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Is Your IP Protected? Intellectual Property Tips for Start-ups

12 June 2014

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While it may not be the first thing that grabs your attention when starting a new business venture, every start-up needs to consider intellectual property (IP) protection at an early stage. Start-ups can often focus their initial efforts on raising finance, which can result in shortcomings in other areas. One of these shortcomings can be a failure to seek advice on how to protect the IP of the business. Decisions made at this stage often have long term implications, both for the future of the company and its tax liabilities.

What are the types of IP rights?

Intellectual PropertyIP falls into four categories – trade marks, patents, copyright and designs. Except for copyright (which arises automatically), all IP rights can be registered in Ireland and abroad.

Trade marks are the most obvious example of IP.  A trade mark or ‘brand name’ is any sign that can act as a badge of origin for goods or services and includes company names and product names (which are often the same).  It is the guarantee to the customer of the origin and indicates the quality of a product or service. A registered trade mark lasts for ten years but can be renewed indefinitely.

Patents are inventions which are new, inventive and which are capable of industrial application, and have been successfully registered with the Patents Office. They grant a monopoly over the claims set out in the patent.  It is crucial that an invention is kept confidential and ideally not disclosed prior to speaking with a patent attorney. Otherwise, the opportunity to register the invention as a patent may be lost. In Ireland, protection can be granted for a short term period of ten years or twenty years for full term protection.