What is Intellectual Property? Understanding IP Rights, Negligence, Infringement & More
What is intellectual property? We define the term and explain how IP negligence and infringement can harm your organization.
Intellectual property (IP) includes inventions, designs, or artistic works used to express ideas. While intellectual property is commonly assumed to be limited to copyrights, patents, trademarks, etc., it encompasses a lot beyond these legal definitions. According to Gartner, intellectual property covers ideas that are unique and novel. If your business comes up with a new process or design to solve a problem, that’s your company’s intellectual property.
Intellectual property is an intangible asset that includes the financial and strategic assets of a company. There are many types of IP. Some of the most common ones include:
- Business designs
- Confidential business information
Why is It Important to Protect Intellectual Property?
When you register your design or trademark, it gives you the power to safeguard your company’s intellectual property. The legal rights of that IP belong to you, and other parties cannot imitate it. This stops them from tarnishing your organization’s public image or developing competing products.
With a patent, you get exclusive rights over your ideas, and your competitors cannot copy or sell them.
No matter which industry you belong to, there is always a possibility of new ideas and unique innovations. Your company can maintain a competitive edge and stay ahead in the market by claiming legal rights over your intellectual property to ensure your ideas and innovations aren’t stolen.
When you come up with an innovative idea, it’s important to get it registered or patented so you can claim your rights over it. Without the right patents in place, a company can lose its competitive edge in the market.
An Example of IP Negligence
One widely known example to demonstrate the consequences of IP disregard is the Polaroid vs. Kodak case. Polaroid had an instant camera patent that was ignored by Kodak, and as a result, Kodak was sued for $12 billion in damages. It was a long-drawn case, and the result was in Polaroid’s favor because it had a patent over that technology.
Kodak had a misguided patent strategy that cost it $925 million. Apart from that, Kodak had to shut down one of its manufacturing plants and spend $500 million more to get back all the instant cameras it sold in the market. The legal fees for this court case were $100 million, which added to the huge loss for the company.
This market disaster is one of the biggest examples of IP negligence. However, this isn’t the only case. Not paying attention to already registered patents has resulted in huge losses for several companies.
Infringing on Intellectual Property
When you have intellectual property, you also have certain rights associated with it, known as intellectual property rights. These rights prevent other people from imitating, recreating, or using that property. These rights can be in the form of patents, copyrights, trademarks, etc.
Patents have an expiration date. They are valid for 20 years in Europe and USA, and once the patent expires, its details are made public. When a legally protected IP is used by a third party, it results in patent infringement.
When an unauthorized party uses or recreates a part or all of the original work of someone, it results in copyright violations. It generally applies to work related to music, art, or literary excellence. Similarities between the original work and the allegedly copied work may be considered copyright infringement.
Trademark infringements are similar to these two. When an unauthorized party creates a mark similar to a legally registered trademark of a company, it can result in trademark infringement. While copying of marks is generally done by competitors, it can also be done by people in different industries.
Intellectual properties can be protected by registering them with the legal authorities in your country. If you have certain trade secrets that you have to share with employees, vendors, or other relevant parties in your company, they can be protected using a non-disclosure agreement (NDA).
Remediation of IP Disputes
When you face an IP dispute, its remedy is awarded by the court. Some common remedies include:
The most common remedy is providing monetary compensation for the damage suffered by the victim party.
The court will ask the infringing party to stop producing, selling, and using the protected intellectual property.
Destruction of Infringed Works
The court might ask the infringing party to destroy the material it has copied or stolen.
Legal Fee Payment
The court can also ask the infringing party to pay the legal fee of the IP holder as a part of the damage incurred to the latter.
Unregistered IP Rights
You don’t always need to get your IP registered. For example, works of art such as music, novels, movies, and other types of works are protected by IP rights even when you haven’t legally filed for their rights.
However, if you have a novel or innovative idea that might give a competitive advantage to your company, it’s best to lock up your crown jewel.