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What is intellectual property

Every business has valuable intellectual assets - e.g. products, inventions, knowledge, designs - and having intellectual property (IP) rights means you can legally protect your assets and you can then:

  • license your IP
  • sell your IP
  • take legal action against anyone who steals or copies your IP

Intellectual property rights can apply to:

  • the names and logos of your products and brands
  • your unique products or inventions
  • innovative aspects of your products
  • the design or look of your products
  • written, visual or audio content

Intellectual property is something unique that you physically create. An idea alone isn't intellectual property. For example, an idea for a book doesn't count, but the words you've written do.

Owning and protecting intellectual property

You own intellectual property if you:

  • created it (and it meets the requirements for copyright, trademark, patent or design protection)
  • bought intellectual property rights from the creator or a previous owner

Your employer will usually own the IP rights to anything you create during your normal duties of employment.

Intellectual property can:

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

Protecting intellectual property

Copyright, patents, designs and trade-marks are all types of intellectual property protection. Some of these are granted automatically, others you have to apply for.

The Intellectual Property Office is responsible for IP rights in the UK and they can advise you about the different types of protection. You can also get local support and advice on intellectual property in Scotland.

You can also get local support and advice on intellectual property in Scotland from Scottish Enterprise's Intellectual Assets specialists.

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