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Today's attitude towards protecting intellectual property

View profile for Thomas Emmett
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The British legal system has historically protected the rights of British authors and British inventors, all the way back to the 1800’s. This is because the UK was, and still is, a powerful force in innovation. In 1842, Charles Dickens understood the importance of protecting his works and was reportedly concerned that despite the protection of his works in the UK, that he was being “robbed and rifled” in the United States, due to the cheap pirated copies of his work being circulated in that country. The US did not grant copyright protection to non citizens.

Perhaps, surprisingly, it would seem that Dickens’ attitude is not entirely reflected in modern business. Tesla, in 2014, gave public access to its patent archive in an effort to expand the industry in which it worked, taking the view that the company would benefit from this. 

Perhaps Tesla’s approach is the correct one. Dickens himself eventually discovered the financial benefit of weak copyright protection. 25 years after he first travelled to the United States to protect his intellectual property (IP), he returned in order to profit from the lack of protection his IP received. He took the view that so many people had read knock-off versions of his books that he could cash in with a lecture tour. He was successful; Dickens made a fortune as a public speaker.

It is a business decision to protect IP. For some, making IP widely available will lead, in the long term, to greater financial gain. However, for the majority, putting IP in the public domain can lead to a significant downward effect on profits or the closure of a business altogether, due to larger competitors who have larger financial reserves stepping into the market and bullying the smaller businesses out. 

We would advise that unless there is a significant commercial reason for leaving your IP unprotected, you should register your IP to provide it with as much protection as legally possible. 

If you require any assistance with protecting your intellectual property, please do not hesitate to contact me for a free 15 minute, no obligation chat. I am based at our Basildon and Chelmsford office and can be reached on 01245 453847 or email thomas.emmett@birkettlong.co.uk

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