Copyright, patents, designs and trademarks are all types of intellectual property protection. You get some types of protection automatically, others you have to apply for.
Having the right type of intellectual property protection helps you to stop people from stealing or copying:
- the names of your products or brands
- your inventions
- the design or look of your products
- things you write, make or produce
In the UK, you own intellectual property if you are the creator or have bought intellectual property rights from the creator or a previous owner. To seek professional advice you can use the free online IP Equip service, go to a local IP clinic or the British Library Business and IP Centre in London.
A trademark is a design, symbol, word, sound or phrase that identify the source of products or services and distinguish them from competitors’ offerings. Business names, logos, slogans and product labels can all be protected by trademark law.
Do I need to register my trademark?
Contrary to popular belief, simply using your trademark in commerce provides common law protections in your immediate locality. Registration can help protect your business name or other intellectual property nationwide and in other countries, allowing you to take legal action against anyone who uses it without your permission, including counterfeiters. To protect your intellectual property outside of the UK, you usually need to apply in each country you want protection in. In the UK, the registration process takes about four months if no-one objects, and registered trademarks last ten years.
When you file your trademark application, you must select the class of goods or services that your trademark will protect, and you must also identify the goods or services you provide. Therefore, your trademark will only protect the goods, services and class that you name in your application.
Copyright protects original works of authorship including graphic works, software, writing and literary works, art, photography, films, TV, music, web content and sound recordings.
The principal legislation on copyright can be found in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
Copyright protects your work and stops others from using it without your permission. You get copyright protection automatically as the creator—you don’t have to apply or pay a fee. There isn’t a register of copyright works in the UK. To learn more about this topic visit the official government reference site here.
Registered Designs and Patents
You can apply to protect your idea by registering the appearance of a product (including shape, packaging, patterns, colours, decoration) as well as protect your invention or product. It’s important to keep these types of intellectual property secret until they’re registered. If you need to discuss your idea with someone, use a non-disclosure agreement.
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