Do You Know Your Trademarks From Your Trade Secrets?
If you’ve ever wondered what the difference between a trademark and a trade secret is, this episode is for you. In the show, you’ll hear from Niall Rooney, a partner in the commercial law firm FP Logue. Niall is a lawyer who specialises in the complex area of intellectual property (IP) rights with respect to food and drink businesses, big and small, global and local.
As Niall says on the show, half the battle when figuring out what approach you should take when considering your IP rights is asking the right questions. And this episode will help you to formulate the right questions as you strive to protect the IP in your business and your brands.
What You’ll Hear About in this Episode
In this episode of the show, Niall Rooney:
- Distinguishes between the 4 main parts of intellectual property (IP): patents, design rights, trademarks and copyrights.
- Explains that there’s no legal protections for ideas and concepts; rather, what can be protected is the expression of the ideas and concepts.
- Explains that simply registering a domain name does not mean it is protected as part of your IP.
- Lists questions that you as a food or drink business owner can ask in order to start thinking about how you could maximise the potential of your IP rights.
- Explains that you can’t protect your trade secrets, such as your recipes, as your IP, and what you can do instead.
- Discusses the advantages of thinking about your IP rights options early in your business journey; that IP is about being strategic and forward-looking; about being proactive and not reactive.
- Lists some of the disadvantages of taking a DIY approach to your IP rights’ filings.
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Get the Show Transcript
If audio isn’t your thing, you can download a transcript of the show here: Ep #028: Niall Rooney: Trademarks, Trade Secrets and More.
You can also find the full transcript of the show at the end of this post.
Very Sound Bites from Niall Rooney
Check out the image below for some key points Niall made on the show.
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Links Mentioned in the Show and Other Interesting Links
FP Logue’s website
FP Logue on Twitter
An interesting overview of Maltesers® as a superbrand, which, in 2012, was the third biggest confectionery brand in the UK. The article notes that the technique for creating the roundness of a Malteser® is a closely guarded trade secret. The article also shows how there may be multiple, overlapping and different IP rights available for one thing, that can be protected by the individual types of IP — an attractive IP rights’ menu.
The M’Hencha Company (see photos below, which don’t do justice to the magnificence of these cakes. Do check out the company’s own website for much better photos).
Cornish pasties and their PGI status
A thought-provoking piece, from the author of the Blackwater Distillery blog, about the recent trademarking of “Slane”. Slane Castle Irish Whiskey will soon be on the market and its co-owner (who also owns Jack Daniels), is clearly getting its intellectual property rights ducks in a row.
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Transcript of the Show
Catherine Moran: Hello, and welcome to episode 28 of The Artisan Food & Drink Business Show, the show where artisan producers tell their brand story and share the secrets of their success. I’m your host, Catherine Moran.
If you’ve ever wondered what the difference between a trademark and a trade secret is, well listen on, because today’s show is all about intellectual property rights, which include trademarks but not trade secrets.
My guest today is Niall Rooney, lawyer and partner with the Dublin-based commercial law firm, F.P. Logue. Niall specialises in intellectual property and he works with food and drink companies of all sizes — from start-ups to household names — to help them with trademarks, patents, copyright, design rights and more.
I was delighted to have the opportunity to talk to an expert who was able and willing to demystify the complex area of intellectual property rights. I’m sure Niall will clarify some of your questions, too. Here, now, is my conversation with Niall.
Welcome to The Artisan Food and Drink Business Show, Niall. Thank you for coming on the show today. I understand you’re in the middle of moving office so I appreciate the time that you’ve taken out of that busy schedule today.
Niall Rooney: Not at all, you’re very welcome.
Catherine Moran: You are an expert on what I think is a fascinating area of trademarks and copyright, and these are examples of intellectual property. Would you please kick off our conversation by defining intellectual property?
Niall Rooney: Intellectual property, sometimes called IP, is really a catch-all term for quite a diverse collection of legal rights that protect invention, creativity or identity. This includes rights called patents or sometimes called [pay-tents], trademarks and design rights and copyrights.
