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Intellectual property

Having the right type of intellectual property protection helps you to stop people stealing or copying.

 

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What intellectual property is

Having the right type of intellectual property protection helps you to stop people stealing or copying:

 

  • the names of your products or brands
  • your inventions
  • the design or look of your products
  • things you write, make or produce

 

Copyright, patents, designs and trade marks are all types of intellectual property protection. You get some types of protection automatically, others you have to apply for.

What counts as intellectual property

Intellectual property is something that you create using your mind – for example, a story, an invention, an artistic work or a symbol.

 

Owning intellectual property

 

You own intellectual property if you:

  • created it (and it meets the requirements for copyrighta patent or a design)
  • bought intellectual property rights from the creator or a previous owner
  • have a brand that could be a trade mark, for example, a well-known product name

 

Intellectual property can:

  • have more than one owner
  • belong to people or businesses
  • be sold or transferred

 

Intellectual property rights allow you to make money from the intellectual property you own.

 

Intellectual property if you’re self-employed

 

If you’re self-employed, you usually own the intellectual property even if your work was commissioned by someone else – unless your contract with them gives them the rights.

Protect your intellectual property

Protecting your intellectual property makes it easier to take legal action against anyone who steals or copies it.

 

Types of protection

The type of protection you can get depends on what you’ve created. You get some types of protection automatically, others you have to apply for.

 

Automatic protection
Type of protectionExamples of intellectual property
CopyrightWriting and literary works, art, photography, films, TV, music, web content, sound recordings
Design rightShapes of objects
 
 
Protection you have to apply for
Type of protectionExamples of intellectual propertyTime to allow for application
Trade marksProduct names, logos, jingles4 months
Registered designsAppearance of a product including, shape, packaging, patterns, colours, decoration1 month
PatentsInventions and products, eg machines and machine parts, tools, medicinesAround 5 years

 

Keep these types of intellectual property secret until they’re registered. If you need to discuss your idea with someone, use a non-disclosure agreement.

 

Using more than one type of protection

 

More than one type of protection could be linked to a single product, for example, you could:

  • register the name and logo as a trade mark
  • protect a product’s unique shape as a registered design
  • patent a completely new working part
  • use copyright to protect drawings of the product