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Protecting Intellectual Property in Your Business

Operating a business will typically see business owners and managers get wrapped up in day-to-day operations. As time goes on, the success of a business relates directly to the growth and development of those involved in management and operations – but how often do we reflect on it? How do we place a value on intellectual property developed along the way? With the economic climate forever changing with the development of technology, it is critical for businesses to protect their Intellectual Property. So, what is Intellectual Property, why is it so important, and how can you protect it?

What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual Property (IP) refers to creations such as inventions, literary and artistic works, designs, symbols, names, and images used in commerce. In business, it can include programs and automated processes that are designed and developed within your business for its own benefit. The value of intellectual property lies in its ability to protect and incentivise innovation, creativity, and investment in various fields.

Why is Intellectual Property So Important?

Here are two key reasons why intellectual property is important:

IP Encourages Innovation & Creativity

Intellectual Property rights foster an environment that encourages innovation and creativity. When individuals or organisations know that their efforts will be rewarded and protected, they are more likely to invest in research and development, leading to new inventions, technological advancements, and artistic expressions. IP rights provide an incentive for creators and businesses to share their knowledge with the public while ensuring they receive recognition and potential financial gains for their work.

IP Correlates Directly with Economic Growth & Competitiveness

Intellectual property plays a crucial role in driving economic growth and promoting competitiveness. It allows businesses to differentiate themselves in the market by protecting their unique products, services, ideas and service offerings. By preventing unauthorised copying or imitation, IP rights enable companies to maintain their competitive advantage and market share, which leads to job creation, increased investment, and overall economic development. Businesses in all industries are forever seeking a niche market or that point of difference, if successful this strategy will play a key role in the continuity and longevity of the business. Individuals and collective groups will quite often be protective of their IP, but this is understandable especially given that IP generally goes hand in hand with business success.

How Do I Protect My Business’ Intellectual Property?

There are a few important steps you can take to protect your business’ intellectual property – the first being to register your copyrights, trademarks and patents. These types of IP protection give you exclusive rights to the use of your creation, particularly as it relates to their commercial use. Here’s an overview of each:

  • Copyright – applies to the protection of tangible and intangible creative works, e.g. music.
  • Trademark – applies to the protection of words and design elements used to identify and differentiate the source of a product, e.g. branding and logos.
  • Patent – applies to the protection of an original invention granting the creator exclusive rights to its use for a certain period of time.

You may also consider registering the business, product or domain names associated with your intellectual property so that nobody else can acquire it and potentially hold those for ransom should your business or product do well (see our .au domains article for more on this).

There are also measures you may choose to take within your business’ internal processes & procedures, particularly as it relates to contracts. Confidentiality agreements and non-compete clauses may be written into employment contracts to protect the employer’s intellectual property and business interests. Should an employee decide to terminate their employment and establish their own business, effective non-compete clauses restrict them from using your business’ intellectual property, including unique processes and procedures developed in-house, in their new business. To ensure such clauses are enforceable by law, it is recommended that you obtain separate legal advice from an employment law firm when drafting your contracts.

Finally – security measures are key. Robust IT frameworks are critical in protecting all of your company’s data, and IP forms part of that. The risks associated with disgruntled or dishonest employees looking to take IP off your servers and use it for their own benefit can be mitigated with strong password protection (including two-factor authentication); promptly disabling access for certain employees if required; and engaging with IT professionals to safeguard your business’ critical data.

Wrap Up – IP and Your Business

Overall, intellectual property promotes a balance between the interests of creators, innovators, businesses, and the public. It encourages innovation, drives economic growth, protects rights, and fosters the exchange of knowledge and technology, ultimately benefiting society as a whole. This is why it is so important to proactively protect your business’ intellectual property. If your business needs assistance in developing a point of difference and associated promotion, then consider making McKinley Plowman your first point of contact. We have a team of specialists in key business development areas including Business Improvement Specialists, Marketing Specialists, Financial Advisers, Tax Specialists and Finance Brokers. You can reach us on 08 9301 2200 (Joondalup), 08 9325 2411 (Perth), or via our website.

written by:

Prior to forming McKinley Plowman, Nigel specialised in management consulting and international accounting, enjoying success in Australia and in the United Kingdom. His extensive experience in management consulting, international accounting and innovative tax structures has been a major driver in the success of McKinley Plowman as well as the many businesses he has steered towards new levels. Nigel is dedicated to fast-tracking his client goals with cutting edge tax and business strategies. He is a member of the CPAs and the Taxation Institute of Australia and enjoys developing tax strategies that work well here and around the world.

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