Patents, trademarks, design rights and copyright are the 4 main parts of what we call intellectual property. Intellectual property can be a very confusing term, sometimes misused or misunderstood. I think the thing to remember is, it’s just a handy term. It’s a shorthand to summarise various legal rights that can actually be quite different to each other and can arise in quite different circumstances.
And the key point about IP is the ‘P’, property. Intellectual property rights are the same as any other property rights. Property means that you can own something and you have the right to exclude people from it, just like a plot of land. Same with intellectual property. You can own IP, you can control IP, you can exclude people from it. You can enforce rights on it. You can use it in transactions and you can create value in it.
Catherine Moran: Right. Yes. That’s a very useful way of thinking of it and using that analogy with the plot of land. That’s very useful. So, is it true that a patent is something that relates to manufacturing, like actually making a physical object, or could you patent an idea?
Niall Rooney: No, the general rule of thumb for all IP is that there’s no protection for ideas and concepts. What’s protected is the expression of the ideas and concepts. A patent, for example, protects technical inventions; it’s a very particular type of IP and quite complex. So, in return or disclosing your invention, your technical invention to the world, you get up to 20 years’ monopoly at the registration. It needs to be new and inventive. It’s not just manufacturing equipment.
From the point of view of food and drink businesses, it can obviously be a manufacturing processes or apparatus but also things like flavours and new additives, compounds and molecules, nutraceuticals, cultures — so all across the sciences. If it’s a new technical invention, you may fall within patent and a very key point to remember about patents is that any non-confidential disclosure of the subject matter of your invention may invalidate your right to the patent.
Of all the IP rights, patents are the one to be extremely sensitive about confidentiality. Already… the subject… we’re starting to get into complex areas so another thing to remember is to find the right person to speak with to get some advice up front, and get advice early, and at least know where you stand before you start getting embroiled in the complex areas of IP rights.
Catherine Moran: Right. I’m thinking of something like Maltesers®. I think when they were invented, it’s several decades ago now , I think, I think that was quite an innovative thing and I wonder if they had a patent on the process of making Maltesers. That would be a good example, wouldn’t it, of something that you could… that would have been worth while patenting?
Niall Rooney: Well, I think, stepping back from Maltesers®, and talking about the thing, and the idea, and the concept —what the actual IP rights are — they can be multiple and overlapping and different. So everything from Maltesers®: the brand name is the trademark; there might be copyright and designs and logos. The inventions, whether they’re new additives or flavours or new processes, could be patentable, but the key is not seeing the product as the one product; it’s breaking it down into the individual items that can be protected by the individual types of intellectual property rights.
And that’s what makes it quite complex for a business because the answer for Masterfoods, or whoever owns Maltesers® may be one. If you’re a billion dollar corporation, you’ve got lots and lots of options. The IP rights’ menu is very attractive. If you’re a smaller or newer and growing business, you have some options but you don’t have the same funds, so understanding what rights are available and why they are particular benefits to your business, selecting the ones that have value for you at the right time, is a really critical.
Catherine Moran: OK. The role that e-commerce plays in a company’s business has increased significantly over the past few years and a lot of companies are operating predominantly and some of them are exclusively operating on the web and I’m wondering if a domain name is a property right?
Niall Rooney: Not of itself. When you register a domain name it’s basically a contract right with the registry, .com, .co.uk. It can be that the name that’s part of the domain name is your trademark — it’s your brand — so what’s actually protected could be the name that’s the domain name, but you have it protected as the trademark.
The mere ownership of a domain name or registration on it’s own, saying I have my domain name protected, that’s okay. I own it as an IP, that’s not correct. You may decide to register that name that is the domain name with or without the dot afterwards as a trademark, and it’s your trademark, that’s your IP.
Sometimes people take the view that business name registrations and domain name registrations mean that you own the name. You don’t. You own the name if you’ve also gone and registered the name as a trademark, or alternatively, although it usually doesn’t apply to new companies, you’ve been using it for years and built up a good will in it.
Catherine Moran: Right. Okay. Why should IP matter to companies and what are some benefits of asserting your intellectual property rights?
