Protect Your Creativity, Says Milky Tea

Did you know that intellectual property (IP) is one of the most valuable assets your creative business will ever own? Ahead of our creative community festival, Liverpool-based games studio Milky Tea shares some advice on how we can (and should) do more to protect our designs and innovations…

We’ve all heard horror stories about intellectual property rights. Remember Claire’s Accessories being accused of copying Tatty Devine jewellery designs? Or the media storm about who really owns the Innocent Smoothies logo? Intellectual property (IP) is the collective name for the group of rights that protect your intangible assets; in other words, creative works, know-how and technological innovations. Taking IP seriously, therefore, can help you protect your brand, designs and artwork from potential infringements.

There are four main types of IP you will almost certainly have heard of: patents, which protect new inventions and innovations; trade marks, which protect your company name and logo (or your brand); designs, which protect the visual appearance of a product; and copyright, which protects written and creative works, like websites, music, film and photographs.

As someone who really knows his IP onions – having to do the paperwork to protect animation, illustration and games designs on a regular basis – we talked to Jon Holmes, the Founder and MD of Liverpool-based Milky Tea Studios, to find out more…

Binary Fest: Hi Jon! How important really is IP to Milky Tea? And can you explain why?

Jon Holmes: As a game development studio, IP is massively important to us. It gives us the flexibility to create content and then possibly re-use it for other purposes and formulate other business deals.

For instance, we’ve created games where clients have approached us and asked us if they can have a similar game, but with their character in it other than ours, or with XY and Z changed. If we didn’t own or create our own IP, then this would be difficult and, in essence, we would have to create the game entirely again from scratch. We wouldn't have the content to work on and other opportunities would never materialise.

IP gives us more flexibility and allows us to constantly improve our content. It also increases the overall value of our business and brings in new revenue streams.

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What do you think are the most common misconceptions about IP?

Mainly that you need an expensive law firm. There is so much information out there that anyone can get their heads around IP and what copyright, registered designs, trade marks and patents mean, and what you can do to protect the content you create [like IP for Business, a range of online support tools from the national Intellectual Property Office (IPO), or Liverpool’s Business & IP Centre, one of only seven of its kind in the UK, which is based in Liverpool Central Library].

However, you will need a lawyer to put together an agreement and enforce any possible issues. Most law firms are very approachable and even open to deals that best work for you and your business. Sometimes law firms are the best business development people because they are constantly looking to bring people together to create an agreement of some sort. So take advantage of that and tell them what you are looking for.

What top advice have you received about the IP process that you can share with us?

Probably to understand the terminology and the differences between copyright, patents, registered designs and trade marks. Try to talk to businesses who’ve licensed content, and ask them about the process.

Find a really good, honest law firm who is not interested in your short term business but your long term one, and is willing to offer a deal to get you working with them and build a business relationship. Also ensure the law firm you go with has worldwide partners, as you may need to form an agreement or take action abroad one day.

Trust me, these things do happen in this global, digital age, so you may need someone who has access to representatives in the US, for instance.

Lastly, go to good IP events like Brand Licensing in London, which will allow you to see how you can creatively exploit your IP and talk to people first-hand about the process.

Thanks Jon!

Coffin Dodgers Kart racing game, developed by Milky Tea Studios, is out now on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Find out more at Building a Better Business: An Introduction to Intellectual Property, a free workshop from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), at the Liverpool and Sefton Chambers of Commerce, 26 May 2016, 9.30am-12.00pm. Learn about IP rights and how they can benefit your business directly from the experts!

The IPO will also be on hand during Liverpool's International Festival of Business (IFB), June 2016. Working in partnership with the British Library, you will be able to access some on-the-spot, free IP advice; please visit the IFB website for more details.

Binary Festival 2016 Blog: a special media partnership between The Double Negative arts magazine, Creative Tourist culture and travel site and Binary Blog. See the Festival on 24 and 25 May 2016 in Liverpool, UK

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