Intellectual Property (IP) refers to any original creation of the mind; this may include inventions, artistic works, symbols, pictures, designs and models used in business. Intellectual Property is all around us, whether we may recognize it or not. New products, systems, brands, designs and creations are appearing daily in our markets. Patents, trade-marks, copyrights, industrial designs, and integrated circuit topographies are referred to as "IP rights." Just as rights are acquired when a building or land is purchased, IP rights are "property" in the sense that they are based on the legal right to exclude others from using the property. Basically, once your idea or invention is registered with the appropriate IP office, it is your choice on whodevelopsyour idea into a tangible product. No one but you, the registered IP rights holder, can sell or transfer the idea.
There are five main types of Intellectual Property: Patents, whichgive inventors exclusive rights to their inventions. Patents are granted for products or processes that are new, workable and ingenious (novel, useful and inventive). You must provide a full description of your invention so that all Canadians may benefit from it. Trade-marks are used to distinguish the wares or services of one person or organization from those of others in the marketplace. A trade-mark is a word or design (or a combination of these features) that distinguishes you. Copyrights apply to all original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works from the moment they are created. Industrial designs include the shape, configuration, pattern or ornament (or any combination of these features) applied to a product. Integrated circuit topographies refer to the three-dimensional circuitry inside modern information, communications, entertainment, manufacturing, medical and space technologies.
Allkinds of people have a stake in intellectual property — business people, inventors, artists, designers, electronic microchip manufacturers, plant breeders and many others.
Some small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) assume that the IP rights are not so important mostly because they do not fully understand the IP benefits and implications. There are many SMEs that have very valuable IP rights but they don't use them effectively. Other SMEs are occasionally involved unintentionally in violating the IP rights of others without being aware of the legal consequences for doing so. Further, the lack of IP rights may be very damaging to a SME's ability to offer low-cost and especially differentiated products or services to its customers. The following sections will help you understand IP rights, what they are, how to use them to your advantage and offer some useful resources in attaining and maintaining a good understanding of Intellectual Property and all it encompasses. (Source: CIPO)
ResearchResearching you idea or invention is vital to success. You must be realistic about the following six questions:
- Does my idea work?
- Is there a market for my idea?
- What will it cost to produce my idea?
- What will people pay for it?
- Can it really make a profit?
- Can you market it and do you have the energy and resources to do so?
Why Protect Intellectual Property?There are numerous motivating factors why a business or individual should protect their idea. The reasons are not limited to simple protection of an individual idea, but factors moreaimed towardsthe success of your entire business. So why obtain and keep intellectual property protection for your idea?
Intellectual property protection:
- can add commercial value to the intellectual property itself
- can provide first mover advantage to the business producing and selling the idea
- can provide the basis for competitive advantage
- can provide the incentive for further research and development of new products, which alleviates risk.
Managing Intellectual Property RightsJust as with physical property, it is in your hands to manage and secure your intellectual property rights. Once you have an approved and finalized patent, trademark, or copyright you must manage your intellectual property to your advantage. Here are some options to consider in managing your intellectual property.
Selling Your RightsSelling some or all of your rights will give you a one-off payment but not a long-term income. Once you have sold your ownership, the new owner can stop you from using the IP unless you agree on a license with them that allows you to continue using it.
LicensingBecause you own the IP rights, a license will give you an income without you having to put time and resources into producing the product yourself. A license agreement can pay you either a fixed amount or royalty payments whenever your idea is used. Oftentimes, the licensee will have better knowledge of and/or access to markets, which can more effectively make use of your idea.
You can license the IP to as many companies as you wish, and this will affect how much money you can make. But remember, doing the homework to show that your idea works is crucial. Licenses can be limited geographically, or in time. Having a written,clear, concise and understood agreement between you and the licensee is key to avoiding disputes in the future.