Whether you are buying a business, buying a franchise, acquiring a licence connected to goods and services, or entering into a commercial agreement it is important to consider intellectual property (IP) ownership.
What is IP?
IP includes various intangible property rights including (among others), copyright, patents, trade marks and registered designs. Unlike common notions of property, IP is an intangible asset – but that makes it no less valuable. It is borne out of creative or innovative work undertaken by a business or an individual.
IP can be owned, leased, licenced, sold and transferred or given away just as physical property can.
IP and starting a business
To start your business on the front foot, you should take a strong approach to business planning and protecting your IP. This is an important process that involves investigating the value of assets, including intangible assets, identifying what IP rights are relevant to you and/or your business and conducting an IP audit.
IP and purchasing an established business
If you buy an established business, you may also acquire its client list, trade marks, patents, domain names or licenses, which can make the business more valuable. When you are drawing up or reviewing the commercial contracts it is important to ensure ownership of the business’ IP assets is transferred to the new owner.
Depreciation can occur on intellectual property as it would for physical property. Therefore, the value of intellectual property should be recorded on the date the business is purchased. IP can also increase in value if the business is successful.
If someone uses your IP without your businesses permission it may amount to an infringement of your IP rights. You should seek appropriate legal advice at that time in order to make sure your IP maintains, and has the ability to attract, commercial value. Taking action against possible IP infringement can also act as an ongoing deterrent against future breaches.
A lawyer can help you understand what intellectual property your business may have and how you can protect it. If you feel your intellectual property is being infringed you should discuss the matter with a lawyer.