Niall Rooney: The key point is “property”, so you have exclusivity in your rights, be they your brands or your trademarks, your creative content like your copyright or registered design, the appearances of your products. This allows the company to have market exclusivity and get competitive advantage. With some IP rights you can get them, for example, trademarks, before you use or launch your product. Even in stealth mode, you can file and register your trademarks. As they’re property, you can license and monetise your IP. Over time your intellectual property rights can become very valuable to your business.
Catherine Moran: Sure. Yeah, so it’s all about value. And for food and drink companies, brand names, recipes, manufacturing “know how”, they can form a considerable part of the inherent value of their business, and how difficult or easy is it to value these IP assets because they’re intangible, aren’t they?
Niall Rooney: Yes. Well, valuation of intellectual property or intangible IP —intangible assets is a broader term than IP — it’s a very complex area and valuation of intangibles or intangible rights like intellectual property often involves measuring and assessing any associated business goodwill that goes with the IP. And there are various approaches, accounting approaches, to valuing goodwill but it’s quite a complex area and it’s something that if a company is at the stage where it needs to start valuing its intellectual property in that way, then it’s probably already engaged with those type of advisors.
Catherine Moran: And probably quite a large company?
Niall Rooney: Yeah, it depends. I think if you think about brands and trademarks, sometimes people take the view that “I registered my trademark, that must be worth a lot right now”, and what creates the economic value in, say, a trademark intellectual property, is the use that you put it to and the business that you build up around it, the goodwill. Some more technical IP like patents and some designs, which are more of the sort of “eureka!” variety, of themselves, they can be inherently valuable, quite inherently valuable. But the brand name-type IP, for example, trademarks, it can take time to build up value.
Catherine Moran: Sure. I came across the concept of an IP audit recently. Can you tell us what that is and what it would involve, and how often it should be carried out?
Niall Rooney: Like most things in IP, there are no exact answers in all of these terms. It depends on what’s meant by IP audits and it depends on the business itself and matching an IP audit to the business and its requirements.
So it can range from sort of a simple health check of your IP to a much deeper analysis to identify and strengthen your IP rights’ portfolio. The main purpose is to look at and what you have already, and are you looking after it and managing it right, is there any potential future IP rights or gaps within the business that are not being exploited, and to identify those opportunities and then build strategies and options and budgets as to how those goals might be achieved.
Catherine Moran: Then what about this other concept of IP risk assessment? What does that mean?
Niall Rooney: I think when most people talk about IP risk assessment, they mean others: third parties. IP is not just all about the business itself. Other people can have IP. And IP rights are exclusive, so that’s the right to stop other people doing something, mostly. Third parties can have rights, and any time a company is coming up with a new brand, new product or new technology, it needs to undertake an IP risk assessment with respect to third parties; who’s out there, what have they got? Why could it be a problem for us?
Look at the question of freedom to use and freedom to operate and freedom to register to get your own rights. Bearing in mind that IP rights are territorial, per country, and just because it’s okay in one market may not mean that it’s okay in another. Also, the risk assessment involves not just looking around and seeing what’s out there and what’s visible in the market, although that’s very important, but also looking at the various intellectual property registers, some of which are not obvious unless you go and look them up.
For example, with trademarks, in Europe, a valid trademark enforceable against you can be sitting on the European trademarks’ register for up to 5 years silently, and you will never know anything about it unless you look at the register and that can be possibly fully enforceable against you, even though you Google around and you can’t see anything there.
Again, these are quite complex questions. Each of the questions about IP breaks down into different answers based on the particular business, particular markets, but also the individual IP rights that we’re talking about. There’s no one answer based on one view of IP. It depends on whether we’re discussing trademarks, patents, copyrights, designs; they will all have different answers.
Catherine Moran: Right. How can companies check that their intellectual property rights aren’t being infringed?
Niall Rooney: That they aren’t being infringed by other people?
Catherine Moran: Yes. By, say, competitors.
Niall Rooney: Yeah, well, I think the main way to do that is to… obviously you’d have a good knowledge of your own market and your competitors and you’d have a good idea about your marketplace and your competitor intelligence. Also, undertaking even basic intellectual property register searches, some of which are not user friendly unfortunately, it’s not that they’re not freely accessible, there’s now lots of free information and free data, the Patents’ Office and trademarks offices have lots of registers that you can look up, it’s knowing what to look up and what it means. Getting a situational awareness of what’s out there and then being able to compare that to your own rights and to see who’s out there using, who’s out there filing and how does it impact on your own rights.
