Intellectual Property: explained

Intellectual Property (IP) is something unique that is physically created. Protecting your intellectual property makes it easier to take legal action against anyone who steals or copying your work. These are some examples of how people with an IP right can take legal action against anybody that steals or copies their product : the name of your product or brand, your invention, the things you produce and the design or look of your product. Moreover, intellectual property can be owned by more than one owner, a group of people or business and it can be sold or transferred.

There are 5 main types of intellectual property; the type of IP protection you get depends on the design of the product you have created, some of the IP you can get automatically and some you have to apply for. The 5 types of IP are: trade mark, registered design rights, unregistered design rights, patents and copyright. There are 2 types of IP protection that you get automatically, they are: the design right and copyright. Therefore, trademarks, registered designs and patents are applied for.

A trade mark is a sign or expression or any other mark of trade origin. It distinguishes the goods/services of one trader to another. Businesses can do this in many forms, including: words, slogans, logos and colours etc. Trade marks should not be: descriptive, offensive and include geographical names. Trade marks do not have a maximum lifespan, as long as they are renewed.

A registered design right protects the appearance of a product and it gives you the legal right to stop anyone from using or producing your design. In order for a registered design right to be valid it must be innovative and have individual character. However, the design is not registrable: if it does not have individual character, offensive and dictated by the products function. In the UK registered design rights can be protected for up to 25 years if the design is renewed every 5 years.

An unregistered design right protects the shape of a potentially marketable product. It is used to prevent unauthorised copying of an original design. Unregistered design rights are automatic and are treated similarly to copyright.

A patent is a commercial intellectual property (IP) right. They are also known as: ‘the protection for an invention’. It gives its owner the legal rights to exclude others from: making, using, selling and importing an invention for a limited period of years (20 years). This means that, the patent owner also has the right to decide who may use the patented invention. In addition to this, the general rule suggests that the inventor is the first person entitled.

Copyright is a law that protects the use of your work once your idea has been expressed. In addition to this, it is also a legal monopoly that protects published or unpublished original work. These type of original work includes: original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works, sound recordings, films etc.

By Cherno Diallo, a student at St George Catholic College in Southampton

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