Intellectual Property (IP) is an umbrella term for creations of the intellect such as artistic works, business names, designs, logos, inventions and slogans. Intellectual property law has evolved over centuries to protect the owners of IP. Over the last 25 years dramatic changes in the digital landscape has meant that there is now more business investment in IP than fixed capital. This is because protecting your IP not only protects your ideas from competitors but also increases the market value of your business.
McDonalds has famously trademarked the phrase “I’m lovin’ it” and Nestle has done the same with “Have a Break”. Recently Specsavers has taken things a step further and currently has an application lodged to trademark the use of the words “should’ve” and “shouldve”.
In the UK this is all looked after by the ‘Intellectual Property Office’ which is an executive agency within the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Its task is to help stimulate innovation and raise the international competitiveness of British industry through Intellectual Property Rights. There are four categories of protection for these rights:
Trademarks – These can be any sign which distinguishes your goods and services from that of another. It can be the name, colour theme, logo, slogan, domain name, music, smell, shape theme etc. You can apply to protect this for as little as £170 and the protection lasts initially for 10 years.
Design Rights – This protects the outward appearance of the product eg the shape, contour, pattern or ornamentation. The cost can be as little as £60 for your first design, however this doesn’t protect the materials, function or production method.
Patents – These can be the most significant part of a business’ Intellectual Property and are the trickiest to deal with. You will most likely need a Patent Lawyer to draw up the technical documents to lodge and check for similar patents. Although the initial costs can be high, the rights last for 20 years in most countries.
Copyright – This is used to protect books, technical reports, databases, technical plans, artworks, music, computer software, websites etc. In order for copyright to subsist, the idea must be expressed in a tangible form. A literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work must be ‘original’ and not copied, i.e. it needs to be the author’s own intellectual creation. Ownership will usually be with the creator or author but could be with their employer if produced in the ordinary course of their employment.
If you are unsure about what can be classed as Intellectual Property and the steps you can take to protect it, please contact us and we will be happy to help. Alternatively, more information can be found on the IPO website at www.gov.uk