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.
|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
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
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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