Unfortunately, the issues connected with running a small business are invariably so pressing and immediate that attention to its Intellectual Property (IP) rights is probably the last things on the agenda. IP rights cover such a huge amount of modern business that they should not be simply ignored, much the opposite; such rights should be well understood, protected and managed with care.
A business’ name and branding, the way it does things, its creations, be it in writing, music or any other creative media, all contain rights capable of protection.
It is axiomatic to the entire discipline of IP protection that you must act very quickly in the event of an infringement. Delay can be a barrier to obtaining emergency relief, in the form of injunctions, for example, which is particularly relevant when your rights are being infringed on the internet (as once a copy is loose on the net, controlling it’s further spread can be near impossible). Moreover, if a business delays in taking action in respect of an infringement there is the dangerous potential that such inaction could lead to the business being deemed to have accepted and consented to the infringement which would seriously, if not completely, hamper its ability to take action against the infringing party.
Once an infringement is suspected, the first thing to do is to establish that you either own, or control/have management of, the particular IP rights infringed, and that you can prove it (preferably by reference to some form of documentation). Secondly, careful investigation and research into the actual infringement needs to be carried out – how close is the infringing copy, who is responsible for the wrongdoing? To be borne in mind is that in respect of some IP rights, for an infringement to arise there needs to be an exact copy (for, example in relation to Design Rights), some need to contain only a “substantial part” (copyrights), but for others the rules are not easily set out here.
If a business is at all concerned that its IP rights are being, or will be, infringed the very first port of call should be to speak to a specialist IP lawyer without delay so that the important issues touched upon above can be determined in relation to the in the specific facts, and most importantly, reliable guidance can be obtained in relation to the actions to be taken in order to deal with the infringement in the most effective and proportionate way.