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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 protection Examples of intellectual property
Copyright Writing and literary works, art, photography, films, TV, music, sound recordings, website content - blogs, articles, source code
Unregistered trademarks Limited protection to names (company, product, service) and logos which have not been officially registered
Design right The shape and configuration of objects

Protection you have to apply for

Type of protection Examples of intellectual property Time to allow for application
Registered trade marks Product names, logos, jingles 4 months
Registered designs Appearance of a product including shape, packaging, patterns, colours, decoration 1 month
Patents Inventions and products, e.g. machines and machine parts, tools, medicines Around 5 years

Other people's intellectual property

Just because you have created a product name or an invention does not mean that someone else has not thought of it first.

Do thorough searches to review what similar brands or inventions already exist, to ensure what you have developed does not infringe someone else's intellectual property. You can search for existing trademarks on GOV.UK.

Also consider searching or registering other assets such as:

  • your company's name with Companies House
  • registering domain names and social media channels in the UK, EU, worldwide

Always get legal advice from a specialist when considering intellectual property.

Trade secrets

Sometimes it's not possible or useful to protect your intellectual property formally. For example, if you have developed something, such as a process, which can't be copied without your knowledge, you can protect it as a trade secret. So, if you need to discuss your idea with someone, protect it by using a non-disclosure agreement.

Using more than one type of IP protection

More than one type of IP protection could be linked to a single product, e.g. 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
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