Protecting your Intellectual Property – The Basics

Intellectual Property (IP) is something that you create using your mind such as, a symbol, a story, artistic work, or an invention. It needs the right type of protection so that you can prevent others from trying to steal or copy your work. Once protected it can be bought, sold, licenced out and treated as physical property or an asset. The four main types of protection are, copyright, trademarks, designs, and patents.

Copyright:

You get copyright protection automatically so you do not need to apply or pay a fee. There is no copyright register of work in the UK. You will get this protection when you create original literary, musical, dramatic and artistic work. This includes photography, illustration, web content and broadcasts. As well as music, film and television recordings.

Copyright prevents other people from copying and then distributing your work, whether that be for financial gain or not, through renting or lending. It also prevents people from showing, playing, or performing it in public. As well as putting it on the internet or making adaptions. However, you are responsible for defending your copyright against infringement.

You can license out or sell your copyright.

The protection starts as soon as you create your work. The length it lasts for varies from twenty-five years from publication to seventy years after the authors death, depending on what the work is. Once this time has expired, anyone can use or copy your work.

Trademarks:

A trademark protects your brand such as, a name of a product or service. Once a trademark is registered you can take legal action against anyone who may use your brand without your permission. Trademarks are territorial so the owner will have to confirm where it will market the goods and services to determine where you will need to register it. In the UK, the registration process takes around four months if no one objects and a registered trademark lasts for ten years.

A trademark can include logos, sounds, colours and words but it must be unique. However, it cannot be offensive, misleading, non-distinctive or too similar with state symbols. It cannot be a three-dimensional shape related to the trademark or be descriptive of the goods or services it is associated with.

You can also license out or sell your trademark in the same way as copyright works.

Designs:

Unregistered design rights apply to the shape or configuration of an object. It automatically protects your design for fifteen years after it was created or ten years after it was first sold. It stops people from copying your design. However, for better protection you should register your design.

Registering your design stops people from stealing or copying the shape, appearance, configuration or decoration of the design. The registration process takes approximately one month. Once registered it gives you the right to stop people from using it for up to twenty-five years. However, you must renew your design every five years. It is much easier to take legal action against any infringement of the design when it is registered.

To register a design, it must be new and your own IP. It cannot be offensive or use protected logos. It must also not be an invention or how a product works.

Patents:

A patent will protect your invention. You will then be able to take legal action against anyone who makes, sells, uses or imports it without your permission. For a patent to be approved it must be inventive, new and something that can be made or used.

You cannot patent certain inventions such as, dramatic, literary, artistic or musical work. You cannot patent a discovery, theory, essential biological process or a way of doing something. Such as, a method of medical treatment or playing a game.

Patents are the most difficult form of protection to obtain. The application process is complicated, expensive and long. It takes approximately five years to get a patent.

If you wish to find out more or need advice in protecting your IP, please get in touch with the team here at Lawdit.

Written by Samuel Killoran who is a Law Student at Solent University

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