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Start-ups and Intellectual Property


When it comes to establishing a new brand or business, intellectual property protection could prove to be invaluable.

All businesses have intellectual property, whether it’s their logo, original designs, or even a trade secret. This can act as a valuable asset giving start-ups a competitive edge, as such, it needs protecting.

What is intellectual property?

The term ‘intellectual property rights’ describes a range of legal rights that can attach to certain information, ideas and creations such as inventions, names and images.

They generally fall into two categories. Unregistered rights for which protection arises automatically, this includes copyright, unregistered design rights and rights in unregistered trademarks.

There are also registered rights which include patents, trademarks and registered designs. An application must be made to an official body to protect these rights, for example the Intellectual Property Office in the UK.

The owners of such rights are entitled to prevent their unauthorised use and can also exploit them to generate an income.

Type of intellectual property protection

Copyright – copyright automatically arises when an original work in a relevant category is created. Due to its automatic protection it is one of the most simple intellectual property protectors and it provides the owner with a number of rights and legal benefits to prevent unauthorised use and exploitation of the protected work.

Trademark – this is a registered right in which is applied for at the Intellectual Property Office. There are specific requirements such as it being a distinctive sign which is used to identify particular goods and services provided by that business. The trademarked sign must be distinctive and not misleading. It cannot be identical to an already registered trademark.

Patents – patents are one of the most effective ways of encouraging innovation and improvisation by ensuring inventor’s works are protected and that they are being rewarded. Patents last for 20 years in which the owner can exploit their right as they wish. Patent applications are lengthy and complicated, however the grant of a patent will greatly benefit the business.

Industrial design protection – this protection allows you to protect the aesthetic aspects of a product such as surface decoration. Industrial design protection only takes into account the aesthetic aspects and does not consider the functionality of the product.

The importance of intellectual property protection

Intellectual property can be used a unique investment opportunity and allows your business to be differentiated from others. Intellectual property creates good value for your business and a high entry barrier is created allowing you to develop your business without the threat of competitors using your ideas or branding. Intellectual property creates a competitive advantage for start-ups.

The benefits of protecting your intellectual property

Intellectual property can differentiate your business from others, from a customer and investor perspective. It allows customers to distinguish and easily identify your brand. Investors may be more attracted to your business if they can see that you have protected your intellectual property.

As mentioned above, when intellectual property rights are registered you are entitled to exploit those rights. This is an advantage as it allows additional revenue by selling or licensing your intellectual property.

The information contained in this article is for information purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. If you require further information our property team would be more than happy to assist you. Please contact us at [email protected] or call us on 029 2009 5500 to speak to one of our team.