When you do a job for a long period of time you find that you run into the same roadblocks on a regular basis. In my role at the IPO I have been helping educate businesses about intellectual property (IP) for a few years. There are a few negative remarks that I come across all the time.
One such question is:
Why should I bother registering my IP when I can’t afford to do anything about it if a dispute arises?
To be honest, it’s a fair question. Most IP disputes are civil matters so problems that can't be resolved by talking will likely result in legal action. As many small companies simply cannot afford to pay for legal representation they don’t bother to take it further and feel let down by the system. Hence the negative view on registering IP.
It’s at this stage where I always ask:
How do you protect your valuable assets and your business from legal actions?
The answer, of course, is insurance. Businesses take out a range of insurances to cover things from personal injury to expensive machinery. So why isn’t IP insurance being used as much?
IP insurance has been around for some time but it has in the past been quite expensive and difficult. But, that is all changing. The insurance industry is now offering numerous affordable policies. Most of these are ‘Before the Event’ ‘Legal Expenses Insurance’ policies or more commonly known as BTE LEI (and people say the government likes acronyms).
These changes have come about as a result of court reforms and IP BTE LEI can improve access to justice at a more reasonable cost for businesses. There are specific policies aimed at SME’s that are centred on the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (IPEC) and alternative dispute resolution options such as mediation.
The products can also be tailored to suit the businesses needs and can cover more than just enforcing and defending your rights. It can also cover you in case of invalidity claims, for damages if you lose and even for lost revenue if you were to lose your IP right.
Not every business needs IP insurance of course. Although IP can be a valuable asset not everyone treats or uses it as such. But many businesses are dependent on IP with their brand or their innovative products so really need to consider protecting their investment.
Up until recently there has been a lack of awareness of the existence of IP insurance. This is something that we have been working to change. We have worked with the insurance industry, the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA) and the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys (ITMA) to create guidance and a list of IP insurance brokers:
It will make it much easier for businesses and advisors to find the specialist they need and help us clear that roadblock one business at a time.