Whether you’re a start-up or a family business that’s been trading for generations, recognising and protecting your intellectual property (IP) is critical to growth, protecting what’s yours and maintaining a good reputation.
IP is about protecting the time, money and effort you put into your business. By taking even some basic steps you can:
You can also identify your IP with our checklist and pick up easy protection tips along the way.
If you don’t first protect yourself, you’ll be telling the world about your great idea or product and it might be copied.
When a Kiwi designer came up with a new type of baggage system, he recognised its IP worth. Even though he didn’t know where to start with IP protection, an expert advisor saw his invention’s potential and invested in it.
The advisor’s efforts also helped to attract additional capital. In all, the designer received $1.2 million in funding and $50,000 worth of free IP help. Among other things, this was used to get a patent and protect his invention.
Today the technology’s IP is being leased to European companies for new applications, with interest also growing in the United States. The company has since grown to 10 employees and continues to find new applications and markets for its invention.
You’ve worked hard to create your business, idea or product so it’s in your interests to make sure your IP works for you – both now and in the future.
Construction worker Hemi has come up with an idea for an improved safety harness. He clears it with the foreman to use the company workshop outside work hours to make a prototype.
Unfortunately, the details of this arrangement aren’t fully discussed and documented with his boss, which leads to problems around ownership of the invention.
In the end, they negotiate a settlement — Hemi has to compensate his employer for the power usage, equipment hire and supplies used.
The reality for many small businesses is that IP is either not on their radar or it has a very low priority.
Many either haven’t yet realised the value of IP, or always have a long list of other important things that need doing. However, it’s important to make time for IP because a failure to do so can put your business at risk.
Some of the most common IP pitfalls include:
Telling others about your great idea before protecting it
Thinking you’ve protected your business name just because you’ve registered with the Companies Office
Trying to sell your invention before checking IP protection options
Getting a logo, brand or website made without checking if you’re infringing on anyone else’s trade mark or copyright
Expanding into new markets before thinking about IP protection — some pose greater IP risks than others
Believing that registering your IP with IPONZ also protects you overseas
Not putting a copyright symbol on packaging, web pages and marketing material
Using pictures, music and content created by others without first checking if you can
Believing you’re automatically entitled to a domain name that matches your business name
Not protecting confidential information – you should clearly document with employees and contractors who owns your IP, particularly in the early stages of a business
Assuming IP is always expensive to protect.
It’s also a good idea to try and get a patent for inventions before telling anyone else about it.