This is the warning from the International Federation of Intellectual Property Attorneys (FICPI).
FICPI says that half of all businesses are guilty of failing to adequately protect their intellectual property (IP). Smaller firms need to be particularly aware of this as losing an idea or design to a rival firm could conceivably put them out of business.
“Organisations that do not have the proper portfolio of patents are vulnerable to IP theft which can obliterate a small company,” said Malcolm Royal, FICPI’s president.
Intellectual property covers a wide range, including inventions, brand identity, design of a product and artistic material, such as writing or music, as well as a variety of other subjects that can also fall under the umbrella of IP.
These can be protected in different ways, usually by copyright, designs, patents and trademarks. To protect them they must often be registered with the appropriate organisation.
A patent gives an inventor the right to prevent others producing, selling or using their invention without permission. An invention does not have to be a revolutionary new product, it can simply be a relatively small modification or improvement to an existing one.
There is no need to register for copyright protection as it is automatic once a record of the work concerned is created. However, there are ways of ensuring this protection, such as depositing work with a solicitor or a bank to prove that you were in possession of it at that time, which can help resolve disputes later on.
To find out more about intellectual property and how to protect it, go to www.intellectual-property.gov.uk or www.ficpi.org. You can also find help and advice in our Intellectual Property section and in an earlier article, Steps to protect your ideas.