Over the past few years, the business sphere, especially as touching SMEs, in Nigeria some words or concepts have become quite prominent. One of such is intellectual property. This might be due to the fact with ever evolving technology, it has become a cogent part of the running and growth of any growing 21st Century business.
Let’s talk about Intellectual Property.
Now when we mention intellectual property, we speak of those your business owns, as well as those that are owned by others that your business may have need of.
Just so the meaning of Intellectual Property, or IP as it is fondly called, is the ownership of concepts, processes and ideas, as opposed to physical property which characterizes a tangible asset. For a small business, it is a key asset; possibly among the most important it possesses.
Intellectual property can range from logos and corporate identity, to innovative and disruptive products, services and processes that differentiate your business offerings.
An example of intellectual property can be seen at Apple – As an indication of the value Apple place on their IP, Apple has sued Samsung many times for IP infringement on its design patents, for which it was famously awarded $1 billion in 2012.
In our times where the internet has enabled products, services and marketing communications reach vast audiences at relatively low costs, we are at more risk of intellectual property theft. Companies of all sizes are at risk of having their unique ideas, products or services infringed upon, even if they are on the other side of the world, making intellectual property protection more important than ever.
This is why there is the Intellectual Property law which deters others from copying or taking unfair advantage of the work or reputation of another and provides remedies where this arises. Under intellectual property law, the owner is granted certain exclusive rights to a variety of intangible assets, such as literary and artistic works; discoveries and inventions; words, phrases, symbols, and designs.
Intellectual property laws also reward creators of intellectual property by preventing others from copying, performing, or distributing their works without permission. The main purpose of this protection is to provide incentives for people to produce scientific and creative works that benefit the society at large. It is important to note that some types of intellectual property are automatically protected by law from the moment of their creation, whereas, other types require the creator to request a specific grant of rights from a government agency before they can be protected by law.
Every country has specific laws to protect intellectual property. In Nigeria, it is the Copyrights Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
You should also know that the major types of intellectual property protection are patents, copyrights, and trademarks.
Patent law protects inventions that demonstrate technological progress.
Copyright law protects a variety of literary and artistic works, including paintings, sculpture, prose, poetry, plays, musical compositions, dances, photographs, motion pictures, radio and television programs, sound recordings, and computer software programs.
Trademark law protects words, slogans, and symbols that serve to identify different brands of goods and services in the marketplace.
You can read our article here to know more about the benefits of trademarks.
So, apart from the fact that by taking the necessary steps to secure IP, you would be protecting an integral part of your business, what other benefits do you stand to enjoy from protecting your business’ IP?
It can be sold or licensed, providing an important revenue stream– An IP can be of very great value to your business especially when you begin to grow and succeed. Your business can earn huge money in royalties through licensing agreements or even transfer ownership to interested parties through assignment agreements.
It can be used as security for loans– A protected IP can be used as security to secure loans the same way physical property (ies) can be bonded. This isn’t yet practiced in Nigeria but it is common place in the more developed countries.
It can form an essential part of your marketing or branding- It is something of worth in terms of branding to have ideas or other programs intellectually protected and displayed as such in your marketing materials. This tells potential and existing customers that your business is a creative and innovative one.
It can set your business apart from competitors- IP is fast becoming the major delineator among business owners who are competing for market share and customers. Protecting your IP might be your advantage over your competitors.
- Finally, do your homework by identifying your IP, categorizing it properly, and knowing your rights and limitations. Don’t procrastinate, as the law operates on a “first to file” system, so even if you come up with the idea first, you’re out of luck if someone else registers it before you do.
You should also seek expert help when registering your IP. Visit a legal services platform such as DIYLaw to register copyrights and trademarks.
You can also hire a lawyer who specializes in IP law to help you navigate the process.
Then, monitor your IP rights. Once you have registered your IP, it’s up to you to watch out for infringements; the government won’t do it for you. Handle disputes wisely also. If you find someone using your IP improperly, don’t automatically run to the courthouse.
Consider sending a notification letter prepared by your lawyer, to the perpetrator before any other thing.
In all, as regards IP and your business, stay woke!