How to protect your intellectual property
Good ideas are a rarity, much less ideas that can be commercialised to generate profit. As such the importance of protecting such ideas (and more) cannot be overstated, for it is not unheard of for other businesses to steal or free ride on great ideas or inventions to avoid incurring the hefty costs involved in undertaking the necessary research & development or in paying to utilise the idea/invention.
Consequentially, where possible, it is important to protect one’s ideas by turning to the protection offered by registering one’s idea as an intellectual property. The registration of intellectual property provides the owner of the intellectual property (the “IP Owner”) with the exclusive rights to use, sell or license their intellectual property. Not only does this allow the IP Owner to profit from his ideas, registering one’s intellectual property protects one’s intellectual property rights (“IP Rights”) from others who may attempt to steal one’s ideas or free ride on them.
Whilst the registration of intellectual property is important, most businesses fail to appreciate the importance of ensuring the protection of intellectual protection prior to the registration itself. This article discusses the steps one ought to consider taking until one’s intellectual property is registered.
Establish a Policy
In order to prevent any intellectual property from being stolen prior to it being registered, it is important that businesses develop a policy for all their intellectual properties. The policy should cover all things that can be registered as intellectual property such as trademarks (which in certain cases can include domain names), patents, industrial designs, and copyrights. Additionally, the ideal policy will further identify confidential information and trade secrets, and provide steps necessary to protect those information.
In addition, businesses should also visit the website of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (“IPOS”) to acquaint themselves with the types of intellectual property which require registration and what else ought to be protected.
Avoid Public Disclosure Prior to Registering Your IP
It is crucial for businesses to avoid disclosure of their idea, invention or confidential information. This is especially so for intellectual property that needs to be registered or confidential information, for one might possibly lose any rights they have due to the inadvertent disclosure.
Create a non-disclosure agreement at an early stage
A non-disclosure agreement is especially important when ideas are created with the contribution of other people such as employees or consultants. As such, a non-disclosure agreement will prevent these people from disclosing such information or ideas to others. Furthermore, a clear agreement on the ownership of the intellectual property is vital to ensure that the IP Rights are exclusive to you.
Seek Expert Advice
Prior to registering your intellectual property, it is advisable to first seek advice from an expert in this field such as the IP solicitors to ensure that the registration process goes smoothly and that your intellectual property will be sufficiently protected. For instance, the IP solicitors can advise you on the searches required to be made and the details required for registration process.
Ensure that the idea has not been used by elsewhere
Prior to the registration, it is advisable to first use patent and trademark searches to thoroughly check if your idea is original or whether it has already been protected and used by someone else.
Ensure that your material is copyrighted
For intellectual property that can be protected by copyright laws, one may wish to add another layer of protection by including one’s “copyright symbol”, creation date, and one’s name on the copyrighted material to emphasise your exclusive ownership rights of the intellectual property.
To err on the side of caution, one ought to keep a record evidencing the creation and development of the idea along with any related contracts or agreements, just in case there is a dispute over the ownership of the intellectual property in the future. The record should include things like date and drawing and draft copies. In addition, the copies ought to be signed.
File an application with IPOS to register your intellectual property
In certain situations, it may be advisable for one to first register one’s intellectual property with IPOS. This will allow one to be deemed as the first applicant and may provide one with ample time to fully develop the idea, carry out complete market research and raise funds.
The risk of intellectual property theft is very real with today’s competitive markets. Given the availability of measures to protect one’s intellectual property, there is little excuse to not proactively protect valuable ideas, creations and inventions.