Businesses moving into the UK market have a lot to consider, from supply chain challenges to import rules and tax liabilities, but one aspect that must not be overlooked is intellectual property (IP) laws, which protect integral aspects of an organisation's brand.
A business' intellectual property can include everything from its brand assets - which are very valuable, because they differentiate products from those of competitors and build relationships with consumers - to any inventions or innovations it develops, and even includes pamphlets, catalogues and advertising it produces.
As such, it is vital for a business to protect and uphold its intellectual property rights, in order to enjoy the maximum value of these intangible assets. However, intellectual property law differs from country to country, and if you are an international business moving into the UK market, there are some important things you should know.
Here, experts from JMW Solicitors, one of the best-regarded intellectual property law practices in the UK, identify eight areas where businesses moving into the British market should be careful, and explain how you can ensure your IP rights are upheld, so that your business can enjoy the greatest possible success in its expansion.
For specific legal advice relating to your business, contact our experienced and knowledgeable team today by calling 0345 872 6666, or using our online enquiry form to request a call back. Please make sure to specify your time zone when arranging for us to return your call.
Trade marks and patents are jurisdictional, meaning that they only apply in the country where they are registered. Before you move into a new market, it is important to take stock of any patents and trade mark-protected assets you own and decide whether you will need to register them in your new market.
This process is not always straightforward - some businesses fail to recognise the value of their IP, or to understand how best to protect it. The UK also has relatively strict trade mark standards compared to some international markets, so it is important to learn what makes an asset eligible for trade mark protection.
The best way to do this is to work with an expert solicitor, who can support you in identifying your assets through an IP audit, registering trade marks and patents where relevant, and protecting your intellectual property through monitoring.
A business that is well-known in its country of origin might believe that it will be easy to secure the rights to trade under its name in the UK. However, it is vital to instruct a solicitor to search existing trade marks before you attempt to register your IP, as there is a risk that your mark (or a sufficiently similar asset) is already owned by another party.
If you cannot register to protect your IP, there may be other ways to secure them - for example, by purchasing the assets you want, or in more extreme cases, by rebranding. A solicitor can support you throughout this process to maximise the value of your organisation's brand.
Another area that is vital to understand for international businesses registering trade marks in the UK is trade mark categories. Every country has different trade mark categories, which determine how you can use your protected assets, and it is crucial to register in the right categories to ensure you receive the types of protection you need. Categories relate to the area in which you intend to trade or the types of products you can sell bearing your registered mark.
No matter where you are based, it is best to work with an experienced intellectual property solicitor in the UK for the services you need. Their familiarity with the legal system can help to resolve any problems much more efficiently, and they can manage communications in a timely manner without any concern about time differences.
JMW specialises in supporting businesses from around the world to secure their IP assets when they move into the UK market. We provide a range of services tailored to your needs, from searching and clearing and trade mark registration to a full suite of IP portfolio management solutions.
The UK's IP authority is the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), and is ultimately responsible for evaluating and granting patent and trade mark applications.
The IPO is known for its focus on customer service and provides useful guidance for businesses to help them to navigate the complexities of intellectual property law. However, this can still be confusing for international organisations expanding into the UK, and to maximise the chance that your registration will be successful, it is best to have a solicitor assist you in making your application.
While trade marks and patents must be registered in new jurisdictions, copyright is an automatic protection and applies in most countries throughout the world.
Unlike in some countries, you do not need to use the copyright symbol (c) to qualify for the protections of copyright in the UK, although you have the freedom to do so.
Some businesses believe that copyright does not apply to them because they do not create or publish artistic, written or musical works. However, copyright extends to product descriptions and imagery, databases containing company information, and even any writing or images on your organisation's website. If your business created or commissioned this content, it will be considered the copyright owner. This enables you to take legal action against a third party that infringes this right by taking or adapting your work.
If your business did not originate these assets, you may be guilty of infringing on the IP rights of another party. You should consult a solicitor to learn which assets you can fairly use if you are unsure, or to discuss licensing or purchasing content from the copyright owner.
The public domain refers to the status of works on which copyright protection has expired. In the UK, most works enter the public domain 70 years after the death of the last surviving author, which means that they are then freely available for publication, adaptation, or any other uses that would otherwise be prohibited by copyright.
While the 70-year law generally applies, there are different rules for an artistic work than for a broadcast or sound recording. Further, some works that are not protected by copyright in the US and other jurisdictions may still be subject to UK copyright law, even if they are not of UK origin. Therefore, it is important to check each work individually before using it.
The UK has an international reputation for taking a strong stance on IP infringement, but this is only possible when brands monitor the assets they own to identify any suspected infringement and take action.
It is not easy to monitor everywhere at once, but this is important, because infringement can come in many forms - it is not always perpetrated by direct competitors within your industry. As such, it can be useful to instruct a solicitor to provide monitoring services, in which they will assess trade mark applications and identify any that have the potential to infringe on your intellectual property. In this way, you can defend your IP and enjoy its maximum possible value.
JMW Solicitors is renowned in the UK for its intellectual property services, having worked on some of the country’s biggest cases. We work with businesses of all sizes and industries from around the world, and use our comprehensive knowledge of IP law and business strategy to tailor our services to our clients’ needs.
Whatever your business needs from intellectual property services, we can help - whether that means general assistance in understanding intellectual property law and avoiding infringement in a new market, or a practice strategy to protect and uphold your IP rights when moving into the UK.