Overview of IP rights

The pandemic has caused many businesses to invest in selling their goods or services online. This has meant that many businesses have had to invest in new technology, branding or packaging . As a result, intellectual property rights become more concerning, as a business will want to protect its intangible assets and not be held liable for infringing others.

This article offers a brief summary into some of the possible types of intellectual property rights and how they can be protected.

Trade marks

A trade mark is a brand name and/or a logo, sound or shape that operates to signify to the consumer the origin of the goods or services provided.

The owner of the trade mark is granted exclusive rights to use the above. If the trade mark is registered then it is protected under statute. If it is not registered, then some protection can be claimed under UK common law.

If a registered trade mark is renewed every 10 years with the UKIPO, EUIPO or WIPO , it can last indefinitely.

Passing off

This protects the goodwill associated with a logo, name or the packaging (‘get-up’) of the product. This is an automatic right that provides protection under UK common law against the unfair imitation of a product by an unauthorised third party.

The burden is on the claimant to show that is had sufficient goodwill and this was harmed.


This protects artistic output and creative expression from being copied or used without permission of the owner.  

Unlike the other intellectual property rights, this right is automatic and usually last for 70 years from the death of the owner.

Database rights

This is mainly governed by the Copyright and Rights in Databases Regulations 1997. It defines a database as “a collection of independent works, data or other materials which are arranged in a systematic or methodical way, and are individually accessible by electronic or other means”. This is an automatic right that lasts for 15 years from the date of creation or revision of the database. The owner of the database is protected from unauthorised copying.

Design rights

There are registered and unregistered design rights.

Registered design rights protect new designs for products and allow the owner to benefit from the exclusive use in its commercial pursuits. Registration lasts for a maximum of 25 years.

However, unregistered design rights only protect the three-dimensional shape and prevents another individual from copying it. It lasts for a maximum of 15 years.


This is a registrable right that protects a new invention or a new process. A patent is regularly sought in both the technology and pharmaceutical industry. The owner of the successful patent is granted the exclusive use of it for 20 years from the date of its applications. After this date, the registered information about the patent is made available to the public.

Confidential information

This protects against unauthorised disclosure of secret information. Confidential information is something that arises more frequently, with inventors seeking sponsorship from third parties or assistance with developing their ideas.

It is an automatic right that lasts indefinitely. However, it is more common place for an inventor to ask a third party to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

Please contact our Intellectual Property Department with any questions in relation to this article on 023 8023 5979.

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