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Business News Wales Exclusive: The Business Dangers of Not Trademarking New Products

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Fidget Spinner Inventor, Catherine Hettinger, could not afford to renew the patent fee of the popular children’s craze she created and therefore makes no money from the global sales. Business News Wales asks Welsh Business experts for their thoughts and opinions on the financial importance of taking out an official patent

Matthew Sutton - Greenaway ScottGreenaway Scott

Matthew Sutton | Corporate Director

The situation involving Catherine Hettinger and her Fidget Spinner invention is a great example of how important it is to register your trademark. Unfortunately for Ms Hettinger she is currently losing out on potentially billions of pounds in sales due to her having not renewed a trademark at a cost of a few hundred pounds.

Trademarks play an essential role in protecting your brand and promoting your products economic progression. They can also very quickly become a valuable asset which will appreciate in value as your business reputation grows. Trademarking your product gives you the right to take legal action against anyone who attempts to use your use your trademark without authorisation. Put simply, if you don’t register your trademark then someone else can! Registering your trademark gives you the sole sale rights to your product protecting you against unwanted competition and ensuring that your business is not damaged

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Slater and Gordon

Carys Strong | Solicitor

Anything that is unique and physically created can be protected under intellectual property (IP) rights. Sadly, an idea alone cannot be protected in this way. The IP is owned by you if you created it, bought it from the creator or previous owner, or if you have a brand that could be a trademark. You don’t own the rights if you created it whilst working for someone else.

There are several ways of protecting different types of IP:

  • Copyright – literary works (including writing), art, photography, films, TV, music, web content and sound recording
  • Trademark – brand/product names, logos and jingles
  • Patents – inventions and products
  • Design Right – shapes of objects
  • Registered Designs – appearance of a product including shape, packaging, patterns, colours or decoration.

More than one type of IP protection could be linked to a single product.

Safeguarding your IP rights also means you are more protected if your product is counterfeited.

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Finance Wales

Phil Barnes | Investment Executive, Technology Venture Investments

For many start-ups, staff and intellectual property (IP) are often the company’s most valuable assets. One way of protecting IP is through a patent.

A patent is a deal between government and inventor. In return for publicly disclosing the nature and workings of an invention, the government grants a trade monopoly to the inventor (normally 20 years).

An invention must pass three tests to be patentable:

  • It must be novel.
  • It must be capable of industrial application.
  • It must involve an inventive step that is not obvious.

Patents are all about technology ownership; it’s important for start-ups to be clear about what they have created and what they own.

It’s also important to remember that a patent is exclusively a negative right. Whilst it may give you the legal right to stop someone else working your invention, it doesn’t necessarily give you the right to work your invention if you infringe someone else’s IP in doing so.

The costs of maintaining an IP portfolio can be significant, so only inventions with innate commercial potential or strategic value should be patented.

In addition to protecting a companies’ competitive advantage, patents can also provide revenue directly by licensing.

If you are looking to raise finance, remember that a strong patent position is viewed positively by technology investors.

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Mark Hindmarsh - Smart Anchor Ventures

Smart Anchor Ventures 

Mark Hindmarsh | Director

Trademarks are the words, slogans, logos, colours, packaging etc. that you wrap around your company and place on your products to differentiate yourself from your competition. Securing registered trademarks helps protect your brand and provides you with the legal rights to prevent another entity using similar marks or designs in their attempt to ride off the back of your success.

As your product or service becomes successful, the trademark itself starts to develop an intrinsic value. Business investors will often assess whether you have taken the appropriate legal trademark protection to secure your brand.  This was certainly the case during our recent fundraise for our portfolio company, Beans Entertainment Ltd and their Bean&Gone children’s interactive brand.

If you are a Business to Consumer brand then it’s likely that at some point, that consumer purchasing decisions will be influenced by your trademarks and the reputation of the brand you’ve built. As such it’s important for business people to have an understanding of why trademarks are important assets and how they help grow their business.

There are many reasons why it’s important to register a trademark and therefore I’d strongly recommend expert help is sought to ascertain the best trademark strategy for your type of business and products.