Protecting Property

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

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“On the enforcement side, EU Customs detention is an extremely cost-effective weapon against copycats, especially because most detained products will be destroyed by customs without the need for litigation in court.”

How can media technology suppliers take the essential first steps in identifying and properly protecting IP?  Technology and intellectual property (IP) have never been hotter topics than they are right now, particularly with fast-paced developments in the way IP is protected and enforced. Peter White, Director General of the International Association of Broadcasting Manufacturers and Jeremy Morton, Partner at CMS Cameron McKenna, explore how important these issues have become within the broadcast and media technology sector.

Technology and IP are at the heart of IABM members’ businesses, and member companies can undoubtedly add value by nurturing and protecting their IP in product design, software, and branding. Because there is relatively little technical standardiszation in the broadcast manufacturing industry as yet, individual businesses can create strong niches with unique competitive features — if they manage IP appropriately.

In the future, greater technical standardisation may introduce a need for media technology suppliers to follow the cross-licensing practices with which the electronics and telecoms sectors are already familiar. This development may potentially give rise to significant antitrust implications and, in turn, add to the importance of protecting IP. The problem of counterfeiting, often linked with China, also is burgeoning and making IP a more critical consideration for IABM members.

The sector that the IABM represents is experiencing the impact of huge shifts in the way consumers purchase and experience broadcast and digital media. As changes challenge the foundations of both the content and equipment supply industries, it is a good time for businesses to evaluate how well they are nurturing and using IP. Because many companies in the media technology supply sector are SMEs without large legal budgets, work with a business law firm may not be a priority, or even seem feasible. However, the IABM has partnered with CMS to offer IABM members a number of cost-effective ways to obtain IP legal advice.

First steps

IP advice and information from expert counsel can help media technology suppliers to take the essential first step of identifying and properly protecting IP. As media technology suppliers focus their resources on new product designs and software, many have little energy left for IP considerations. An IP audit can fill this gap by addressing the wide range of potential IP assets or issues, and then assessing how best to manage risk and improve that company’s strategic use of IP. Such an audit might look at the strategy for protecting IP in the business, documentation of relationships with employees regarding IP, or establishing proper record-keeping.

Coordinating and implementing a holistic IP strategy across a business or organisation, an IP audit can help to avoid painful IP pitfalls. One such scenario, which could be prevented with thoughtful strategy, is where the release of a new product outside the EU — in the United States, for example — has a negative impact on availability of design right protection in the EU. By evaluating some of the fundamentals of IP strategy, our members can be assured that they are handling IP responsibly and to the greatest advantage for the company, or target weak areas for further work.

To make this process accessible, we have created a free hotline for queries from IABM members, who can put forward initial IP-related legal queries, by phone or email. Working with CMS, we’re also making available a no-fee early dispute assessment service, which offers an initial view on an IP dispute and gives IABM members the perspective they need to decide if an IP-related dispute can be resolved most cost-effectively with the aid of a lawyer. With this knowledge, member companies can better determine the best strategy to take in building or protecting IP. If that course of action involves seeking further legal advice, they can do so with the benefit of a fee discount on CMS headline rates.

New legislation

New developments in enforcement, such as the introduction of the new EU-wide patent and “unified patent court,” are presenting new challenges and opportunities to our members, and we’re committed to helping IABM members not only understand these developments, but also to seei how they can take advantage of the EU’s powerful customs detention regime for IP infringements.

On the enforcement side, EU Customs detention is an extremely cost-effective weapon against copycats, especially because most detained products will be destroyed by customs without the need for litigation in court. The significant tax reliefs available to patent holders in various countries present another key opportunity that we’re helping IABM members to recognise and leverage in maximising the value of IP.

By helping members keep abreast of upcoming changes in the law and the latest policy debates, whether it be copyright levies on equipment, private copying exceptions, proposed changes to design rights, or the adaptation of the law to new developments such as software-as-service, cloud storage, or the developing trade in used software licenses, the IABM is giving suppliers yet another means of maintaining a competitive edge now while building a more comprehensive plan for future success.

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