Catherine Moran: There are a lot of companies now who are making product, food companies and drink companies no doubt, who are making product for other companies. In that situation, do they need to consider intellectual property?
Niall Rooney: Yes. Absolutely. Oftentimes there are contracts and license agreements in place, and food and drink companies manufacturing products for third parties will be doing so under license contract from the IP right holder. A license to use intellectual property in a particular way, like any contract, will have terms and conditions and maybe warranties, but the manufacturer needs to think about who owns the IP? Is this the right person that even owns the IP in the first place? What’s the scope of the IP right that you’re being allowed to use, and on what terms? What are your permissions and what are your obligations in that? And also issues around termination. Really this is about IP licensing and the contract related to that.
Catherine Moran: Right. Yeah. Obviously it would be very important to get that all sorted out before entering into any agreement with…
Niall Rooney: Yeah. It starts with due diligence on both sides but many of these questions become more obvious when it gets down to the facts of the situation and then it’s a matter of getting into the nitty gritty of the contract and making sure that everything is covered.
Catherine Moran: Let’s move onto intellectual property strategy now. You mentioned that earlier. I’m wondering how food and drink companies can maximum the potential of their intellectual property rights?
Niall Rooney: Well, a good starting point for any food and drink company is to sort of get past the idea of IP and intellectual property and dig a little deeper in knowledge and understanding of the 4 main IP rights, patent, trademark, design right and copyright.
Learn more about those separate intellectual property rights and discuss that internally in their own business in the context of what are patents and why are they important for us? What are trademarks, why are they important for us, etc.?
Sometimes simply just seeing it all as IP, particularly for companies that are not technology based, that are consumer focused, can be a bit overwhelming. What a company really needs to know is what are these intellectual property rights, what do they do? What advantages have they got for us? What do they cost? When do you file them? Which are the best for our business? This means getting advice reasonably early, I think, and developing a strategic approach.
And to maximize the potential of IP rights, you need to pick the right IP and file it well and have a high quality registration. Then look after it properly. To see the IP rights as business issues, not just technical or marketing or accounting, and the IP filing and IP registrations is strategic and it needs a longer term view.
Catherine Moran: That’s a very good point you’ve made there about it not being just a marketing issue because I get the feeling from talking to food and drink business owners that they very much see it as a way to market, simply as a way to market their business. You mentioned the 4 key areas of intellectual property and where would trade secrets come in in all of this?
Niall Rooney: Yeah, trade secrets are extremely important, however, they’re not IP rights. We could summarise a trade secret as something that’s valuable, valuable business information or “know how”. Something that has a quality of confidentiality about it, something that’s not generally known, and that information or “know how” would give your business a competitive advantage over competitors.
And a very famous example would be the Coke® recipe or KFC®’s batter recipe. The way that… trade secrets can obviously be very valuable, and the way they’re protected is really by contract, by an agreement, a non-disclosure agreement or the express terms that you might have in other agreements. In Europe, anyway, there’s no specific legal protection for trade secrets. The European Commission is developing a harmonised trade secrets directive that’s on the way.
So, if you have very valuable information and “know how” within the business and there’s no way of filing it as an IP right and getting a registration, or a certificate, or you have no other way of identifying it as an IP right, how do you protect it? Obviously, identifying the secrets and having them recorded and written down, and marking them as confidential, and controlling the documents and the information within your organisation, and having a system, and making sure that key employees or other officers in the company are aware, and that there are policies and protocols around this confidential information.
Catherine Moran: Right. Would a product recipe, could that be seen as a trade secret?
Niall Rooney: Yes. For the most part, recipes are really… they’re an excellent example of a trade secret because it’s really difficult to protect a recipe, if at all, using the regular IP rights. Again, it’s starting back from intellectual property and seeing the main IP rights and understanding where they come from.
