Covid-19 has presented numerous challenges for many businesses across the nation; including disruptions and delays to supply chains, reduced custom, staffing issues and the overwhelming need to reformulate their business operations to adjust to lockdown rules and restrictions.
The pandemic is very much still ongoing and with the restrictions being intensified and local lockdowns being further enforced, it is evident that we will not see the back of Coronavirus for a long while to come.
Businesses are therefore acknowledging the need to put in place long-term measures to protect themselves during this unprecedented time. We have published various articles on our web site, on how a business can protect itself against disruptions and challenges to its to supply chains and commercial contracts. However, an element that must not be overlooked, is the protection of a business’ Intellectual Property, which can often be its most valuable asset.
Abbie Anthony, Commercial and Intellectual Property Solicitor at Berry Smith Lawyers, sets out below the ways in which you can protect your Intellectual Property.
- File your applications
The UK Intellectual Property Office is still open and dealing with applications for the protection of patents and other intellectual property rights. It has been reported that there has been an increase in inventions during lockdown. If your business has experienced such an increase in intellectual property inventions and creations, you do not need to delay the filing of your applications. File your applications as soon as you can in order to secure your ownership and avoid applications getting stuck in a back-log later down the line.
- Review your employment contracts
Many businesses are now operating remotely with most employees working from home and some placed on furlough. Employers need to make sure that employment contracts state that any intellectual property created by an employee while working from home, or on furlough, is owned by the employer. It is likely that existing employment contracts do not make specific reference to furlough, in which case it is imperative that employers obtain an assignment (transfer of ownership) of any intellectual property that has been created by an employee while on furlough.
- Review your commercial contracts
Businesses will undoubtedly be reviewing their commercial contracts in view of the risk of disruption to supply and manufacturing chains. When reviewing these agreements, a business must also consider its position in relation to its intellectual property, particularly in relation to current IP licenses and whether new licenses need to be implemented to give any third parties access to their intellectual property.
Also, consider whether your licenses include a force majeure clause. Force majeure clauses provide that if an event beyond a party’s control takes place, that party will be excused from performing its obligations under the agreement. If your license includes such a clause, it may excuse licensees from their obligations under the agreement if it can be shown that their performance is being affected by Coronavirus, as pandemics / epidemics are usually classified as a ‘force majeure event’.
- Stock check your Intellectual Property
It would be wise to undertake an IP audit to take stock of any intellectual property that is unregistered, so that it can be registered, or identify ways in which any existing intellectual property can be further monetised. This will also help your business to formulate a more robust IP protection scheme.
You may be able to obtain government funding to undertake a formal IP audit, which would cover your legal costs. For more information see our article, please click HERE