Protecting your Intellectual Property Rights

All too often, businesses will spend considerable time and money in developing and bringing a new brand to market, but fail to take any steps to protect that brand.

Unless you have been trading under a particular business name or have established significant business goodwill under your brand, you will find it very difficult to stop a copycat from starting a business under an identical or confusingly similar brand. The only way you can do this is to register your brand as a Trade Mark.

What, you may ask, is a Trade Mark? A Trade Mark is essentially any sign you use in your business to distinguish your products and/or services from other traders.

By registering a Trade Mark, you get an instant officially sanctioned exclusive right to prevent others, without your consent, from using identical or similar signs upon or in relation to the goods and/or services covered by your registration. If you find that somebody else is using a sign which you believe is identical or confusingly similar to your trade mark, you only need to produce your Certificate of Registration in court as proof of your right.

Without a trade mark registration, you would have to convince a court that you have been trading long enough to establish a protectable business goodwill under your business or brand name. Obviously, new business and brand owners will not even be able to get past this first hurdle.

A Trade Mark registration also has other advantages. For example, few businesses realise that their brands are possibly their most important and valuable assets. The law recognises this and therefore regards a trade mark registration as a property right.

Like Trade Marks, by registering your new design, you effectively get an exclusive right to use your design in the territory where you desire protection. In the European Union, this means you can prevent the unauthorised use of your design by others on any product. For example, if you design a toy character and register that design, you can prevent others from using the design on say, confectionery products.

Like any other property right, you can use your registered trade mark, or registered design, as collateral for loan or investment finance. Trade Mark and Design registrations can also be licensed, transferred and bequeathed like any other property right.

Trade Mark and Design registrations also have the advantage that they are protected as property rights under the Irish Constitution and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which effectively makes it near impossible for the governmental authorities to sequestrate them.

Copyright law protects your creative works from being copied by others. While it is not possible to register Copyright in the European Union, NĂ­all can advise you on the steps you need to take in order to stop others from copying your valuable work and how you could grant others a licence so that you can monetize the copyright you enjoy in your work.