Article by Javanna Haughton.
For many businesses, intellectual property protects more than just an idea or a concept – it protects genuine business assets that may be integral to the core services of the business and overall long-term viability.
If your idea is not legally protected, anyone can claim it as their own. And if a well-prepared and legally represented competitor learns of your invention, the company or individual may be able to obtain control over it before you
Intellectual property can consist of many different areas, from logos and corporate identity through to products, services and processes that differentiate your business offering.
It’s when these ideas are used without permission that an organisation can suffer. Almost all businesses have undoubtedly benefited from the internet, where products, services and marketing communications can reach vast audiences at relatively low costs - but this has also increased the chances of intellectual property theft. Companies of all sizes are at risk of having their unique ideas, products or services infringed upon, even if they are on the other side of the world, making intellectual property protection more important than ever.
The best IP protection for your business will vary depending on your idea.
Trade Secrets or protection of confidential information. The general requirements for qualification is that the information being protected must contain original elements, be of a confidential nature (not known to the public) for use in the business or activity which gives its owner an advantage over his competitors. Protection of Trade Secrets may also apply to ideas or concepts in the early stages of their development. If the owner shares the information with another person, whether an employee or business partner, it must be understood that the information is expected to kept secret. Legal action can be taken for unauthorised disclosure and/ or use of the information to the detriment of the owner. Trade secrets often protect newly developed designs or technical ‘know-how’.
Another form of IP protection is a copyright. Copyrights can be registered with the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office, though they do not have to be officially registered to be valid and provide protection. “Copyright consists of a bundle of different rights held by a creator of literary, artistic, musical or dramatic works. The symbol for copyright is ©, and in some jurisdictions may alternatively be written as either (c) or (C).”
Under Jamaica’s Copyright Act 1993, copyright applies to original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works, sound recordings, films, broadcasts or cable programme, typographical arrangements of published editions.
Literary works include works (other than a dramatic or musical work) which are written spoken or sung, such as poetry, plays, novels, sermons or computer programs.
Dramatic works include dances and mimes.
Musical works refer to the melodic content of the work - lyrics are treated as literary works.
Artistic works include graphic works such as paintings, drawings, maps, charts, plans, engravings, etchings, lithographs, woodcut or similar works, as well as photographs, sculptures, collages, buildings and models of buildings.
A Patent is granted for an invention of a ‘new and useful process, machine, manufacture or composition of matters’ or, any new and useful improvement of a product or process. The product or process must be inventive or novel and be of public utility (be of use to the public).
Patent protection gives the creator exclusive rights over the use of the patent. When the protection period has expired, the invention enters into the public domain, meaning that anyone can copy the invention and make improvements to it for which new for which new patents can be sought. Though the patent process can be complex, once you obtain one, you will have sole legal ownership of your invention for 14 years.
You can develop, market and sell your invention yourself, or you can license your patent so that another party can develop, market and sell your idea. This means that you have the option to collect royalties on your patent without any additional expenditure other than having the patentable idea first. However, patents do expire, and you will no longer be able to legally collect royalties after the expiration date, so such income can be limited.
An application for a grant of Letters Patent is made through the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO).
Another type of Intellectual Property that can apply to your business is a Trade Mark. The Trade Marks Act, 1999, defines a Trade Mark as:-
“Any sign that is capable of being graphically represented and capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one undertaking (i.e. any person, company or business entity) from those of another undertaking”.
If you don't register your trade mark, then someone else can. This immediately puts your business and any product or service development you are undertaking at risk. Securing a registered trademark protects your brand, and provides you with the tools to prevent someone using similar signs and riding off the back of your business. If you do not protect your trademark by registering it, then you may find you are legally prevented from expanding your business. With your brand registered, you are within your rights to take actions against parties who have attempted to register conflicting trademarks, or are operating with conflicting brands and damaging your business.
As your product or service becomes successful, the trademark itself starts to develop an intrinsic value. Business investors will assess whether you have taken the appropriate legal trademark protection to secure your brand.
There are two key considerations when deciding to protect your Intellectual Property Rights. Firstly, that your business is appropriately protected in the countries it operates or intends to operate in, and secondly, that your business is protected in all of the classes of service or products it provides.
For Additional information in Intellectual Property in Jamaica contact Jamaica Intellectual Property Office:
18 Trafalgar Road, Kingston 10
Jamaica, West Indies
Tel:876.946-1300, 946-0789, 946-9216
This article is for information purposes only and not legal advice.
Javanna Haughton is a trained paralegal and can draft legal documents.
+1 876 456 4677