Protecting your intellectual property through dispute resolution

The number of cases being brought to the UK’s specialist Intellectual Property (IP) Court has hit a record high, largely driven by an increased awareness among SMEs of the need to protect their IP.

Rachel Harrison Farleys

By Rachel Harrison, associate partner at Farleys

IP is more than just an idea or a concept – it protects genuine business assets that can be integral to your commercial operations and their long-term viability.

The reality is that such legal disputes will inevitably arise at some stage for many businesses and can be very expensive, particularly if they reach court.

It’s therefore important to develop an effective strategy for dealing with them should the need arise.

Letter before action

In general, when a dispute arises, litigation should be the last resort as it can be expensive, time-consuming and may not achieve the commercial solution you want.

Sending a letter before action can be a useful way to open up negotiations without the expense of legal proceedings.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

Court proceedings can be an effective method of IP rights enforcement.

However it’s important to note that with litigation comes risk, and court is not always the best place to resolve disputes.

Alternative forms of dispute resolution include mediation or arbitration.

Both employ a neutral third party to oversee the process and can save cost, help to maintain control over the dispute settlement process, safeguard confidentiality and also help to reach a speedy settlement without damage to reputation.

Taking legal action

If you can’t resolve the dispute any other way, legal action will be necessary and it is important to get help from a solicitor. The government’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO) can also help. IP claims are often complex and tricky to prove. There are common misconceptions regarding the ownership of IP rights which can catch out the unwary, particularly regarding copyright – therefore it’s important to speak to a specialist in this area.