Through its growing technology, research and digital sectors, Birmingham and its surrounding areas recorded more growth than any other part of the UK between 2015 and 2017. Matthew Shaw, equity partner at Forresters explains how they’re protecting this growth.
It’s no surprise that investment in the Midlands’ innovation and research capability has never been higher. Current announcements like the University of Birmingham securing £11m for a robotics hub are becoming a regular theme, and the region is relaunching itself as a centre for innovation and creativity.
As the West Midlands’ reputation for innovation strengthens across global markets, so does the importance of supporting the region’s businesses to protect their ideas from being appropriated by rivals. This is a crucial factor if the region’s businesses and universities are to compete on the global stage and drive the economic growth of the Midlands.
Many who have created a business idea can often be unsure of whether they should protect the products or services they offer or even how to get such protection. Forresters is a firm working with businesses throughout the Midlands to help them do just that, supporting them with how, why and what protection their products or services require.
Known as intellectual property, these rights when obtained can be the source of competitive advantage for businesses, rewarding them for their creativity. Also, aside from having obvious commercial benefits from being the only entity able to sell what you sell or do what you do, intellectual property can make businesses more of an attractive investment and be used as a security for loans.
So with these advantages available, how do you know whether you need intellectual property? Well to start, you need to understand the different types of protection available, as not all are relevant to every business, product or idea. If your company focuses around a new invention, like many of the tech based businesses in Birmingham, then a patent is the protection you need to defend your differentiator. Copyright is for when your business produces original work like literature or music. Then there are trade marks, which help companies protect the different elements of a brand identity, and designs, which are very effective to protect the appearance of certain products.
Once you have determined which protection you need then there are a few important things to remember. Firstly, do you own it? The nature of expertise means that someone who comes up with an idea or concept will not necessarily be the one to bring it to life. For example, if you use an agency to come up with your new brand or a developer to create your app, then there is a chance the ownership will stay with the creator if the proper contracts aren’t in place. Secondly, as businesses look to expand outside of the UK and enter new markets, new rules can apply. Getting the correct intellectual property rights in place is an important success factor for businesses. As you can imagine, intellectual property rights are treated differently by each country with products and services only being protected in the countries in which those rights are awarded.
Without these safeguards in place, businesses become very vulnerable to competition, with rivals being able to sell the product or service at a lower price as they have no research and development costs of their own to recoup. It’s no surprise that this can cause a significant loss in market share and sales for businesses. In today’s borderless and connected world, the chance of ideas being stolen and replicated is much greater. Therefore, if the region’s tech and digital industries are to drive the growth of the West Midlands’ economy, then businesses should look to take the appropriate steps to protect their investment and creations.