It is incredibly complicated and without it designers are worthless.
So what is Intellectual Property (IP)? It is the absolute value of everything we as designers produce. Its why the client pays your invoice, but ultimately IP is what you have created and what a client is buying.
If you pick up a pencil and piece of paper, sketch out the new logo for your new company ‘Paul Mellor Enterprises’…. that is IP. Perhaps you could call it the X-Factor of the logo. Therefore it‘s the most important thing in any designers life, so why do so many designers still have no clue about IP nor its value?
The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has four different types of IP; Patents, Design Rights, Copyright and Trademarks. I attended an IPO event last month at the Design Council, there were a number of highly regarded keynote speakers discussing just Design Rights. I have a good understanding of IP and I still found it incredibly complicated to follow. How is the layman expected to understand IP when a room of noted speakers disagree on certain aspects?
To demonstrate how complicated and valuable IP is there are a few high profile ‘patent wars’ currently being fought between some BIG players;
1. Apple claims that the Android operating system in both mobile and tablet devices infringes on the IP of their Operating System (OS), Samsung in particular has come into Apple’s firing line.
2. In response Samsung has cited Apple has infringed on it’s Android adapted OS and it’s smartphones.
3. Dyson has claimed for the last few years that VAX and Dirt Devil have infringed on the patents and design rights surrounding the DC02. The VAX alternative, the Mach Zen was released after the DC002 and Dyson feels it too closely matches their designs and ultimately has cost Dyson in lost revenue. As recently as this week, The Court of Appeal rejected Dyson’s claims that their IP has been infringed and therefore VAX is free to continue selling their Mach Zen.
4. Google recently bought a section of Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion, a huge sum of money but they purchased the business because it owns swathes of patents of huge value. They plan to use these patents as part of their very expensive arsenal in their continued battles against Apple.
5. Fashion house Louboutin has been in a long running legal dispute with YSL over the protection of the famous red soles on their stilettos. YSL won a preliminary ruling saying that Louboutin could not trademark the use of red soles. The battle has become increasingly fraught and surprisingly Tiffany the jeweller’s have come out supporting Louboutin. You might think it’s because they are best buddies but the business brains among you will realise that Tiffany has trademarked their distinctive Blue colour and if Louboutin lose in their efforts to trademark red then Tiffany will be next in the firing line!
6. The world of pop is not immune, Rihanna’s latest video took ‘inspiration’ from David LaChapelle. Mimicking dance moves, sequences and most importantly styling. She did this without permission and therefore LaChapelle claimed Rihanna had infringed on his IP and was understandably angry. Rihanna has rather large pockets and so an out of court settlement was agreed a few weeks ago.
So we come back to the ‘Value of IP’, Apple sold more than 17 million iPhones during the last quarter bringing in $10.98 billion from iPhones alone. If Samsung stops Apple from selling it’s iPhones it will cost Apple billions of Dollars every month!
In 2011’s second quarter Motorola shipped 11 million mobile devices, 440,000 of those were Motorola’s Xoom tablet devices. In other words because the IP protecting the way the iPad works is so effective it meant Motorola was forced to scrape the crumbs under Apple’s table and therefore created a shocker of product costing them billions!!
Google bought 13,000 patents when they acquired Motorola Mobility, simple maths suggests that they value Motorola’s patents at just under $1 million each!
Unfortunately not every designer is lucky enough to work with Apple, Dyson, Samsung or Louboutin on a regular basis however ignorance is not a defence, so it is a designers responsibility to make sure they get a grip on the IP of their designs. Both making sure they are not infringing on anyone else’s IP and that they know the value of what they have created.
Don’t stick your head in the sand!
Paul Mellor, Design Director