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A guide to intellectual property rights

A guide to intellectual property rights

It is vital to protect your intellectual property, to prevent other companies or fraudsters from stealing or mimicking your work – known as an infringement.

Here we explain the different types of IP protection available:

What types of protection can you get?

According to The Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO), your automatic intellectual property rights are as follows:

Copyright

This is applicable to everything from writing and literary works, art and photography, to films, television and music, preventing your work being used without your consent, unless deemed fair dealing or should there be any other defence available.

Copyright arises automatically on creation of the work..Copyrighted work can be marked with the recognised symbol (©) (albeit it need not be), your name and the year of the work’s creation.

If you are aware of copyright infringement having taken place you should take action to protect your rights to avoid them being lost and to avoid you being prevented from doing so.

Unregistered UK design right

This type of protection automatically safeguards your own designs for 10 years from when it was sold, or 15 years from when it was made, legally stopping someone from copying your design.

However, it is only applicable to the shape and configuration of objects, and you will need to have documented proof of when your work was created to claim this.

In addition, intellectual property rights you must apply for include:

Trade marks

A registered trade mark protects your brand, e.g. the name of your product(s) or service(s), as well as logos, colours and even sounds.

Once a registered trade mark is obtained, you’ll have rights to:

  • Take legal action against anyone who uses your trade mark without your permission
  • Put the ® symbol next to your trade mark to demonstrate the trade mark is yours
  • Sell and license your trade mark to third parties.

There is a cost incurred in registering a Trade Mark and this is necessary should you wish to have additional rights to Passing Off (see below.)

Passing Off

This type of IP breach occurs when a company – either deliberately or unintentionally – passes off their goods or services as that of another business. This is a form of misrepresentation and can damage the ‘goodwill,’ i.e. the intangible assets, of your business.

Because the product or service may be of inferior quality it can also damage your business reputation.

Registered designs

You can register the look of anything you have designed to prevent theft and impersonation.

The IPO says that the look of a design covers the following:

  • Appearance
  • Physical shape
  • Configuration (or how multiple parts of a design are arranged together)
  • Decoration.

Need further advice on protecting your intellectual property? Get in touch with our expert team.

Equity investment in small businesses hits a record at £18.1 billion

Equity investment in small businesses hits a record at £18.1 billion

Britain’s small businesses, particularly in the tech sector, proved an attractive proposition in 2021, with equity investment hitting a record £18.1 billion.

The figure, an increase of 88 per cent, was almost double that of COVID-affected 2020, with a total of 2,616 deals.

The boom continued into the first quarter of 2022 with investment of £7.6 billion, which in itself is the highest recorded in a single quarter, according to the British Business Bank’s annual Small Business Equity Tracker.

Investment in UK tech companies, a driving force for the economy, doubled, rising to £8.2 billion in 2021 and up from £4.1bn the previous year.

The report added that investment in the sector is crucial for building the future economy and strengthening its position as a tech hub in Europe.

Here, BJ Chong, a Director with Palmers who specialises in corporate finance, outlines the main investment options for businesses seeking additional finance:

Traditional banking: Banks provide loans and other financial facilities for which it will charge interest and fees

Angel investors:  These are usually very wealthy individuals who invest primarily in first-time business companies and start-ups by buying their shares in exchange for convertible debt or ownership equity.  Capital growth and exit planning tends to characterise their approach

Peer to Peer Lenders: P2P lenders often personally fund the ventures of small businesses and purchase their shares. The lender receives interest and gets the money back when the loan is repaid. It’s a way for borrowers to get alternative funding where traditional funders are not amenable or unavailable.

Personal Investor: As the name implies, a personal investor invests in a business opportunity. Investment may be a simple loan but is often secured or perhaps involves an acquisition of equity.

Venture Capitalists: This is a form of private equity financing provided by venture capital firms or funds to start-ups, early-stage, and emerging companies thought to have high growth potential or have demonstrated high growth.  Again, capital growth and exit planning will tend to be a feature here.

For more information on the various legal structures and agreements used for investing in your business, please get in touch with our expert team.

 

Will 6.5 million quit their jobs? And what can employers do about it?

