LEGAL MATTERS with Curt Schatz 5 USEFUL TIPS TO PROTECT YOUR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY QHA REVIEW | 24 Whether you are in a hospitality sector or another industry, intellectual property (IP) rights should be treated as very valuable assets of your business. For many businesses, protecting and managing IP is important for growth and viability, and may often become very valuable to buyers in any sale process. A properly implemented IP strategy can allow your business to: • Differentiate your products or services; • Develop and promote your brand image; • Create value through marketing campaigns; and • License or sell the IP for financial gain. Taking steps to protect your IP is a worthwhile exercise and isn’t as difficult as you may think. Below we outline five useful tips to get you started. 1. IDENTIFY YOUR IP Identifying your IP involves reviewing all names, marks, logos and similar assets, and determining what can, or should, be protected. When it comes to IP, no business is the same – each will have a different set of IP assets. This can range from a unique business plan or innovative process, to more conventional IP assets such as a business name, trade marks (i.e. this could be a business logo or slogan), patents and other registerable assets. For businesses in the hospitality industry, the most common IP assets are: • Trade marks – a sign used to identify and distinguish your hotel or pub’s products or services from others. A trade mark is not just a “logo” – it can be a number, word, phrase, sound, colour, shape, label or picture. • Company name – the name you choose to give your company when it is registered. • Business name – the name or title under which you conduct your pub/hotel business. The Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation will require evidence that your business name is registered when making an Application for Liquor Licence or Gaming Machine Licence. • Domain name – the unique name given to your website on the internet. After you have identified your IP assets, you will need to determine what protection is necessary to meet the needs of your business. 2. IP SEARCHES Before applying for any IP rights, it is important to undertake comprehensive searches to find out whether you can register your IP assets. We can conduct targeted IP searches which allow you to: • Check for IP that is already registered; • Reduce the likelihood of infringing existing IP rights; • Assess whether your IP assets can be registered; and • Track the IP position of your competitors.
Curt Schatz LEGAL MATTERS 3. REGISTERING YOUR IP Registering your IP assets will add value to your business, provide maximum asset protection and safeguard you against being sued for infringement by a third party. For example, if a third party has already registered the same trade mark as yours, they can take legal action against your business for infringing its IP rights. A registered trade mark is likely to be the most valuable asset in your IP portfolio. Only a registered trade mark gives you the exclusive legal right to use your trade mark throughout Australia, meaning no other business can lawfully use that trade mark. Registering a company, business or domain name will not provide the same protection. 4. DEALING WITH THIRD PARTIES In order to protect your IP assets, it is important that any IP created for your business by third parties is retained by your business. These third parties could include employees, suppliers, external caterers, management companies and hotel operators where you own the freehold land of a hotel/ pub. Appropriately drafted contracts and agreements should be in place to confirm your business owns all the IP created by third parties while they are working for you or operating your hotel/pub. If your business relies on trade secrets to protect your IP, make sure that any third parties you engage sign non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements. 5. BE PROACTIVE As your business evolves, so too does your IP portfolio. It is critical that you remain vigilant and take proactive steps to protect your IP. At a minimum, we recommend that your business: • Renews its registered IP assets; • Undertakes regular reviews to determine whether new IP has been created; and • Notifies others of your IP rights within corporate documents and web pages – by using symbols such as , © or ®. The bottom line is – protecting your IP is protecting your business. It is just as important as taking out an insurance policy for a car (perhaps even more so) which we all tend to do without a second thought. So why not cross one thing off your 2018 bucket list and think about implementing an IP strategy for your business today? If you would like to discuss these issues and the structure of your business further, please do not hesitate to contact me at Mullins Lawyers on 07 3224 0230. QHA REVIEW | 25