With the advancement of the digital age, we have more inventors, creatives and self-employed people than ever before, and easy access to other people’s ideas. This is why IP law is essential for all businesses, from small startups to multinationals.
Protecting your intellectual property effectively from the outset means that, should there be the cause for any legal proceedings, you will already be covered in the event of someone infringing your IP.
There have been some high profile cases of IP infringement, from large companies who, for example, find student designs and use them to create products. It can be difficult to prove this if you have not taken steps to protect your IP. The type of steps you can take to protect your IP are actually partially dependent on what exactly you have created.
In short, intellectual property is something you have actually carried through from inception to creation. So, an idea for a new design is not protected, but the actual design is.
Four main groups make up the IP precautions. These are patents, trade marks, copyright and registered designs. To stand the best chance of protecting your IP, get the wheels in motion for the most applicable of these ASAP.
Patents are granted by the country’s government to the inventor. They are territorial, meaning if you were granted a patent in the UK, you would need to apply for a separate one for protection in any other country. Essentially, they give the inventor the right to stop other people or companies from making, using or selling the invention without their permission, for a finite time.
A trade mark is like a badge of origin, which can come in the form of a slogan, logo, word, shape, title, colour and even sound. Registered within a specific class, a trademark could be used in more than one class. E.g. Galaxy chocolate and car hire have the same name.
One of the most diverse and easiest to implement forms of IP protection, copyright covers literature, art, photography, film scripts, TV, web content and many other types of content. It applies across countries and can be demarcated by using the © symbol and the date against your work.
Registering a design prevents other people from using it for up to 25 years. The elements considered relevant for this type of protection include the design’s:
- Physical shape
Ultimately, if you created the design, it is yours, unless you sell it. In this case, you need to be clear about whether you are selling the IP rights as well. If you are in any doubt about this, speak to a legal expert who is trained in IP rights, such as Withers LLP.