Within the current highly competitive framework by virtue of economic globalisation and the growing importance of social media, it is absolutely essential not to “neglect” the legal protection of the greatest assets of businesses: their ideas! Who would have guessed, for example, that in 1950 a simple plastic box was going to revolutionise the life of billions of consumers? More than 75 years later – with thousands of granted patents and innumerable registered marks – Tupperware remains a pioneer and is now holder of the patent for an exclusive device to grow vegetables in space. A simple “box” may, after all, be very profitable!
The truth is that the speed of the dissemination of ideas is nowadays very different from what it was 50 or even 10 years ago! Companies are now also much more exposed if they do not protect their rights at an early stage, whether they are trademark rights, designs, logos, models or patents. When an idea is good, there is always someone eager to “copy” or misappropriate it. We must never forget this, because some things never change.
It is also important to stress, for example, that market research should never be underestimated. Many successful businesses enjoy a long life (as happens with Tupperware, Coca-Cola and many others) because their proprietors regularly conduct market surveys to identify potential competitors, understand their target market, or recognise possible consumer problems. This is one of the simplest ways for entrepreneurs to follow market trends and maintain a competitive advantage by assessing their business opportunities.
Another aspect which currently also has a tendency to change is the relationship between companies and lawyers and/or Official Intellectual Property Agents – and change for the better! Nowadays, there is a true partnership between both parties: inventors and Intellectual Property attorneys. The closer this relationship is, the better it will be possible to protect the rights and safeguard the interests of companies and inventors.
When a lawyer spends some time in direct contact with the “inventors” of companies, with the marketeers and with the sales teams, a new way of assessing the needs of companies arises. Inventors, marketeers and salespeople have a very specific language, which is in no way similar to the technical and sometimes too “legal” jargon of lawyers. There is a whole different way of thinking and presenting ideas. When a lawyer “gets inside” the “head of the business”, when he is able to “speak the same language”, when he sometimes uses the same jargon as the inventors or designers, the close relationship between these partners – legal team and company – grows exponentially and makes it possible to have greater clarity in both the presentation of ideas and establishment of strategies for defending the interests of the company and its inventors/designers.
The best legal assistance is that which is willing to better understand, even beforehand, the true essence of the “business” of a company, its purpose, its targets, its goals, contacting directly with those who are “on the ground” as regards the goods to be sold, the projects to be implemented, the services to be provided, that is to say, side-by-side with the company in defence of its assets, because this is what true partners do!
A final note of caution: we must remember that no one but the proprietor will ascertain whether any intellectual property rights have been infringed. It is incumbent on the owners (person or company) to guarantee that no one will use their assets or copy their ideas, but this means that they must be protected beforehand.