Protect your intellectual property –  an investment and not a cost

It’s well-known that Disney protects its intellectual property (IP) robustly. There are various stories (some of them probably apocryphal) about small businesses receiving letters from Disney’s lawyers threatening all kinds of dreadful legal consequences if the business keeps infringing Disney’s IP. There was a story a few years ago about a small boutique selling baby clothes somewhere in the Highlands receiving such a letter. The problem was that the shop was called ‘Tinker Bell,’ and ‘Tinker Bell’ is one of Disney’s trade marks.

In 2012, Mars Inc. wrote to the owners of a chippy in Stonehaven warning them not to apply for EU-‘protected geographical indication’ (PGI) status for the deep-fried Mars Bar (PGI status protects things like Arbroath Smokies and Stornoway Black Pudding). The chippy owners were more than a bit surprised to receive such a letter and questioned why a big US corporation was monitoring small-scale use of its IP and guarding it so jealously.

The answer is:

  1. Disney and Mars really are businesses whose main assets are IP: they own tangible assets too, but without their IP, the whole business is very greatly de-valued; and
  2. if they don’t take protective action against everyone, big or small, they risk losing the right to enforce their rights in future.

Clearly we don’t all have the resources of Disney and Mars to defend our IP, but not investing in your IP protection in the first place, or failing to defend it when it’s attacked, can be an expensive false economy.

Contact me at if we can help protect your IP.

Provided by Austin Flynn, Senior Partner at Morton Fraser Lawyers

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