The tech industry in London has never been bigger. Valued at over £180 billion at the end of 2017, the industry is expanding 2.6 times faster than the rest of the UK economy, and it’s generating record numbers of new start-ups. In this rapidly growing market, new technology is immensely valuable.
As a tech company, your aim is to generate revenue and profits from your latest tech creation, so it’s crucial that you guard your intellectual property. This is an extremely complex area of law, but as specialist tech start-up accountants we’ll help to guide you through it in coordination with legal professionals.
Understanding intellectual property
The first thing you should know is that you cannot protect an idea. You may protect the implementation of an idea and any work that you have done to realise it, but you cannot legally prevent others from using the idea itself. However, you can still protect your work if you understand what intellectual property is.
In simple terms, intellectual property is something unique that you have physically created. For example, an idea for a book doesn’t count as intellectual property, but any words you have written do.
As a tech startup, your intellectual property is likely to be the technology you are utilising and the way you are using it. Unlike an idea, intellectual property can be legally protected in a few different ways.
Different methods of protecting your tech creation
Depending on what you have created, you may need different types of protection. Some are automatically applied, such as copyright and design right, but others are not. The ones you will need to apply for manually are:
Trademarks cover the advertising and ways you make people recognise your product. In most cases, they protect product names and logos, but they can also stray into other areas such as jingles or catchphrases. You should allow up to four months to apply for one and ensure you know which class (or category) to apply for. Applications in paper form cost £200 for a single class plus £50 for each additional class. Standard online applications cost £170 plus £50 for each additional class.
- Registered designs
Registered designs protect the appearance or design of your product, including shape, packaging, pattern, colour and decoration. You should allow up to one month to register your design.
Patents cover the actual inventions and products themselves, often defined as a combination of form and purpose. There are eight stages in applying for a patent through the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), and a fee is required for some of the stages in the application process. You should allow up to five years to apply for a patent.
Of these, patents are by far the strongest form of protection, but the most complicated to understand.
Patenting your invention
Patents are the most common choice for many tech startups, but they are far from easy to obtain, as only 1 in 20 applicants gets a patent without professional help. The five-year application process for a patent costs £4,000.
Once you have held a patent for four years, you must renew it for a fee. This starts at £70 and increases each year up to £610 for the 20th year, after which you can no longer renew it. The government website has more information on the patent renewal fees and process.
How can Berley help?
As specialist accountants for tech companies in London, we will work with you and legal professionals to help you protect your latest tech creation, which may include producing a business case and the process to apply for a patent, trademark or design registration. Regardless of the path taken, the goal is to protect your Intellectual Property.
The chartered accounts at Berley have been helping small businesses across London for many years, including tech start-ups. We are familiar with the challenges you face, as well as the growth opportunities. If you want to take your tech company to the next level, give us a call today on 020 7788 8261.
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