Will 6.5 million quit their jobs? And what can employers do about it?

The latest research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has revealed that a fifth of the working population could resign in the next year.

The latest data is part of an ongoing trend around the globe, commonly referred to as the ‘Great Resignation’.

Already, hundreds of thousands of employees have quit their jobs to pursue new career interests or in search of better pay or more flexible work conditions.

The current cost-of-living crunch is only exacerbating this issue, as employees struggling to secure sufficient pay rises look towards new employment with a better salary and benefits.

The CIPD’s Good Work Index polled more than 6,000 workers and found that 20 per cent aimed to quit their job in the next 12 months – up from 16 per cent in 2021.

If this figure were extrapolated throughout the UK’s working population it could mean that 6.5 million people may change roles in the next year.

The top reasons cited for leaving a post were:

  • 35 per cent – Better pay and benefits
  • 27 per cent – Increased job satisfaction
  • 24 per cent – Looking for better work-life balance
  • 23 per cent – Pursue a career change

The survey also found that almost two in five lower earners – paid £20,000 a year or less – felt their job provided the opportunity to gain new skills, and only 25 per cent felt they had good career advancement prospects.

How can employers help to retain staff? 

Like their employees, many businesses are already experiencing a cost-of-living crisis and offering better pay and benefits may not be feasible given current economic conditions.

However, did you know the overall estimated expense per hire in the UK for each vacancy, depending on seniority and skill, is between £7,275 to £22,515, according to recruitment specialists Test Candidates.

With this cost in mind, how can employers help to retain staff for longer:

  • Conduct a staff satisfaction survey to review employee needs
  • Offer a more flexible work environment, including hybrid working
  • Provide more training and development opportunities to staff at all levels
  • Host more work socials and staff days out
  • Support staff wellbeing and mental health
  • Review existing pay and benefits
  • Assess the company’s work culture and values to ensure they align with employee expectations.

Ola McGhee a Solicitor and employment law expert with Palmers, said: “The current workforce shortage is causing many employers to revisit their workplace policies with many offering flexible working policies to attract more candidates from a wider geographic pool of talent.

“However, it is important to follow the correct procedures when dealing with any requests for flexible working from both new and existing members of staff, to avoid any potential pitfalls and breaches of the law.

“It may also be a good time to review your HR policies to ensure you meet the latest Good Work Plan guidelines.”

For help and advice with all aspects of employment law for your business, please get in touch with us.

British Data Law – What is changing?

British Data Law – What is changing?

The Government has outlined new plans for British data law, which designed to save businesses money by reducing bureaucracy, red tape and ‘pointless paperwork’, which plagues the current data control and processing procedures.

However, alongside the benefits of the new law, the Government has also warned that firms who hound people with nuisance calls face tougher fines.

Highlighting the importance of data in the UK economy, the launch of the new Data Reform Bill revealed that data-driven trade “generated nearly three-quarters of the UK’s total service exports and generated an estimated £234 billion for the economy in 2019”.

The new Bill is being created to strengthen the UK’s high data protection standards, while reducing any burdens on businesses.

Here, Matthew Johnson, an Associate Solicitor with Palmers, who specialises in Company Law, explains they key points of the proposals put forward:

Reducing the burden on businesses – The Bill will aim to clarify the highly complex General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) by removing the prescriptive requirements giving organisations little flexibility about how they manage data risks.

This includes the need for organisations, such as small businesses, to have a dedicated Data Protection Officer (DPO) or undertake lengthy impact assessments.

While the same high data protection standards will remain, many organisations will be given the flexibility to determine how they meet these standards.

Tackling unnecessary cookies – As well as taking on nuisance callers, the Bill aims to simplify the collection of cookies by updating the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) so that the number of user consent pop-ups and banners on websites are reduced.

This will be achieved by a new opt-out model for cookies, which will reduce the need for users to click through consent banners on every website they visit.

This will allow internet users to set an overall approach to how their data is collected and used online, predominantly through the web browser that they use.

Businesses need to be aware that the increased fines for nuisance calls and texts and other serious data breaches under the UK’s existing PECR will increase from the current maximum of £500,000 and be brought in line with current UK GDPR penalties, which are up to four per cent global turnover or £17.5 million, whichever is greater.

