Invest to Grow: Protecting innovation and intellectual property


This blog post is part of the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce’s Invest to Grow campaign. Invest to Grow aims to inspire and inform businesses around investment in R&D, innovation, technology and machinery and how it can help boost productivity through case studies, expert opinion pieces and briefing information. Click here to find out more and don’t forget to join the conversation on social media with #I2G18. Part 1 of Invest to Grow focuses on investment in innovation and research & development and is sponsored by the University of Birmingham.

Through its growing technology, research and digital sectors, Birmingham and its surrounding areas are booming. It comes as no surprise to me that Birmingham is the UK’s Most Entrepreneurial City, or announcements like a University of Birmingham academic developing the next stage in question answering software are becoming the norm.

As the West Midlands’ reputation for innovation strengthens across global markets, so does the importance of supporting the region’s businesses to protect their ideas from being appropriated by rivals. This is a crucial factor if the region’s businesses and universities are to compete on the global stage and drive economic growth.

Imagine the scenario, your business has invested considerable time, resources and funding in creating something truly unique, whether that’s a design or a product. This unique creation could give your business a competitive advantage, make you more of an attractive investment, and used as a security for future loans.

However, something has gone wrong. A competitor has developed something almost identical, brought it to market and is now reaping the rewards. What has happened? Why has it happened? What can you do?

All too often innovation can and will be stolen and replicated, so safeguards are essential and your unique creation needs the right legal protection.

This is why intellectual property law is so important. But many who have created a business idea can often be unsure of whether they should protect the products or services they offer or even how to get such protection.

IP is an extremely complex area of law to understand, however, with the right guidance any innovating business can take advantage of having IP protection in place. My colleagues and I at Forresters work with businesses throughout the Midlands to help them do just that, supporting them with how, why and what protection their products or services require.

We work with clients and explain the different types of protection available, as not all are relevant to every business, product or idea.

If your company has a new invention, like many of the technology-based businesses in Birmingham, then a patent is the protection you need to defend your differentiator. Copyright is for when your business produces original work like literature or music. Then there are trade marks, which help companies protect the different elements of a brand identity, and designs, which are very effective in protecting the appearance of certain products.

Once it has been determined which type of protection is required there are also a few important things we discuss with clients. Firstly, do you own it? The nature of expertise means that someone who comes up with an idea or concept will not necessarily be the one to bring it to life. For example, if you use an agency to come up with your new brand or a developer to create your app, then there is a chance the ownership will stay with the creator if the proper contracts aren’t in place.

Secondly, as businesses look to expand outside of the UK and enter new markets, new rules can apply. Getting the correct intellectual property rights in place is an important success factor for businesses. As you can imagine, intellectual property rights are treated differently by each country with products and services only being protected in the countries in which those rights are awarded.

Without these safeguards in place, businesses become very vulnerable to competition, with rivals being able to sell the product or service at a lower price as they have no research and development costs of their own to recoup. It’s no surprise that this can cause a significant loss in market share and sales for businesses.

In today’s borderless and connected world, the chance of ideas being stolen and replicated is much greater. Therefore, if the region’s tech and digital industries are to drive the growth of the West Midlands’ economy, then businesses should look to take the appropriate steps to protect their investment and creations.

About Forresters

We provide clear, sensible and practical advice to clients looking to protect their intellectual property. Applying for any sort of IP protection for the first time can be daunting.   We are here to help you navigate the complexities of intellectual property law in the UK and elsewhere.

For more information, please contact Forresters.

Matthew Shaw
Equity partner