Are you in the logistics and transport industry? Do you know that you probably have valuable intellectual property (IP) that you can commercially exploit? If you want to know what intellectual property is, if your business has intellectual property and why you should know what your intellectual property rights are, then read on.
For businesses in the logistics and transport industry, it is important to establish business relationships with other entities through well-drafted contracts and monitor compliance with regulatory and industry standards. Although contracts and compliance are business essentials, businesses should also invest in protecting their IP. We set out some tips below on how to do so.
What Is Intellectual Property?
You are probably already familiar with your business assets including your fleet, systems, employees and real estate. Intellectual property is the term used to refer to intangible assets, which includes trade marks (both registered and unregistered), patents, registered designs, copyright, trade secrets, confidential information, and domain name registrations.
These are terms you have probably heard of before. You may not know it, but your business already owns intellectual property. Here are examples of the most common intellectual property businesses in the logistics and transport industry already have.
What is your business name? Do your clients know you by your business name or by a logo on your business’ stationery or your fleet? A trade mark is any sign that a business uses to distinguish its goods and services from the goods and services of other traders. It can either be a registered or unregistered trade mark. A registered trade mark is one that the Trade Marks Registrar has examined, accepted and registered under the Trade Marks Act 1995. Registered or unregistered, you should be aware of your trade mark rights and how to protect it. It can be particularly damaging to your reputation where a competitor tries to use your trade mark, or a mark similar to yours to take advantage of your reputation or confuse clients.
Tips on Trade Marks
The first step to protecting your trade mark is obtaining registration. Although unregistered trade marks are afforded some protection, it is much easier to prove ownership and entitlement to a trade mark with a registration than by relying on your use of an unregistered trade mark.
You shouldn’t stop there. Before registering your trade mark, you should be using it together with a ™ symbol to put the public on notice that a particular sign is your trade mark. Once registered, you should replace this symbol with the ® to let people know that the sign is a registered trade mark. Following registration, you should constantly be monitoring the marketplace for infringement and enforcing your trade mark rights when you need to.
Trade Secrets and Confidential Information
Trade secrets include ideas, know-how, information on how you run your business, names of your trusted contractors or suppliers, information on your processes, and any such information which you use in your day to day operations. Keeping your trade secret within the company is critical. These might be little bits of information that you may not think are pressingly important. But think about how your business will be affected if a disgruntled employee decides to work with a competitor taking with them a list of your clients or information about your suppliers. Obviously, this can cause problems as the information may be used to replicate your competitive advantage or undermine your business relationships.
Tips on Trade Secrets and Confidential Information
You can protect your trade secrets and confidential information by entering into legally binding agreements with your employees and clients. These contracts have a few functions. The first one is that it notifies the people you transact with who might not be aware of your intellectual property rights. The second way that contracts protect your intellectual property is by letting individuals and businesses know that they can only use your intellectual property under certain circumstances through a licence and only to use the IP in relation to your business dealings with them. The first two means the contract may assist in deterring others from breaching your intellectual property rights. Thirdly, contracts bind the other party to your rules on how you want others to use your IP. Since your IP becomes part of your contract, a breach may assist in stopping or getting another person from breaching your rights and providing for consequences if they do.
Does your business have a website, a brochure or publications you give out to clients, photos of your fleet, and training manuals? If one of your employees wrote these items as part of their employment or if you commissioned these for your business, then you may own the copyright in these materials. Copyright is an automatically subsisting right on original work which includes publications, videos, and photos. What this means is that you have the right to use and manipulate these materials for your business purposes and that you can prevent others from reproducing them without permission. These materials are important because they contain valuable information about your operations. It is also worth mentioning that these materials will be quite useful if you, later on, want to expand your business through franchising.
Tips on Copyright
You can protect your copyright by using the © symbol together with the name of the copyright owner on your copyright materials to put others on notice. Again, including provisions about your copyright in your contract will make others aware of your rights and assist with enforcement. Lastly, be vigilant with your materials and consider seeking legal advice as soon as you feel like your copyright may have been infringed or misused.
As a logistics and transport business, there might be legal needs that are more glaringly obvious than intellectual property. In fact, it is very rare for a logistics and transport business to think about their intellectual property until a breach or dispute arises. As in most things, this should not be the case. Get on top of your intellectual property assets now while your business is going well. Do not wait for a dispute or a breach to happen before you act. Questions? Get in touch with our IP lawyers on 1300 544 755.