How to protect your ideas with help from the British Library

IF YOU have an idea, and want to turn it into a business, you really need to be fully prepared and understand how precious your intellectual property is. When bringing an innovative product to market, it’s crucial that the right measures are taken to protect that idea from day one. It’s a dog eat dog world out there, and if you don’t get your idea protected first, you can be sure that someone else will happily take it from you.

To help you turn your ideas into business success, the British Library’s Business & IP Centre has all the information and advice you need to take your new product or service to market.

Mandy Haberman, inventor of the Anywayup Cup, has revolutionised the infant feeding cup market, and now sees annual sales of over £10m. She got to where she is now by taking advantage of the great resources made available to her, carrying out extensive research to protect her idea. Since enforcing her intellectual property rights through the courts, taking infringing companies to court in the UK, Europe and the US, and winning some tough battles against renowned names in the baby market world, Mandy has become an avid campaigner for improvements to the patent system.

To make sure you follow in Mandy’s footsteps and are part of the roller, not the road, there are a number of things you need to check:

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY (IP)
IP is about protecting your original ideas, although it’s not always necessary. You need to know whether or not you have an invention that could be patented, or would a registered design, a trademark, or copyright be more appropriate? Or how about good old company secrets (it works for the Coca-Cola recipe)?

ORIGINAL INVENTION
It is important to search to see if anyone has already published or used a similar invention to your own, as this may mean that you cannot protect it. The Centre can show you how do a free patent search.

Research your market Before you commercialise your idea it’s essential that you find out if there is a market for it by researching your potential customers, the size of your market, trends and the major players. Market research can also help you to identify new ideas and find inspiration.

PRODUCING A PROTOTYPE, MANUFACTURING AND BRANDING
There are a number of elements that are essential in taking your idea to market. You may need to develop a prototype, manufacture your product and also get your branding and design right.

MARKETING AND SALES
You need to understand your customers and provide them with an appropriate product, while promoting it in a way that makes people want it. Market research can help you understand more about what the consumer wants and the trends that are taking place.

The saying “slow and steady wins the race” really is true when it comes to setting up a business. Skipping any stages of research can be detrimental to the success of your idea, however, with the amount of free help available, there’s no excuse.

The British Library’s Business & IP Centre is a great resource to be taken advantage of, and to find out all of the information needed to set up a successful company. Once you’ve learnt about how intellectual property applies to you and your product, are prepared, knowledgeable and realistic, your idea can too be turned into business success.

If you have a dream and an idea that you believe can be the next big thing, take all the necessary steps to make sure your hard work and determination don’t go to waste.

Neil Infield is manager at The British Library’s Business & IP Centre.