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Shireen Smith

Any agency that creates intellectual property for clients plays an important role in the client’s ultimate value as a business

How many people in the branding industry truly understand intellectual property (IP) law? Not enough, according to Shireen Smith, the founder of one of London’s leading IP specialist law firms Azrights. Shireen believes that branding agencies need to have a strong understanding of IP law in order to best serve their clients and maximise the profitability of their own businesses.

Shireen explains, “Branding involves creating IP. Intangible assets produced during branding should be well chosen to ensure elements like names and logos are available to use and do not infringe on somebody else’s rights. A solid understanding of IP law can help a branding agency ensure that the choices are also capable of creating potentially valuable intellectual property that is capable of protecting and improving a company’s competitive market position.

“Therefore, branding agencies need to find a way to incorporate IP considerations into their work. The practice of leaving IP considerations for clients to deal with through their own lawyers’ due diligence leaves a lot to be desired.

“Many clients lack an appreciation of the risks and opportunities that IP presents. The widespread belief that the legal aspects of branding can be passed on to clients therefore leaves them exposed. Many do not have access to lawyers with the appropriate skills to do searches during naming projects, or to give advice on copyright or designs.

“Branding agencies are much better placed to provide access to the necessary legal checks. Any agency that creates intellectual property for clients plays an important role in the client’s ultimate value as a business, so they need to take on board trademarks, copyright and designs.

“These IP laws are relevant to an agency’s own business, and also determine whether suitable IP is created for clients. For example, a good name is one that is appropriate to the business’ plans and does not infringe on anyone else’s rights. Also, it must be the right type of name so it may be uniquely owned. Once the due diligence is done, it is vital that steps are taken to protect the name before design work begins.

“That is how you ensure the identities, or other intangibles created, generate wealth and value for clients if their ventures succeed.”
The importance of names

Shireen continues, “Although there is a lot more to IP than names, names are so universally relevant to all businesses that the issues they give rise to should be taken on board by all agencies. Even if the agency is not picking a name for a client, as the name is potentially one of the most important IP assets a business uses, it is important that agencies flag this up with their clients.

Key points are:

1. Names should not infringe on the rights of others. Legal due diligence before adopting a name is crucial. If someone else is using the same name it may be appropriate to abandon that name and find another.

2. The adopted name must be capable of functioning as a trademark. Not all names are capable of being owned.

3. The name should be ‘clear’ to use before trademarking. Trademarks are cancellable so doing due diligence is essential before registering a trademark.

“Unfortunately, there is little real understanding of IP among SMEs, so agencies have an important role to play in educating their clients to help them to succeed with IP.

“Branding agencies with suitable access to IP help are better able to manage the complexity of IP laws given the central relevance of IP to the work of agencies.

“The vast majority of branding agencies do their own checks during naming projects. However, they lack access to quality advice to interpret the results of their searches. Lack of guidance to interpret the results of searches can lead to perfectly suitable names being dropped.

“The risk of leaving the legal checks to clients’ own lawyers – something many of them will not do – is that the name undergoes no legal clearance at all, and the client is left using a name which might cause problems for them several years down the line.

“Alternatively, if the client does engage its own lawyers to do legal checks then the client might be disappointed if the name does not hold up to legal scrutiny. It also puts the agency in a difficult position as to where to draw the boundary unless it has clarified in advance what legal checks the name must withstand.”

Azrights are holding an IP workshop, specially catered to creative agencies. The workshop, which is the first of its kind from the law firm, will be an intimate and interactive session covering the IP basics that will help those in creative industries avoid legal complications that can arise when dealing with intellectual property.

The workshop is taking place on Thursday 28 April 2016, from 15:00PM to 17:00PM at Azrights, 81-83 Essex Road, Islington, London, N1 2SF.

The session costs £45 +VAT per person, or £30 +VAT per person for early birds, and includes refreshments and a copy of Shireen’s book ‘Intellectual Property Revolution’.

Tickets for the event can be bought online at this link.

Led by Shireen Smith, the workshop will focus on the potential dangers that creative agencies can come across and the solutions they can implement to avoid these.

Shireen uses high profile case studies and expert advice from her book to create an engaging and highly informative session that will provide attendees with a strong understanding of IP and how they can best serve their clients and maximise the profitability of their own businesses.

A video explaining more about how the digital economy is changing IP can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRa_8OVILUo.

Links:

Azrights website: http://azrights.com/

Azrights on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRa_8OVILUo

Azrights on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Azrights

Intellectual Property Revolution: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Intellectual-Property-Revolution-Suc...

Tickets for the IP Workshop: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/intellectual-property-law-for...

ENDS

Photographs available on request. For further information about Shireen Smith and her new book please contact George Murdoch at george@famouspublicity.com or 01737 822 682 or Tina Fotherby on 07703 409 622 or tina@famouspublicity.com.

About Shireen Smith:

Shireen qualified as a solicitor in 1985 and began to focus on IP, IT, trade marks and copyright as an in-house lawyer at Reuters in the late 80s.

She has extensive practical experience of intellectual property and technology law and solid academic credentials, including a Masters in Intellectual Property law from QMW, London University. Shireen is consistently praised for the depth of her expertise and pragmatic, accessible advice.

Having developed a good grasp of the IP issues relevant to blue chip companies, she then applied that knowledge to working with start-ups and SMEs once she founded Azrights in 2005. Her company’s website is here: http://azrights.com

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