IP rights are there for economic reasons or market reasons. They’re there for legal protection but they’re not there as an all encompassing protection system for absolutely everything that’s in your business. The key is knowing what these intellectual property rights are, and knowing their limitations, and knowing where the gaps are in the middle and building IP into an overall business strategy that works for your company.
Catherine Moran: It’s probably very wise then, if someone… a company’s hiring a member of staff and this person is going to be making product, whether it’s a food or a drink, to ask them to sign a confidentiality agreement or something like that. Do you think that’s a good step to take?
Niall Rooney: Yes. Non-disclosure agreements and confidentiality agreements, and these would often be included in a normal employment contract and again, I think it’s just useful to understand and to see that there might be contracts and documents and lots of terms that look like standard clauses, and they have to be there.
But it’s understanding why some of that might need to be beefed up if you’re a company that has a particular trade secret and valuable business information and “know how” and gives that competitive advantage over competitors, and looking at maybe standard agreements and seeing whether they just need to be strengthened.
And sometimes companies will use, go to downloads, standard documents, and it’s just a matter of looking at them and making sure that they fit, particularly if a company, as a lot of food and drink companies do, have trade secrets that just aren’t protectable as intellectual property, but are extremely valuable to the business and to the brand.
Catherine Moran: It’s possible then, isn’t it, that food and drink companies may not be able to ensure that their recipes are copied, is there any way of ensuring that their recipes can’t be, aren’t copied?
Niall Rooney: Well, the best way of making sure your recipe isn’t copied is not telling anyone. If you publish a recipe in a book for consumers or online, obviously, there’s lots of generic recipes, or you might have a specific recipe, that’s your version of it, and that’s all part of the marketing approach to what you’re trying to sell, which is probably books or cook books.
But if it’s a strategic recipe — and it doesn’t have to be the final product, it could be some of the additives or whatever, and many consumer brands have these, whether you’re small or large — it’s really essential to know what a trade secret is, to know that non confidential disclosures of this information can result in other parties being able to “reverse engineer”, so to speak, your food product and come up with the flavour.
Of course, tied in with that is the idea of “brand” and using trademarks, so even if there’s a number of products that sort of taste various ways or sort of a category of taste that the consumer wants your one, and that’s your brand and it’s having that overall approach that they just want the one that tastes like that, but they want the one that’s called X, and that’s your trademark, and you can register your trademark and protect your brand legally as well.
Catherine Moran: Yeah, I was just thinking, there’s a company called the M’Hencha Company and they make, basically, it’s a cake. It’s made with filo or maybe brick pastry and it’s a coiled affair, and it’s stuffed with absolutely sensational products like dates and pistachios. They won some massive awards earlier this year for this particular, actually, for 2 cakes, and I was thinking other companies would love to get the recipe to make the product because of how well they’ve done with this particular recipe. I was just wondering how they’re going to protect themselves from imitators, but that’s just going to happen, isn’t it? If you have a great product, and you win awards and you’re doing very well, you’re going to be imitated.
Niall Rooney: Yes. Therefore the quality of secrecy that you may have been able to keep on your recipe could become very critical. I would think that most food and drink companies, where a recipe is very critical to the brand or to the product, that they will see that as an internal trade secret and they will identify and manage it internally, both in terms of employees and also externally, in terms of any third parties, by contracts, and they will use contract law, non-disclosure agreements and confidentiality agreements to manage it, and they will also have practices and policies internally so that a minimum amount of people know about it, and that it’s controlled because it’s extremely important to the success of the business.
Catherine Moran: Sure. Yeah. Can you tell a story of a food or drink company that suffered because it didn’t have an IP strategy in place?
Niall Rooney: Well, it’s a huge question, obviously. An IP strategy is very, very broad, but I think for most food and drink companies, most food and drink companies are consumer facing and obviously, there are companies that are make ingredients and sell to trade and other processes and products.
But for the most part, food and drink companies are about consumers and selling to consumers, and that means brands. I think breaking it down into a brand strategy or trademark legal strategy, many companies will proceed from start-up to growth and genuinely believe that they own their name and their brand, and they don’t. Maybe a third party has filed it against them and can block them and just when things are starting to go well, a third party appears and can stop them.
