Intellectual property (IP) is a valuable asset for any business, but its intangible nature means that IP rights need to be policed and enforced in order to maintain and exploit their value and prevent the rights from lapsing or becoming invalid.

IP rights protect a wide range of assets such as names and logos (of a business or its products and services), slogans, brands, marketing materials, product designs, scientific or industrial products and processes, domain names, databases, software and artwork.

Our lawyers advise brand owners, businesses, patent owners and manufacturers on the protection and enforcement of their IP rights as well as those on the receiving end of IP claims. We also advise on disputes arising from commercial IP agreements, including IP Licence Agreements and IP Co-existence Agreements.

We have a proven track record across a breadth of IP disputes, advising both claimants and defendants. Those cases include defeating IP claims brought by third parties to gain commercial advantage and obtaining emergency injunctions in order to preserve IP rights pending a final trial.

We also work with businesses to assist them in proactively minimising the risk of litigation through IP due diligence, risk assessments, IP rights protection strategies and brand policing.

Every business should make sure that it knows the extent of its IP rights and regularly checks to make sure that another business is not infringing its rights by, for example, using its name or logo or taking advantage of its inventions.

How can you protect your IP rights?

Trade marks – these are signs that identify a particular brand with its manufacturer or owner, distinguishing it from other brands and products. Trade marks can include words, logos, slogans, designs, shapes, sounds and colours. Trade marks should be registered.

Passing off – this prevents a third party from mimicking or attempting to pass off a product or service as that of another. It is often relied on to protect a brand where trade marks have not been registered, or cannot be enforced.

Patents – these protect new and inventive products or processes. Patents must be registered at the Patent Office. Our specialists advise on disputes relating to the enforcement of patents and patent validity, as well as disputes arising from patent Licence Agreements.

Confidentiality / trade secrets / know how – by entering into confidentiality/ non-disclosure agreements, you can impose contractual restrictions to prevent disclosure of highly sensitive information. Our specialists advise on issues relating to breaches of confidence and theft of trade secrets and know-how, including data theft by employees.

Copyright – this is a right held by the creator of original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, sound recordings, films, broadcasts and typographical arrangements of published editions. Copyright does not require registration.

Design rights – these are rights protecting the shape and configuration of products or their packaging. It is best practice to register design rights, although rights might arise even if no steps have been taken to register them.

Domain names – these are not only functional (to allow a website to be easily found online) but they often indicate ownership of a product or service. It may be possible to prevent third parties from maliciously registering domain names that seek to take advantage of your reputation and/or compel the transfer of domain names to you.

Database right – these are automatic rights held by the creator of a database, if there has been a substantial investment in obtaining, verifying or presenting its content.

Claims for comparative or misleading advertising – advertising must not be misleading or confusing to customers, discredit a competitor or take advantage of a competitor’s IP rights.

Defamation – this is an important mechanism by which you can prevent the publication of material that adversely affects your business’ reputation and causes serious harm. With the power of the internet and social media today, this is a powerful tool to prevent unjustified media coverage of your business or brand.

Debenhams Ottaway is a member of Marques – the European association representing the interests of brand owners.

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