Information Commissioner’s Office – The organisation of the ICO will be modernised and improved to make sure it remains an internationally renowned regulator.

This will include introducing “a wider set of skills to support robust decision-making and broaden the legal responsibility underpinning the ICO’s work, which currently sits solely with the role of Information Commissioner”.

A new set of objectives for the regulator will also help Parliament and the public holds the regulator to account.

If you would like more information about data compliance and how your business can ensure it is compliant, please get in touch with us.

Why start-ups should take intellectual property seriously

Why start-ups should take intellectual property seriously

When you are starting your own business, it can feel like there is a never-ending list of things to do and think about.

One task you do not want to put off is considering your intellectual property (IP).

This could take the form of any actions you must take to protect your own or ensure you are not breaching another party’s IP rights.

It really is vital that start-ups consider their position regarding intellectual property as any owner will have worked incredibly hard to get where they are, which could include developing concepts, logos and designs from scratch, so you need to do all you can to protect it.

So, what should start-ups be considering when approaching intellectual property? Here we explain why IP considerations should not be left to chance when setting up a new business:

What are the different kinds of IP?

Essentially, intellectual property is what defines a business and sets it apart from others, which gives value to the business.

Intellectual property can fall into four categories, namely trademarks, copyright, designs and patents.

When starting out your IP journey, get to grips with the jargon, such as:

Trademarks: Protect things that help identify the source of a product, such as names, logos and even colours.

Design: Mainly protects things concerning the appearance of a product.

Patents: Protects how a product is made.

Copyright: Protects creative rights, such as website content.

Why do start-ups need IP protection?

You may think it is better to wait until a start-up is more established before looking for intellectual property protection, but there are good reasons for starting early to secure the future of the business.

By protecting your intellectual property, it helps to secure funding and investment so you can grow your business. Any good business plan should answer what is your intellectual property and what action you have taken to protect it, as potential investors will want to see this information.

By taking a proactive approach to intellectual property, you can help protect your brand reputation so you can secure your business from anyone attempting to steal your ideas. This is especially important considering the amount of time, cost and effort it takes to build a business from nothing.

Ultimately, if you don’t deal with intellectual property issues early enough, it could cause problems later down the line and lead to more costs and stress, so make sure it is on your start-up checklist.

For help with intellectual property issues, please get in touch with our expert IP legal team.

Buying a business: What are my finance options?

Buying a business: What are my finance options?

You have decided to take the plunge and buy a business, but what is the best way to finance your plans? Here, Matthew Johnson, an Associate Solicitor with Palmers, who specialises in corporate finance matters, outlines the available options:

If you are buying a new enterprise, bank loans may seem an obvious choice, but there are other ways you can achieve your goal.

When you are exploring a business sale, the seller will want to see a tangible plan for how you plan to pay for the business.

Factors such as your personal circumstances will influence what route you take. Unless you can afford to buy the business outright, you will need to consider the consequences of different finance options such as loan repayments or giving a share of profits to investors.

Commercial loans

One of the most common ways of financing the buying of a company is through getting a commercial loan. Obviously, this will need to be repaid, along with interest according to a set timeframe.

The terms of the loan may vary according to the lender and the level of risk your purchase appears to be.

One of the advantages of this approach is that you will own the business outright, however, you will have to make sure you can afford to keep up your loan repayments.

Owner or seller financing

This is an option where the buyer puts down a deposit and pays the rest with interest, with the business acting as collateral. This means that the owner takes back control of the company if any payments are missed, so you have to be prepared of the risk of losing your new business if you struggle to make the repayments.

Equity financing

Providers of this kind of finance invest cash in return for a stake in the business. An advantage of this approach is that you will not be saddled by debt and interest repayments, while you can gain access to the knowledge and experience of your investors who can be a big help as you drive your new business forwards.

Remember, however, that these investors take a share of any profits you make and can also have a say in any decisions that need to be made, so consider whether you are willing to share your profits and decisions in exchange for funding.

If you need advice on buying a business or related legal corporate issues, please get in touch with our expert team.