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Is your business intellectual property the best it can be?

09 August 2019

Intellectual property rights play an essential role in a business and, if properly managed, can be a valuable asset. You may have considered intellectual property when establishing your business model or business plan, and maybe even registered a trade mark for your business name and/or products. However, intellectual property can often be forgotten about once trading has started and other matters become a priority. If protection is not adequately maintained you risk your IP rights being lost or diluted.

Business intellectual property rights should be reviewed annually as part of the business plan for the coming year; especially trade marks, which play a significant role in consumer recognition and the establishment of market reputation. You may want to consider whether your use of trade marks is effective, or whether you need to apply for additional trade marks for any new products. It’s also a good idea to regularly check for any third parties using your trade mark who might be trading off your good will or passing themselves off as you, or being associated with you.

Another instance where we see intellectual property rights exposed to risk is when a business is contracting with a third party. Whether this is employing staff, engaging contractors or formalising supply or distribution arrangements, it’s important to consider who owns any new intellectual property created and to what extent existing intellectual property can be used by both parties. There can often be some grey areas when it comes to employment or independent contractor relationships. Where a service is provided, intellectual property is often created in the process, and if ownership isn’t agreed between the parties, there’s potential for argument. A well drafted clause in a contract can save a lot of time and money.

If you haven’t given your intellectual property the attention it deserves, you could consider undertaking an “intellectual property audit” for your business. This often involves a lawyer reviewing your business and associated documents, and reporting to you on recommendations to get you back on track in meeting your intellectual property goals.

If you have any questions about intellectual property audits, or other matters relating to intellectual property rights, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

 

Chris Steenstra is a Partner in the Corporate & Commercial Team at Norris Ward McKinnon. You can contact Chris at chris.steenstra@nwm.co.nz

 

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