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, trade marks, designs, and patents.
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 United Kingdom (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.
A trade mark protects your brand such as, a name of a product or service. Once a trade mark is registered you can take legal action against anyone who may use your brand without your permission. The registration process takes around four months if no one objects and a registered trade mark lasts for ten years.
A trade mark can include logos, sounds, colours, and words but it must be unique. However, it cannot be offensive, misleading, non-distinctive or to like state symbols. It cannot be a three-dimensional shape related to the trade mark or be descriptive of the goods or services it is associated with.
You can license out or sell your trade mark.
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.
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 get. The application process is complicated, expensive, and long. It takes approximately five years to get a patent.
Along with protecting your IP you should include a copyright notice on your website. A copyright notice informs the public that the work is protected by copyright. It identifies the copyright owner and shows the year of first publication. A copyright notice can assist the owner if the work is infringed as it provides evidence of publication and can limit a claim of the defence of innocent infringement and provide evidence for the damages claim.