By David Hopkins, Business Engagement Manager for the Intellectual Property Office
In a recent survey 89% of accountants told us they thought it was important to gain a better understanding of intellectual property (IP). In today’s competitive marketplace, the accountancy profession is recognising that understanding IP may give them an edge in attracting new clients and contribute to the growth of their existing clients.
Every business will own or use IP and could include for example a trading name, website, drawings, knowhow and technical innovation. These intangible assets are likely to play a significant role in a business’s future plans for sustainability and growth.
Businesses owning their IP rights can benefit in exploiting those rights in a number of ways. This may include creating licensing opportunities, adding value in the event of the sale of their business and if they approach business angels, venture capitalists for funding.
The main areas of IP are trademarks, copyright, designs and patents. One of the main barriers we hear raised by businesses in not protecting their IP is the cost. It should of course be seen as a relative cost, however. For example a UK trademark applied for online can cost for as little £170 and lasts for 10 years.
There are other benefits for businesses investing in the future. HMRC’s Patent Box offers an additional incentive for companies to retain and commercialise existing patents and to develop new innovative patented products. There is also the R&D Tax Credits and there is evidence to suggest that it is under claimed.
There are a number of good reasons why understanding IP will also help prevent a business from encountering difficulties. A limited company name does not necessarily give a business the right to use the name in business. It may in fact be infringing someone else’s trademark so it is strongly recommended that before incorporating a free trademark search is conducted.
The basic rule in copyright is that the creator owns – therefore if a third party creates a website, logo, takes photos, drafts content – then they will own the IP rights unless there is an assignment of copyright.
The IPO is aware that many professionals aren’t confident in their understanding of IP rights. To address this they have designed IP Equip, an online learning tool to help you understand the basics of IP.
The course is free to complete and can be accessed via desktops, tablets and smartphones. It’s also CPD accredited and has received praise from the certification service for being ‘one of the best well thought out and executed courses’ the assessment team has seen.
As part of our outreach programme we are delivering a series of joint seminars with Companies House entitled Briefing for Accounting Professionals. These events provide a great introduction to both IP and the latest news from Companies House. The next event will be in Scotland and we will shortly announce dates and locations for next year’s programme here.