Millar McCall Wylie urge business to use World Intellectual Property Day to Know their IP Rights

With World Intellectual Property (IP) Day was celebrated last Friday and Northern Ireland law firm, Millar McCall Wylie, used the day to urge Northern Ireland businesses to recognise and safeguard their intellectual property.

World Intellectual Property Day is a global initiative that celebrates the role that IP rights play in encouraging innovation and creativity.

IP distinguishes businesses, brands, products and concepts. It could be at the very core of a business, such as a software company, or it could lie in the value of a businesses’ brand, either way it is vitally important to protect it.

Copyright, patents, designs and trade marks are all types of IP protection. Some protection you receive automatically, while others you must apply for and secure. In a fast-paced, competitive world, IP is an integral part of business and it is important to know not only how to protect it, but how to exploit it to generate revenue or recognition for example.

Millar McCall Wylie is working with a broad range of NI businesses ensuring they both protect their own IP and also secure relevant rights when producing or creating something new, from new technology to films.

The local law firm also recently reviewed how Europe’s new copyright legislation may impact Northern Ireland businesses. The new laws will bring sweeping changes in the area of internet, digital IP and content sharing if implemented.

Amidst continuing Brexit discussions, the European Parliament voted in favor of the hotly debated Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive last month, seeking to reinforce the rights of publishers and journalists online.

The new directive, which many have argued is long overdue, aims to update existing copyright laws to take account of the internet and new technology. The legislation has been broadly welcomed by artists, news publishers and journalists who often see their work circulating freely, with very little remuneration for it.

The European Commission stated the new law will “protect creativity in the digital age”. This is despite concerns that it may impact freedom of speech of content creators and potentially stifle creativity.  Platforms like Facebook and Google are expected to be more cautious in including copyright material going forward and are likely to adopt additional filters.

Abbie Long, Partner at the full-service law firm commented: “With the total investment in screen and media in NI increasing significantly, many businesses and individuals, from production companies to musicians and film-makers, could have greater online copyright protection under the new laws.  . If you are unsure of how to protect your creative work, legal guidance will ensure the correct parameters and licences are in place.”

Millar McCall Wylie has assessed the key implications of the new legislation if implemented in Northern Ireland, including:

  • The Directive may give local copyright owners a better chance to secure fair licensing agreements. Fair remuneration for publishers is one of the principles in the Directive, helping news publishers invest in fact-checked, professional content and ultimately benefitting readers with high-quality content.
  • Online content sharing providers, like Facebook and Google, will be liable for making publicly available copyright-protected works and they will be required to obtain authorisation from the copyright owners. If licences are not put in place, platforms will have to make best efforts to ensure content not authorised by copyright owners is not available on their sites.
  • With the use of social media and online platforms growing, Northern Ireland companies will need to be careful in ensuring they are not breaching digital copyright with content they are choosing to share on their channels.
  • Sharing of snippets of articles online and on social channels should generally still be permitted under the new Directive including uploading of protected works for quotation, criticism, review, caricature, parody or pastiche; memes and Gifs should also continue to be shared.

 Ultimately, how the Directive will affect local businesses will depend on how it is implemented by each member state in the coming months. 

 Abbie Long concluded: “The Directive will now go to the EU Council for approval, with member states then having two years to implement legislation, possibly with some imposing stricter measures than others. What will this mean if the UK leaves the EU? It could choose to implement the Directive even if it was not required to do so; this remains to be seen. Our advice to all local businesses is to carefully review all aspect of your own IP and to seek guidance in recognising it and protecting it as the importance of IP can’t be underestimated.”

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