It is almost certain that every business, large or small, will own or use intellectual property (IP), even without realising it.
In a recent survey, 86% of UK small businesses said it’s important to know how to protect their intellectual property, but what exactly is IP?
IP covers any original creation, not just inventions, and can include your business name, logo, images, promotional material and even your website.
There are four main types of IP:
- Patents – protects new inventions; how they work, what they do, how they do it, what they are made of and how they are made
- Designs – protects the overall look of a product including the colour, shape, texture and material
- Trade marks – protects brands, such as your business name or logo, and can consist of a word, phrase, picture or a combination of all these
- Copyright – protects written, dramatic, musical and artistic works including photos, recordings, software and databases
Intellectual property assets can be integral to the growth and sustainability of a business. When properly managed, the value of your IP can far outweigh the physical assets, accounting for more than 70% of your business’ value.
It’s important to identify and protect your IP early on, but if you’re new to the subject, where do you start?
The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is the government body responsible for granting IP rights.
IP for Business from the IPO is a range of online tools designed to help you understand, identify, protect and exploit your IP assets to their fullest potential. Whether you’re a complete novice or looking to brush up on existing skills, we have the right tool for you:
- What is it? A free, interactive online learning tool to help you identify assets which may be protected by IP rights. Made up of four modules on the main IP rights, it takes around an hour to complete and is also CPD accredited.
- Who is it for? Everyone, from small business owners to professional advisors.
- What is it? A free online assessment of your business to help you identify and add value to your IP assets. Based on your answers to a series of simple questions, it provides a confidential report with advice on how to protect your IP.
- Who is it for? Businesses looking for a more detailed look at their IP.
- What is it? A specialist course for business professionals. It will help you develop an in-depth understanding of IP and practical skills you can use in a business environment. Can be completed in a classroom (face-to-face) setting or online.
- Who is it for? Professionals looking for a comprehensive course in IP.
- What is it? Perfect for accessing simple IP information on the go, the app gives you an overview of IP rights and how to make the most of them. Free to download on Apple iOS and Android devices.
- Who is it for? Anyone who wants instant access to IP information.
In addition to these tools, IPO’s business pages are packed with useful advice including; case studies, details of upcoming events and where to access further support.
CASE STUDY: HERDY
Herdy is a ‘cute, loveable and responsible’ brand, based in Kendal and created by Spencer and Diane Hannah. They sell a range of gifts, homewear and accessories.
The couple met at college where they were studying design and went on to pursue successful careers as designers.
After years designing for other companies, they decided to go it alone and open their own design consultancy.
In 2003, after spending most weekends in the Lakes, they decided to make it their home and took the business with them.
Although, it was a trip to Helsinki in 2005 that was the catalyst behind Herdy. Spencer and Diane fell in love with the design of Scandinavian giftware and decided to bring something similar to the Lakes.
Spencer explained: “Normally, products from the Lakes are quite traditional and historical in style. We wanted to create something different, something contemporary, clean and colourful.”
At the same time, they wanted a brand to encapsulate the heart of the Lake District. Inspired by the Herdwick sheep who roam the Lake District, they chose the sheep as the face of the company and decided on the name Herdy.
Their first priority was to protect the brand.
Spencer said: “We come from a design background where we understand and recognise the value of IP. We registered our trade mark before exposing the product to the market as we knew other parties would be interested in it.
“After registering Herdy as a UK trade mark, the company launched in 2007. In the beginning they had only three products – mugs, badges and keyrings – all bearing the Herdy logo.
When you’ve worked hard to develop something of quality, that has high standards and is developing a following, you want to ensure its brand authenticity can be protected.
The endearing sheep proved popular and, by 2010, Herdy had launched their own website and opened a store in Grasmere. Their products were also stocked by 50 different retailers.
Realising the brand could thrive beyond the Lakes, the couple registered Herdy as a community trade mark.
This protects the mark in all countries in the European Union.
Spencer said: “Protecting our brand identity is absolutely necessary. It is core to our operation. The benefit to the business is, ultimately, the added value to the company.”
Because of this, Herdy take extra measures to safeguard their most important asset. They design all products in house and use a non-disclosure agreement when discussing their IP with a third party. They also carry out regular searches on their trade mark to make sure it is not infringed.
Spencer added: “There’s always the threat of someone willing to take a slice of your pie. When you’ve worked hard to develop something of quality, that has high standards and is developing a following, you want to ensure its brand authenticity can be protected. Knowing that protection is in place is what helps you sleep at night.”
Since launching in 2007, the loveable sheep has been on an epic journey. Herdy now supply more than 350 stores across the UK and are trading as far as the USA and Japan. They have also increased their range of products to include homewear, crafts and accessories.
In spite of this success, Herdy’s roots are firmly embedded in the Cumbria countryside. The Herdy fund ‘a profit and knowledge share agenda’ was set up early on to give back to the community.
Recently, Herdy have been imparting their IP knowledge to the Herdwick sheep farmers. They are working together on a trade mark to promote and protect Herdwick meat and with others to gain Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status. PDO protects food that is produced, processed and prepared within a particular geographical area.
When asked what IP advice Spencer would give to other businesses, he said: “If you think your idea has got legs, put the protection in place from the start. You can then progress your designs and your business model knowing your comfort blanket is in place.”
For more information on protecting your IP, visit Cumbria Business Growth Hub on 0844 257 84 50.
The funding that supports the Growth Hub comes from a range of sources including Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, the European Regional Development Fund, Allerdale Borough Council (Sellafield Ltd’s Allerdale SIIF, distributed by Allerdale Borough Council), Barrow Borough Council (FEDF Coastal Communities Fund Supply Chain Initiative, the Coastal Communities Fund is funded by the Government with income from the Crown Estates marine assets; it is delivered by the Big Lottery Fund on behalf of UK Government), Carlisle City Council, Eden District Council, South Lakeland District Council and Cumbria LEP.
The Growth Hub is receiving up to £2,528,767 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.
The Department for Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information click here.
© Cumbria Chamber of Commerce