1. Every business owns some intellectual property – whether startup or a SME, it’s important to identify what this is at an early stage; do you know yours? You may not have a trademark, patent, design or something protected by copyright but it’s important to know the difference. These intangible assets add value to your business and can give you a competitive edge.
2. A brand isn’t automatically protected – even if you are a private company or you possess a domain name for your website, you will still need to register a trademark and logo with the Companies Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC). This is because someone else may have a similar name or brand to you. Check the StartupApp for an easier and fast way of protecting your brand.
3. You need to do your homework! Research into intellectual property protection is key; it can be a time consuming process if you don’t know where to start. The CIPC website is the best place to start, you can search online for current trademarks and logos.
4. If you have innovated recently you need a patent – if you have invented something recently, the chances are you will require a patent to prevent your idea from being copied. A patent covers how products work, how they are made, what they do, how they do it and what they are made of. Even if something similar exists in the market place, you may have discovered a new way to bring this product about in terms of how it is made and a point of difference exists between them.
5. Exactly what a patent protects – a patent gives you 20 years of monopoly on the market to produce your product. It also allows you the upper-hand in legal action against anyone challenging your product; for example this might be someone trying to import a copy produced without your permission.
6. The difference between Design Rights and Registered Design – what’s the difference? Everyone has Design Rights as this is an automatic right with in South Africa and protects the 3D aspect for 10 years. However, you may wish to consider further protection which a Registered Design (RD) will give you. RD protects 2D and 3D features of your creative idea and lasts for 25 years with licence renewal.
7. Copyright is another protection tool – copyright gives you automatic rights in South Africa. Copyright covers any creative works whether it is written down or recorded in a number of different ways. For example; literature, art and any audio-visual such as music, film, television. It is worth knowing it also covers software, databases and web pages. It is likely that everyone will own some form of Copyright protected material within their business.
8. Knowledge of your competitors is of tremendous value to your business success – this applies whether you’re a startup or a growing company. Finding this out is easy but only when you know how. The use of business databases is vital to locate others in your sector, understand their financial status, potential growth, brand names and the Intellectual Property they own.
9. Trade Secrets aren’t just for spies – they’re relevant and real to ensure strict confidentiality. It’s important to think about using a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) when discussing your innovation or invention. Trade Secrets refers also to your behaviour such as; keep your documents out of sight of strangers, make it routine to lock your computer screen when you’re not at your desk and ensure you are clear on your confidentiality clauses in your contracts with others e.g. consultants, employees etc.