And the problem with selling to consumers, particularly food and drink are physical products, they’re not like websites that you can change overnight. The brand is real. The name is real. It’s often printed. It’s often etched. It’s on plastic. It’s on glass. It’s on pottery, whatever. So, it’s not something that can be changed. Without naming any companies or giving away too much, I think it’s a general sort of idea, that particularly early- to medium-stage food and drink companies that build brands and forget to use legal protection, mainly trademarks, to protect the brand. It’s probably the main mistake over and over that you come across with a food and drink company, in the sense that they don’t have an IP strategy in place, that’s probably what that means most of the time. Obviously, as they get big and grow, IP strategy can be about all kinds of other things that are much more complex.
Catherine Moran: Let’s say someone set up as a cheese maker. Would you advise them always to trademark the name of the company and the name of the cheese?
Niall Rooney: The name of the company, it depends, it’s often an operational name. But the brand name, the name under which the product will be bought and sold, generally speaking, the company won’t own the name until they register as a trademark. They may be using it for several years and built up local goodwill and things like that in common law but, generally speaking, the only way for that cheese company to have ownership in a property sense, in it’s intellectual property right around it’s brand, is to file and register a trademark.
Done early enough, it can be relatively cost effective. The later the company leaves it, the more expensive it will get, not just because of what you expect the cost to be but because there may actually be third parties that haven’t been assessed and they could be able to block the name, or the name may not be registerable for whatever reason.
All of this relates back to a company seeing intellectual property as not just a cost or a chore. It’s something that having a conversation early with the right type of advisor that fits with the stage the company’s at, learning about the intellectual property rights options and understanding that, even before launch of the product, ownership of the trademark can be achieved by filing and registering it up front.
Catherine Moran: It sounds like a very good idea to me then to do that. To register a trademark. What about, now a positive outcome for a company who had a robust IP strategy in place? Are you free to tell a story about a positive outcome?
Niall Rooney: I think again, being general, companies that, whether they’re small or large, that have a robust IP strategy and in the sense that it’s effective, robust doesn’t necessarily going around threatening people and being legal about it. It’s about having a commercial approach to your IP and that you look as if you mean business about your IP. That you’ve got sensible filings in place and IP registrations, that you know how to identify and assert the ownership, whether it’s by naming and marking the IP using the correct symbols, the correct kind of boilerplate language on the home page of your website or on your key documents. Looking as if you know that it’s your property and you think that it’s your property.
Catherine Moran: That’s good. Great. Anyway, I’ll move on then and ask you what your view of the commercial value to companies of obtaining the European Union quality designations like the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin), PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) and Traditional Specialty Guaranteed. What is your opinion on those?
Niall Rooney: Yes well, just from the European Union point of view, this is something that if you’re a food and drink company or producer, you can apply to the EU authorities to have product names protected in this way.
The PGIs or PDOs, TSGs, there’s quite a lot of them, some of them very well known, Cornish pasties and Clare Island salmon and Jersey royal potatoes and things like that. But from the point of view of a food and drink company, it’s thinking about the effort that’s required in doing this and the collaboration, perhaps, if you’re doing it as part of a group, and the administration that might be involved in nominating, having an inspection body etc., and doing up the rules and looking after it. It takes quite a lot of work but for the right product names in the right regions, it can be very, very effective, obviously.
Contrast that to the intellectual property system, which also provides the option for a company to register a collective trademark in Europe, in some counties in Europe, for a group of producers. There’s no one answer. Where product names fall within the ideas within PGIs, PDO, and the names are, or the reputation or the characteristics and the qualities are linked to geographic areas, then it can be a good idea to make the effort to try and get them registered in the EU systems, either as an individual food producer or as a group with other interested parties.
It’s about really understanding what’s involved and maybe learning from others who’ve done it before. Speaking with the relevant authorities about what’s ahead. It can take some years, as far as I know, to get through. There can be objections along the way and then the systems need to be managed and looked after afterwards.
Catherine Moran: Right. Sure. What do you think are the top 3 intellectual property mistakes that food and drink companies make?
