How to protect your IP

One of the best ways to stand out from the crowd is to develop your own IP. Here are some things to help you protect your work and claim your space.

We love helping speakers, authors and coaches to stand out and get seen for their individuality. It’s YOUR light that creates the appeal and builds your audience. What you share is unique, because there is literally no one in the world that has your combination of experiences and expertise. That means you can do something amazing with it.

Whilst we are NOT legal eagles, we’ve worked with so many speakers, authors and coaches to help them create their own IP and get it protected, so we thought we’d share some of the things we’ve learned along the way.

First off: What is IP?

The creations of your mind — the inventions, ideas, concepts, models, frameworks and teaching methodologies, designs and symbols, names and images that you use in your commercial world all counts as Intellectual Property (IP).

Intellectual property includes distinctive items that you have created and ones that give you an economic benefit.

It is something unique that you physically create. An idea alone is not intellectual property. For example, an idea for a book doesn’t count, but the words you’ve written do.

Why you want to know about this now.

You want to continue to command a niched or unique space in the market place. It makes it easier to get customers, and to attract the attention you want — so you can get on the stages you want to be on, and get known for exactly what you do as a go to person of choice.

Having the right type of intellectual property protection helps you to stop people stealing or copying:

· the names of your products or brands

· your inventions

· the design or look of your products

· things you write, make or produce

Copyright, patents, designs and trade marks are all types of Intellectual Property protection. You get some types of protection automatically, others you have to apply for.

4 core reasons to protect your IP

It’s a great idea to set up IP protection from several perspectives. There’s an immediate respect that is afforded as soon as people see a little TM or © or ® — it may never be spoken of, but it does make a difference to how you are seen. Here are 4 additional reasons — from a practical AND a marketing perspective:

· Protect — safeguard your business from competitors

· Enforce — Make it easier and cheaper to enforce your protection

· Verified — It shows customers you take your business seriously

· Add Value — Trade marks add value to your business (7% more according to several sources)

Owning Intellectual Property

How do you know you own intellectual property? So many people don’t even realise that they do already or indeed could have IP with just a little bit of effort. You own IP if you:

· created it (and it meets the requirements for copyrighta patent or a design)

· bought intellectual property rights from the creator or a previous owner

· have a brand that could be a trade mark, eg a well-known product name

Here are some more things to know. Intellectual property can:

· have more than one owner

· belong to people or businesses

· be sold or transferred

That means you could generate revenue by licensing or franchising the trade mark to other businesses. Global value in intellectual property licenses is worth over £600bn per year.

So if you’ve got something that’s wanted by many others, you could make a neat little fortune by packaging up what you know and turning it into a licenced programme!

Intellectual property if you’re self-employed

Most speakers, authors and coaches start out as sole traders or are business owners / directors. If you’re self-employed, you usually own the intellectual property even if your work was commissioned by someone else — unless your contract with them gives them the rights. This is important and may be relevant if you do a lot of consultancy. Make sure your contracts reflect how you work with people. The same is true with app development — you must ensure you get the copyright back from them even though it’s your idea, if they did the code for example. You must have a ‘protection mindset’ when developing your materials and asking others to help ‘realise’ it, i.e. make it a real product.

To give you an example of how this relates to brands that currently exist, think about these examples — these are* IP protected (copyrighted or trade marked):

  • The Nike ‘swoosh’
Courtesy of
  • The Cadbury chocolate purple colour
Courtesy of

That becomes interesting for you. You can Trademark marks / logos — so they are part of your brand, your business and legacy. And you want to, because it makes it easier for you to ‘own’ (and defend/protect) the concept / IP behind your ideas. It gives you flexibility over time when you want to sell your IP 😊.

*A little note on the Cadbury story— they trademarked the colour (Pantone 2685C) in 1995 to have sole rights to use it, but 24 years later lost the right to use this trademark due to wording in the registration (essentially the original registration only covered “chocolate in bar or tablet form,” and when they went to change the wording to encompass more products in the range — like drinking chocolate — they lost the rights to use it all together due to being contested by Nestle).

