Guide

Protecting intellectual property

Prevent intellectual property infringement

If your ideas get into the wrong hands before you have taken action to protect them, you could find your intellectual property (IP) rights seriously compromised - or even lose them entirely. It's therefore very important that all your business' material in which there are IP rights is kept secure.

This is essential before IP protection has been applied for - or registered - as any disclosure could jeopardise your claim to originality. For certain creative works it will also be important afterwards because enforcing your intellectual property rights against infringers can be a time-consuming and expensive process.

Steps to avoid IP infringement

Basic steps you can take to avoid IP infringement include:

  • asking employees - and third parties to whom key information must be disclosed - to sign confidentiality agreements
  • keeping important hard-copy information locked up

Take special care when trying to sell or license an invention, idea or design to an agent, manufacturer or potential partner, even if registration is complete. Apart from a confidentiality agreement, if you have not protected your idea by applying for a patent, trade mark or design, post a dated copy of your idea to yourself using recorded delivery and lodge the unopened envelope and postal record with your bank or solicitor. Note that this only shows that you were in possession of an idea on the date shown, but will not prove that you own it.

Protecting IP on digital files

Information stored electronically, particularly on computers connected to the internet, needs protection from both lapses in security and IT disasters.

You should:

  • ensure sensitive information is kept on password-protected areas of your system
  • install anti-virus software and keep it up to date
  • install firewalls to prevent unauthorised users from hacking into your system and update them regularly
  • back up your work and ensure back-ups are stored securely, preferably off site
  • protect your system against power surges and failures

See more on intellectual property crime and your business.