What is IP?
All businesses own Intellectual Property (often referred to as IP) and it should therefore be protected.
If you own the brand name as the limited company name and website domain, you already have a level of protection. It is unlikely that a competitor will select a brand without owning the limited company name or website domain.
A patent is an asset that can be sold when it becomes valuable. It can be licenced under a franchise or other agreement so it will help your business grow without you having to increase your cost base.
Royalties can be charged for IP use.
Some banks and lenders will consider securing finance against IP or a patent. If you are looking to secure investment from a private investor they will much prefer if you are protected.
If you are a sole trader and have not protected your IP then a competitor could use your brand at any time and you would have to rely on "passing off" rights which is not safe. You only have to renew a trademark every 10 years so if you were to sell your business a big part of this will be the brand, name and trademark. Sometimes securing a Company name at Companies House or a domain name is not enough to prevent others using and abusing your IP.
Don’t give away your assets to a competitor that you have spent time, money and energy developing.
What is a Trade Mark (TM)?
Customers remember names, words, logos or sounds which is why we use them in business to sell our products. From Kelloggs to Coca-cola, all of them are counted as TM's and must be protected.
What is Copyright?
Copyright is a law that protects documents produced by an author when there is a record of them being created and covers any literary and artistic work and even spread-sheets!. If an employee creates something in the course of his or her employment it almost always belongs to the employer unless the moral rights of any design belong to the designer or artist. Sometimes a © just won’t cut the mustard.
What is a Patent?
A patent is a legal order (grant) that protects a product with new technology or technical elements from being copied. It is always advisable to apply for any patents before you advertise or discuss your product with anyone. Alternatively get a Non-Disclosure Agreement signed before discussing your product. In 2013 the government set up a tax incentive called the Patent Box which reduces a company's corporation tax by 10% on profits relating to a patented invention.
In a world where we use websites and social media I think all the above are very important considerations for your business.