Every idea contains intellectual property (IP) of some form. IP does not necessarily refer to patents, trade marks and other forms of registerable rights. It covers anything which has come from your intellect. Understanding your IP and how you can protect it is a key consideration in commercialising your idea.
Formal IP rights are granted to an individual or corporation by a government, they represent a right to exploit, and prevent others from exploiting an item of intellectual property. The main types of formal IP are patents, trade marks and copyright. For most innovators and entrepeneurs, patents are the main form of IP of interest.
Informal IP rights are those which are not officially granted, however are still protectable. These are typically referred to as “trade secrets”. A trade secret is an item of IP that an individual chooses to keep secret by only revealing it to others in confidence. Typically a trade secret is something which is not easily discernible by the outside world. The formula for Coca Cola is an example of a trade secret. Trade secrets are protected by ensuring they are only disclosed in confidence under confidentiality agreements, and by prosecuting breaches.
Understanding the best form of protection for your IP, and obtaining that protection can be a complex process. There are many variables to consider and many things to take into consideration such as:
- Will I be enabling my competitors?
- Chance of success in an infringement action
Obtaining sound advice about the business implications of IP early in the commercialisation process is critical, as some forms of IP protection, such as filing patents, must be performed early to avoid a loss of rights.