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Friday, 30 May 2014

Friday Guest Blog: Intellectual Property – Can You Afford Not to Protect it?

By Ben Appleton, Senior Associate at Wilson Gunn

The majority of SMEs in the UK don’t take advantage of the intellectual property (“IP”) rights they create, with most being unaware that they’ve generated rights in the first place.

Intellectual Property’ covers a wide range of rights, including inventions, technical knowledge, trade marks, designs and database rights. Some of these IP rights can be protected by registering the rights, but many are protected automatically, without the owner having to do or pay anything.

If you don’t protect your IP rights, then you stand to lose out on revenue, licensing opportunities and to put it bluntly, weapons to use against your competitors. In addition, there are some very nice tax breaks which the government has kindly handed out in relation to patent rights and R&D which all companies undertaking R&D should look into.

Below is a quick guide to the main IP rights and tips on their use:

Patents – cover “inventions”, and are registered rights covering technical ideas, which can last for up to 20 years from filing. A UK company with a granted patent (in the UK or Europe) allows that company to claim tax relief under the UK Patent Box scheme, which can result in an effective tax rate of around 11% on profits generated globally from products covered by a patent. Not to be sniffed at!

Trade marks – cover your brand names, logos, strap-lines and many other “markers” of your company.  In this day and age of e-commerce, having your brands protected by registered trade marks enables you to quickly remove online counterfeit and copy-cat products as well as through traditional physical sales routes. Your registered trade marks can last forever if managed well.

Registered designs - cover the shape, surface patterns or artwork on your products and are cheap and easy to obtain. There have been a number of high-profile cases, such as the Samsung vs Apple tablet shape disputes, in which registered design protection has been a key battleground. Registered design protection can last up to 25 years.

Unregistered rights – include copyright, unregistered design rights and database rights, and they tend to be automatic, with nothing for you to do other than recognise that you have them, and of course use them to your advantage! The great benefit of unregistered rights is their flexibility – for example with unregistered design rights you can pick only a part of your product’s shape and claim design rights in that specific part, which stops competitors from taking the core of your designs and changing some aspects but not others.

There are many other rights that you can use to protect your ideas and products, and Wilson Gunn is always happy to offer a free initial consultation to discuss your business and advise you on your potential IP rights. 

For more information call on 0161 827 9400, email or visit

Wilson Gunn is a firm of Patent & Trade Mark attorneys, established in 1864 and based in Manchester.

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