Broadly speaking, IP (intellectual property) refers to an expression of an idea, as opposed to the idea itself. For example, if you imagine a poster design, that in itself does not give rise to any IP rights. However, if you create a physical representation of that idea, such as by drawing the design on paper, then that will give rise to IP rights.
- As a business, your IP can comprise some of your most valuable assets (such as market-sensitive information, client databases, web content, marketing strategy, code etc). Making the most of your IP rights can therefore be an important part of running your business effectively.
- If you are unaware or uncertain of the rights arising in your IP, then those rights may be infringed without you even knowing.
- Taking steps to protect your IP can make it easier to enforce your rights in the event of their infringement (such as obtaining compensation and injunctions).
- If you do not protect your business’s IP, then you may not benefit from it. For example, if your business invents a product but it is not patented, then it may be more difficult to prevent others from using the invention and therefore benefiting from it before you.
- Leaving IP unprotected and generally being unaware what constitutes infringement of a particular IP right may lessen any incentive for employees to, for example, create new designs for a product. It may lead them to believe the IP they create in the course of their employment is not regarded as valuable enough by their employer to be worth protecting.
- If your IP remains unprotected, it may be more likely that someone else will claim it as their own.
- Leaving your business’s IP unprotected may also make it more likely that it will be used without your knowledge or consent.