Protecting Your Ideas

Recognition of the Intellectual Property (“IP”) rights held by others should be an important part of your business strategy.

More information on this topic is available from the Irish Patents Office 

The world is full of ideas. We see lots of these ideas in everyday objects in the home, at work, in school, in sport and at play. Each of these ideas has been thought up or created by someone. Now that you have created your idea for your business you have a right to own it and to earn money from it, if it is used by others. A person’s mind is their intellect and ideas are a product of that. These ideas are therefore property and can be owned just like you can own a house, car, bicycle, iPod or mobile phone. The rights to own different kinds of creativity/ideas are called Intellectual Property Rights.

The main kinds of IP are Trade Marks, Patents, Designs and Copyright and like other forms of property, you can buy, sell and licence IP. IP can be an invention, brand, logo, original design or the practical application of a good idea. Your IP can be a valuable asset that distinguishes your business from your competition and can be your main competitive advantage. While property rights give you ownership of your physical assets, IP rights give you exclusive rights to use and exploit your ideas.

Many people often misunderstand IP and it is therefore overlooked when developing a business idea. Regardless of the product or service which a student enterprise is selling or providing, it will encounter, create and use IP. In order to create a sustainable business which has the potential to grow and develop, any business person should know something about IP; how to recognise, capture, protect and manage IP assets for the benefit of the business; how IP rights can affect and impact on their business and also how to avoid conflict with someone else’ IP rights.

Remember if you want or need to use someone else’s IP you may be able to negotiate and come to an agreement which will allow your business to develop without damaging profitability.

Your business is unlikely to be successful or competitive if it is based on just copying an existing product, process, design, packaging or brand;- plus you could end up being sued for infringement by other IP rights holders.

You may find that even though you have an innovative and novel process or product you do not have the resources (financial and otherwise) to engage in manufacturing or marketing. Securing your IP rights can put you in a better position to licence or contract with others to make or sell your product which can maximise the value of your asset and obtain a return for your creativity.

It is also important to realise the benefits of including IP rights when planning your business strategy. If you have been following the Dragons Den programmes you will note that many of the businesses seeking investment look to draw the attention of the Dragon’s to the IP that is inherent in the business. When IP is included in your business plan and is appropriately protected, managed and valued, your business can benefit by:

  • making it attractive to a potential investor,
  • easing the process of getting approval for a loan or finance for expansion or further development,
  • making it easier to market successfully.