Understanding Intellectual Property In Your Business


When you start up a new business you may not think that your business name or logo has any great value.

You may think that branding is more about larger businesses.
But, if you take a long term view, the idea is that when it comes time for you to perhaps sell the business and retire, if not to a villa on the South of France, (it might be a bach on the Kaipara), the brand that you have built up over the years in terms of reputation, customer service and recognition, all contribute to the value of the intangible part of the business which is often called ‘goodwill’.

By protecting the brand from the onset, you avoid the situation of a competitor taking commercial advantage of the goodwill and reputation that you have built up on the back of your business name and logo.

The bottom line is that protecting your intellectual property can significantly increase the market value of your business.

Why does Intellectual Property need protecting?

  • Intellectual Property rights protect your marketing efforts – they prevent your competitors from riding on the coat tails of your marketing.
  • Intellectual Property distinguishes your product from your competitors – it strengthens and develops your brand.
  • Intellectual property rights help you gain and retain customers.
  • Intellectual property rights protect you against claims from your competitors that you are breaching their intellectual property rights.
  • Intellectual property rights are valuable business asset which can be:

(a) sold,
(b) assigned,
(c) licensed and
(d) will increase the goodwill or intangible value of your business.

Doesn’t your business or trading name and domain name automatically give you protection?
No, choosing a name, and setting up a company and a website does not give you any intellectual property protection. That means anybody else can come along and use various aspects of your name to set up their own business and trade off your goodwill. You must actively take steps to protect your IP

Do you automatically own intellectual property in everything you create?
No, there is automatic copyright of certain limited types of intellectual property (such as copyright) but not in most, and it is the enforcement of those rights which is crucial.

What are the different types of intellectual property protection?
Trademarks protect brands, identity and logos (including your business name)
Design registrations protect product appearance.
Copyright protects original works
Patents protect product inventions
Confidentiality Agreements prevent your business partners/suppliers or staff sharing confidential information with competitors

Where Do I Start?
This can be the most confusing part in terms of considering what is it that you have that needs protecting and how can you protect it.

Start by identifying:

• What do you already have that requires protection? E.g. your business name, logo, domain name.
• Is there other intellectual property you need to secure?
• How your rights can be protect for each piece of IP. There may be more than one type of protection.

Case Study: A new sports drink product
In this scenario, your business has developed a new sports drink product. The new sports drink comes in a plastic bottle with a valve on top, such a product would have numerous forms of IP protection that would be required:

• The valve may be subject to a patent application.
• The design of the bottle might be subject to design registration.
• Copyright will consist in the design drawings of the bottle.
• The branding for the product may be the subject of one or more trademarks.
• Copyright will subsist in the logo of the product and perhaps other aspects of the branding. The logo will also need to be trademarked.
• There may be a trademark protection required to cover the shape of the bottle.
• The contents of the bottle may be a patented formulation or a trade secret.

An Intellectual Property Warrant of Fitness for your Business


Intellectual Property Lawyer Carolyn RansonSmith and Partners offers a fixed price Intellectual Property Warrant of Fitness designed specifically for small to medium sized businesses. To learn more and book a time to come in and conduct an Intellectual Property WOF for your business contact Carolyn Ranson
Email: Carolyn.ranson@smithpartners.co.nz
Phone: 09 837 6891
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