If your business angel investment has ideas or new products and services, then it will create value around that knowledge or Intellectual Property (IP) which you will want to defend from copying, stealing or mimicking – as far as the law will allow you.
So, how do you do it….?
Before you do anything else – do your businesses’ websites have a Copyright symbol and a date at the end of every page?
If not, go and request it is done right now!
Copyright is the best and only free way to defend ideas – but it does require the business owner to claim it.
Simply by adding Copyright to a written piece of work, or drawing, or report you can establish rights over the material. If you wish to go further, you can print the work and ask a lawyer to sign it – again, this logs your claim, with a specific date and the signature adds authority to the claim.
Copyright is free and applies worldwide. So, do it now.
Okay, so how do you defend an idea that goes beyond just copyright?
Essentially there are two routes, both of which cost money to set up and maintain
- Trademark – which is used for brand names, straplines and brand designs; and
- Patent – which is used for scientific formulea and other similar items
In the UK and Europe it is not possible to patent a business process for instance, although the application of these rules in the USA can be different.
Also, both trademarks and patents are granted for
- a geographical area (eg UK, Europe, Internationally, US etc…)
- a fixed period (typically 10 years)
in addition, trademarks are granted for
- a class of business (there are 45 classes, and your trademark can be registered for one or more of these classes)
So which do you choose? Well, if you have a scientific formula or discovery, then patents – otherwise, all else will be trademark.
Now, here is the interesting thing – you can have a business idea which can be copied (and will be if it is successful) but if your business also generates a strong brand – then the brand can not be copied.
For instance, a high quality sports shirt without any branding might cost £5 (or US$7.50) but put the Adidas brand on the shirt, and the same high quality shirt might cost £25 (or US$37.50).
Can the shirt structure and shape/ form be copied, mostly yes! Can the Adidas brand name – or the 3 stripe logo or use of similar logo designs be copied, no, not at all!
Now, there will inevitably be disputes here – but the point is this. Most businesses are unable to protect their IP other than through trademarks.
Therefore, a business which does not have copyrights nor patents at the heart of its business will therefore need to depend on and defend its brand name and brand design.
Equally, the point for business angel investors is that this requires a fledgling business to think carefully about how it creates and builds its brand name, brand image, brand design and how it uses that brand.
For instance, careful application of a consistent brand will be a key part of proving that this particular use of design belongs to you. Equally, sloppy application of the brand – not adhering to standard colours, shapes or sizes, will make your brand vulnerable to attack.
Hence, for most investments, the real value of the business is the brand – and the premium price that you are able to charge for your product (say a sports shirt) by using that brand consistently.
Lastly, the more widely your brand is used within any class of business, then the more established it becomes and the easier it is to defend.
Therefore, some activities – such as a regular newsletters or magazines (digital and/ or print) will massive increase the number of people that see your brand, and this will play a key part in establishing your unique right to use that brand.
So, to summarise, get your copyright rights for free now. If you can patent, do so – otherwise focus on your brand.
And your brand design and name should be
- clear and distinct
- applied consistently in all the different contexts (print, digital, business cards, letter heads, company vans, product design and packaging etc…)
- used as often as possible
If you follow these rules, then you will not only create a defendable brand, but also a valuable one and your investment will benefit from the effort and expense.
- UK Patent and Trademark Office http://www.ipo.gov.uk
- European Trademark Office http://oami.europa.eu and European Patent Office http://www.epo.org/
- US Trademark and Patent Office http://www.uspto.gov/
Establishing rights to a brand depends on how many people see
it – so how do you increase your brand visibility without it
costing a fortune? Simple, publish your own magazine under
your business brand name. This is what Media Modo can
do for your investment…