A section on Product Development would never be complete without some information on Intellectual Property (IP). For those small manufacturers who aim to use innovation to differentiate themselves from the competition, Intellectual Property describes the exclusive rights they can obtain under law to protect something unique they have developed.
Advanced manufacturing represents the future of the country’s economy if we embrace it. Powered by intellectual muscle, advanced manufacturing demands constantly reinventing the way we make things. The regular deployment of new and disruptive technologies into the supply chain will optimize resource use. Tomorrow, we can expect to see spare parts fabricated on demand using 3D printing and factories that take their cues from real-time analysis of “big data” from customer operations. While still in their infancies, these technologies are already being deployed today. Those jobs depend on our ability to protect the know-how we’ve developed. Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) allow us to manage our investment in innovation and commercialize new technology solutions.
A university will secure patents on a new process that can reduce waste, license it to manufacturing firms, and reinvest the proceeds into further research. A start up may use trade secrets to protect a rapidly growing technology portfolio, while it tests out market requirements and seeks out investors. Copyrights and trademarks are useful as well to protect software code that makes a plant more efficient or build a brand that becomes synonymous with high quality products. Thus, at the heart of a advanced manufacturing strategy stands a commitment to innovate and protect the fruits of that innovation using IPR.
The courts have decided a number of high profile cases in which retailers have been involved in intellectual property disputes. The issues in dispute have been diverse but together they show how integral intellectual property is to retailers’ operations and how fine the margins can be between what is acceptable practice and what is not.
The variety of the claims outlined above – designs, trade marks and passing off, in particular – give a flavour of the intellectual property issues that retailers may face.
Other intellectual property issues that retailers are facing, and which at some stage may require resolution in the courts are:
- Comparative advertising and the use of a competitor’s trade marks
- The extension of gtlDs (General top level domains) to include e.g. .clothing and .shop
- Parody accounts on social media (or other forms of brand disparagement on social media)
- Stopping competitors from using your brand.