Intellectual Property for Entrepreneurs in Europe

By OEC team Comments
As part of the blended learning approach of the European Incubator for Innovation in Education, last week we held an online session with intellectual property (IP) lawyer Laurence Kaye (@laurencekaye)Partner in the Media, Creative Industries & IP team in UK national law firm Shoosmiths. He spoke about how to recognise what IP you have, how to protect it, and how to leverage it for the benefit of your business.  
Intellectual property is just one of many legal considerations in the life cycle of a business, but it is a consideration that is most important early in the process of setting up a business. According to Laurence, education entrepreneurs need to pay attention to their intellectual property in the following areas:
  • Product design – the form and appearance of physical objects
  • Content – such as apps, software, APIs, games, data
  • Partnerships –with different entities like suppliers, customers, community, other businesses

Types of Intellectual Property

Laurence then went on to give an overview of the different types of intellectual property that are most relevant for entrepreneurs. Here, we’ll give you a quick summary. 
  • Patents protect a novel technological solution or advancement that hasn’t already been disclosed 
  • It lasts 20 years and can be extended, but it is expensive to register a patent and it doesn’t prevent others from challenging your patent
  • Each country has its own patent laws, but there is also a European Community patent 
  • Your trademark is what sets your company apart, like a logo, slogan, name, etc. 
  • A European Community trademark exists
  • Refers to the shape, form, or appearance of a physical object. A registered design must be 3D. 
“Directly or indirectly, the business depends on a flow of content, and that means a flow of rights.”
  • All creative output you can think of is probably protected by copyright
  • As the copyright holder, you have the exclusive right to make your work available to the public and to issue copies (books, downloads, etc.) and to adapt your work.
  • When working with external contributors, like freelancers or community contributors, you need to ensure that you have the rights to use their work – to use it in your business, share it in the community, etc.

Listen: Laurence Kaye explains how copyright can still be open

How to take advantage of your IP

  • Start thinking about the different forms of IP and what your risks might be and what your optimal IP policy would be
  • How do you want to protect your IP? Think about registration, licenses, copyright notices, contracts, partnership agreements, etc.
  • In regards to partnerships, consider drawing up a contract or partnership agreement. It should inclusde considerations about the exchange of money, who gets what rights, intellectual property, the exclusivity of the arrangement, and how the contract will end. 
  • Establish your IP policy and get contracts in place before negotiating anything commercial
  • Do your background research about how other businesses like yourself protect their IP

Some simple steps you can take right now to protect your IP

  • Add a copyright notice to remind people that your work is copyrighted
  • Mark emails with “Private and confidential; not for disclosure” if you want to protect the content of your emails
  • Rank your IP – how important is it on a scale of 1 to 10. Anything above a 7, consult an IP attorney!

Share this post