an existing patent. You pay the IPO a fee of £200 for the service, and though the IPO examiner’s conclusions are not legally binding, they could help you to decide what kind of action you want to take.

Small companies put a lot of effort into obtaining and maintaining a patent, but they may not always have the resources to defend it when a copycat comes along. So asking the IPO for an opinion is useful and I think it’s an inexpensive means of seeing whether you have a case or not.

Find out about the service

Another good way of protecting your innovation and intellectual property is to apply for a trademark. This will give your product a distinctive name and identity, and make it memorable to customers.

The IPO can help small businesses here as well.  With their Right Start service you can file a trade mark application online, and you only pay half the fee, £100 instead of £200, plus £25 for any additional classes included in the application (instead of £50). There’s a telephone helpline to get you started, and once you have filed the application, the IPO will check it to see if it meets their requirements (you get practical feedback). You will only have to pay the remaining half of the fee if you decide to proceed with the application.

Read about Right Start

Incidentally, we tend to say ‘paytent’, but when you file a patent application, the ‘pat’ is pronounced like a ‘pat’ on the head.

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