Intellectual property is the collective reference for the intangible rights owned by an individual or business over their non-monetary products. Although intangible, intellectual property (also known as IP) can be sold, assigned, licensed much like ordinary assets.
There are four main types of UK intellectual property:
1. Copyright – copyright is a protection that is automatically granted over someone’s own original work, for example written work or art. If the work is copyrighted, then the owner can control when it is published, sold or reproduced and who is allowed to do so. Copyright does not apply to ideas, theories or methods; the work protected must be in a physical and permanent form.
2. Patents – a patent protects an original idea, invention or product. In order to qualify for patenting, the invention or idea must not be currently in use, must not be a scientific theory or method, a method of medical treatment or animal or plant.
3. Trade Marks – trade marks are usually given to individual logos, brand names or distinctive designs. A trade mark identifies something as being legally owned and therefore cannot be reproduced without permission from the owners. A trade marked object should not be currently generically used, make reference to a particular product, make reference to the quality of a product or make reference to a geographical area.
4. Registered Designs – a registered design number is given when an individual or company want to protect an original design. The design must not have been previously published. The registered number gives protection for the design’s individualistic features such as colour, shape and texture. The registration must be made in reference to a specific geographical area. Once registered it prevents others from using not only the same, but also similar designs.
These different forms of intellectual property can be registered and protected by applying online to the ‘Intellectual Property Office’, which is a government owned body.
The benefits of having your UK Intellectual Property Rights protected:
- Copyright: it gives the owner of the original asset the right to start legal proceedings against someone who has used their copyrighted material without being given permission. The presence of the © symbol discourages potential infringers. An injunction and/or damages can be awarded for copyright infringement. Profit can be made in owning a copyright by licensing out or selling it. A copyright can be awarded for up to 50 years.
- Patents: this gives the owner the right to stop others replicating their patented invention. An injunction and/or damages can be awarded for a patent infringement. A patent can be licensed out for a fee or sold. A patent is normally awarded for 5-20 years.
- Trade marks: using the trade mark symbol acts as a deterrent to others before using a trade marked object. It also gives the owner a legal right to take action against someone who uses the object without permission. Those who counterfeit trade marks run the risk of criminal prosecution by Trading Standards and/or the Police. A trade mark can be licensed out for a fee or sold. A trade mark can be awarded for up to 10 years.
- Registered Design: this personal registration number provides the owner with exclusive rights over the appearance of their design. An injunction and/or damages can be awarded for plagiarism of the design without permission. A registered design can be licensed out for a fee or sold. A design can be registered for up to 15 years.