Lockdown – Never been busier?
Restricted movement but no less agile
Strange times, stranger hours and patterns of work. Disjointed, disconnected and in a world of our own, quite literally, because we’re working from home. Still, according to The Times researchers tell us we’re ‘putting in a shift’, which is nice of them. In fact, far from there being a drop in productivity working such atypical hours, reassuringly we’re told it’s right ‘up there’ where it should be and, in many cases, we are more creative than ever. Time away from the office routine can be a prime opportunity to innovate. Those that can’t innovate can at least keep house particularly in respect of intellectual property that will be so critical to businesses coming out of lockdown quickly, efficiently and in good shape with their brand intact.
Good IP Housekeeping
With effect from 24 March 2020 the intellectual property office (IPO) declared all IPO deadlines, including the renewal of trademark registrations, are on hold. So, you could sit back with the pressure off. Probably not wise. Experts say now is exactly the time to actively seek to protect every aspect of your business and brand. When the lockdown lifts, businesses will be busy doing business and filing-deadlines are easily missed lapsing registrations just when your business is fighting off the competition post COVID-19. The IPO office is open and operating – get your renewals in.
Time can now be usefully spent developing systems and processes to capture and protect all your businesses innovations and inventions. Time you won’t have later when your business expands. This may even lead to a stronger patent portfolio and enhanced business value.
Has there been a better time to write-up, collect and order all that technical information Patent attorneys annoyingly request from you prior to patent application; probably not. An idea not written up remains just an idea, unprotected and unowned. Make it yours to exploit.
Check-out the competition
Often over-looked in the melee of ordinary business times. But we’re not living through ordinary times and having an eye on the competition could:
Re-focus your direction on innovation;
Identify potential partners;
Lead to lucrative licensing agreements;
Uncover new geographical market opportunities.
It pays to watch the market.
Working from home – blurred boundaries
The clear principle in English law that makes ‘works’ created by employees during their employment belong to their employer is, suddenly, not so clear. Work time and home time are intertwined. What is produced ‘during the course of employment’ is less defined. There are some touchstones indicating employer ownership:
If the employer’s equipment is being used to create ‘works’;
The matter created is similar to, or part of what’s required normally for the job;
The works are created during normal contracted working hours.
If the employee genuinely wants to work on a side-line, time should be spent on it quite separately from work hours and ideally with the employer’s knowledge and consent.
Contractors and agencies
Don’t drop the ball! The rules are different with contractors. Get the IP ownership agreement sorted and signed before they get to work for your business. Don’t let the comfort of home reduce contractual formalities that will protect your business.
OPUS Underwriting Limited
+44 (0) 203 920 9985
Written and researched by Ben Fairclough