Which type of protection do you need?

You can protect with several things at the same time e.g. Nike use copyright and design protection: ‘Just Do It’ plus the swoosh. Here are some general guidelines for how you might want to look at protecting your work:

– Patent — for inventions

– Copyright — for creative work

– Trademark — for brand protection

– Designs — for visual appearance of products

Starting out: search and check what’s already out there.

It’s important to know what’s already been IP protected — if you do something that is yours, yet is similar to others concepts, it’s useful to understand the ‘competition’ and also get inspiration for what has been trademarked etc. Here are some sites that you can use for UK based businesses. Have a look at your own country equivalents, as it can be inspiring and enlightening: courses to help you understand more) This will help you check if your word(s) or design already in play. — all IP is done in ‘classes’ — so this will help you check what class you are in i.e. what area you need to set up your protection in.

At one end are free online trade mark searches such as the online search facilities provided by the UKIPO or the EUIPO. These are free and easy-to-use search databases which aim to give brand owners at least an initial idea of the situation.

When can I use the trademark symbols TM, SM, and ® ?

Each time you use your mark, it is best to use a designation with it. If registered, use an ® after the mark. If not yet registered, use ™ for goods (or SM for services) to indicate that you have adopted this as a trademark or service mark, respectively, regardless of whether you have filed an application with the USPTO.

You may only use the registration symbol with the mark on or in connection with the goods/services listed in the federal trademark registration. However, no specific requirements exist as to the precise use of the “® ” symbol as to placement, e.g., whether used in a subscript or superscript manner. One thing to note is that several foreign countries use “® ” to indicate that a mark is registered in that country. Use of the symbol by the holder of a foreign registration may be required, so depending on your business model and where you trade you might want to check on this too.

Knowing all this, what might you want to protect?

– Your copy / content / book

– Your methodology

Your brand items — colours, shapes, combined logo/words

What can you do on a day to day basis to ensure that your IP is ‘yours?

The key thing about your IP is to ensure that you are vigilant about it — so here are some things you want to build into your daily / weekly running of your business:

– USE it!

– Be on the look out for ‘copies’

– Challenge others

  • Make sure you protect it

You can set up key word alerts, use Google notifications, regularly scan competitors and just generally be on the look out for how your material might be being used by others. Identify things in your business that ‘should’ be protected. To do that, make a list of all the intellectual property that you own. Here’s a reminder:

  • · Trade marks (for brands)
  • · Patents (for inventions)
  • · Designs (for the look of a product)
  • · Copyright (for creative work)

But you can also include other intangible assets such as:

– Confidential information

– Trade secrets

– Distribution agreements

– Domain names

– Publishing rights

– Licencing agreements

– Agreements not yet complete

Once you have this you can then plan how you are going to use those assets.

Getting started with getting protected:

To give yourself the best chance of getting protected, ensure you’ve thought about or done the following:

1. Make sure your trade mark doesn’t just describe what you do. If your brand name just describes what you do then it’s possible the application won’t be accepted. It needs to be distinctive.

2. Check to see if a similar trade marks exists before you apply for your trade mark. If it does and the business offers similar products or services, your trade mark application may be opposed.

3. Respect other people’s IP. Examples of this are getting permission before using images off the internet and making sure you have the right software licenses before using software systems.

4. If you get in a dispute with another business use mediation as a way of resolving the dispute. Mediation is quicker and cheaper than formal litigation and allows the parties to cover a wider range of issues.

5. Check that counterfeit products don’t exist in your supply chain.

If you are really serious about protecting your work and increasing the value and perception of your brand, you might just want to watch this little film from IPO to wet your appetite for getting going with trademarking!

As ever let us know how you get on. Join us in The Connection Hub for more information and discussion about protecting your work as a speaker, author and coach.

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