When developing a product, it is very likely that new Intellectual Property (IP) will be created. IP refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce. IP is protected in law by, for example, patents, copyright and trademarks, which enable people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create. For product development, it is most commonly a patent application relating to how a product works, is manufactured or an additional feature that is new and novel, or a design registration relating to how a product looks. A trademark will also be required for any company names, logos or slogans. Copyright may exist in your written or artistic work. This novel IP is often what can set your product apart from direct competitors, or a USP (Unique Selling Point). That is why protecting it can be so important.
There are four key forms of IP that will be considered when developing a product:
Patent - this is the most complete form of IP protection. A patent will cover an inventive step and ensure that you're the only company that can use it. Patents are granted by individual countries, but you can apply for a patent in as many countries as you choose if you have the budget for it.
Design Registration - this protects the look of your product, including its appearance, physical shape, configuration and decoration. A design registration is cheaper and quicker to process than a patent, however offers less protection.
Copyright - this offers protection for creative work may be in a literary, artistic, educational, or musical form. Often for a product copywright will protect a[CR1] literary description of a product, but it will not protect the product like a patent.
Trademark registration[CR2] - A trademark is a sign capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one enterprise from those of other enterprises. In rare cases, the three-dimensional shape of a product can be registered as a trademark, however registered trademarks are usually used to protect a company name, logo or slogan. For example, CocaCola® or the golden arches of McDonald's® which are both instantly recognisable.
If an inventive feature or other form of IP is not protected before a product is released to the market or public domain, it can be much more difficult to protect it and stop competitors from copying you, causing your USP to become not unique. Therefore, it is very important to highlight any potential IP during the design process and discuss it with an IP firm if it is considered important. If there is a reason that you need to show the product or innovative step to someone before it is protected, it is important to get an NDA or other written contract to protect yourself and the business.
Protected IP can also add additional value to your company, which will also be advantageous if the company is interested in gaining investments or partners. Having protected IP can also offer an additional revenue stream of licensing the patent rights to a third party.
Due to the legal and technical complexity of IP, patents can take a long time to process and cost a lot of money for a smaller business to handle. This is why Bates Product Design has partnered with Robertson IP. Robertson IP specialise in helping SME businesses and offer IP services at a lower cost. As well as this, Robertson IP offer a further discount for anyone who is referred from Bates Product Design. Contact us for more information.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss your project, Bates Product Design offer free consultations, get in in touch to start your product development journey.