Business Law & Compliance

Businesses not being smart enough about intellectual property

3 min read

20 September 2015

We are a creative and digital leader, but our firms don't have enough awareness about IP.

London-based businesses have been accused of having a damaging shortfall in knowledge about intellectual property (IP) protection.

“In spite of the UK being recognised as the most advanced adopter of online retail and the digital economy with creative industries exports worth £17.3bn, there is a general lack of awareness about the importance of IP protection”, said IP lawyer Shireen Smith, founder of law firm Azrights.

“Because of London’s high proportion of creative and technology sector jobs, it is imperative that businesses in the capital understand how dangerous it is to ignore intellectual property law. To date, IP law has been one of the lowest profile sectors of the industry but that will change as the future London economy becomes more reliant on digital products and services,” she added.

Smith said the “new currency” in the UK’s digital economy was information, know-how, brands, systems and data.

“Whether people are building a brand identity, launching a new product or service worldwide, or even a startup business, they’re also creating IP,” she said.

“The value and safety of IP has become more important than ever before. Do it right and the intangible assets you create could be worth more than the products or services themselves. Do it wrong and you could miss vital opportunities, have your true value stolen or find yourself on the wrong side of an IP dispute.”

Smith, who has written a book on the subject called “Intellectual Property Revolution”, said one way of raising the profile of the subject is to inform and educate business owners, in particular marketing directors and company secretaries who are often on the “receiving end of tension” when things go wrong.

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Jeremy Phillips, IP consultant at Olswang LP, said: “I applaud Shireen Smith for her passion in educating business owners about the value of IP. The government’s IP Office is doing well in spreading the message on the subject but many people in business simply don’t know where to start in terms of looking for information.

“Unless someone chooses to sell their business, they often have no idea about the value of their own materials or trademarks. Sometimes a bank might insist on pre-purchase due diligence, only to discover that the brand names are insufficiently protected. This can cause a great deal of distress.”