Niall Rooney: Well, firstly, many companies are reactive and they’re not proactive. So, if they come to IP too late, or to solve a problem, and the problem is something that they have. IP is about being strategic and forward looking. The number one would be to be proactive about IP.
I think another misstep that many food and drink companies make is only seeing IP as a cost and not as value. Perhaps because IP rights are just seen as this overarching idea of something that has to be done and it’s all very complicated, and it’s very hard to see why that has value for our business. It’s about breaking down intellectual property into the core IP rights, understanding why they matter and when they matter and why and assessing and testing what the value is.
I think a third misstep, perhaps, particularly early stage companies and it’s — I understand why it happens — and it has to do with costs — is taking a DIY approach to IP rights filings. Sometimes, particularly early stage companies think they’re saving money by having a DIY approach and filing their own IP, and it may well not even get registered, but it could be wrong or ineffective for other reasons that may not be obvious.
Catherine Moran: Sure. Okay. It’s just a very good idea, really, to consult with a professional.
Niall Rooney: Yeah. Without making a sales pitch, every professional will say this, but IP is complex and there’s no one IP. It’s a catch all term for, as we said, a collection of very different legal rights that apply in all kinds of different situations, and have all kinds of advantages and disadvantages.
Having the early-stage confidential discussions with an advisor, learning about IP, learning why it works for businesses and what parts of the IP spectrum and all of these rights matter to your business and what you’re trying to do with your company, and what you’re trying to achieve, and seeing that as a journey and that the advisor can also get to know your business and help you work out the strategy over time.
Catherine Moran: Okay. Yes. So what services, then, do you offer, does your firm offer for food and drink companies in particular?
Niall Rooney: We’re a law firm based in Dublin, in Ireland, and we work with a lot of food and drink companies. My own background is not just with the early stage and artisan and SME- or SMB-type companies, but in a previous life, working with very famous Irish and international food and drink brands in various parts of the world and looking after their IP.
We offer comprehensive advice and legal services, focused on intellectual property rights, and that ranges from strategy to protection to management of your IP, and also legal transactions and enforcement and dispute resolution.
Catherine Moran: I should say that your firm is FP Logue, isn’t that correct?
Niall Rooney: Yes. FP Logue is our firm. The practitioners in our firm all have big firm backgrounds but we bring that big firm expertise to a smaller firm with lower overheads, so we strive to offer the top tier, big firm expertise and a package with flexibility and that’s better value, more cost effective for companies.
Catherine Moran: All the artisan food and drink businesses out there who have intellectual property right needs, you would be very, very amenable to helping them out?
Niall Rooney: Absolutely. Even just questions, because half the battle is having the right questions: the answers look after themselves over time. But if you can work to formulate the right questions for your business in and around the ideas of intellectual property, that’s really what can get you much more productive answers and start formulating options for your business, and you can make business decisions about these complex legal rights.
Catherine Moran: Yes. That is a very, very complex area, isn’t it and it’s very nuanced. Quite challenging. Well, actually, Niall, that’s everything I wanted to ask you today. Thank you so much for your time.
Niall Rooney: You’re very welcome.
Catherine Moran: I know that you’re on Twitter and obviously on the web, so I’ll make sure all of your links, I’ll be doing a blog piece with this as well, so I’ll make sure that all of your contact details are on there.
Niall Rooney: Thanks very much Catherine.
Catherine Moran: Good luck with the move.
Niall Rooney: Thanks a lot. Bye bye.
Catherine Moran: Take care. Bye bye.
I hope that conversation with Niall Rooney helped you to understand some of the different types of intellectual property rights, as well as how to think about how you might maximise the potential of the IP rights in your business.
You can visit FP Logue’s website at http://www.fplogue.com/ and the firm is on Twitter as @fplogue.
You can download a free transcript of the show at myartisanbusiness.com. To get updates on when I publish new episodes of the show, subscribe to my email list at myartisanbusiness.com and I’ll let you know when new episodes are live.
You can find me on Twitter as @FoodDrinkShow so please do get in touch if you have any comments, questions or suggestions.
Until next time, I’m Catherine Moran, happy cooking, happy brewing, happy fermenting, and thank you for listening.