The UK Rules
Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property and Work

It is important to understand how intellectual property and your work relate to each other in law. Find out how to protect your work and whether copyright, design right, patents, and trade marks apply to it.

So, what is intellectual property? In simple terms, it is an invention or some kind of work resulting from creativity that qualifies for certain protection rights against theft.

Types of Intellectual Property Protection

There are several different types of protection for intellectual property. Having the right type will help to stop others copying (or stealing):

Copyright, designs, patents, and trade marks are all common methods of protecting intellectual property. In fact, your work would get certain types of protection by an automatic process. But, you would have to apply for others.

Things that Count as Intellectual Property

Creating something unique 'physically' would be something that counts as intellectual property. So, having only an idea about something (by itself) would not count.

Here's an example:

You might have an innovative idea for writing a children's book. But, even though the actual idea would not count as intellectual property, putting words about the book in print... would.

Ownership of Intellectual Property

The ownership of intellectual property and your work would have a legal basis for protection against theft if you:

In fact, more than one individual can own the same intellectual property. Likewise, it can either belong to people or to businesses, which also means you can sell it or transfer it to someone else.

Intellectual Property Rights for Self Employed

As a rule, being self-employed means you would own the intellectual property by yourself. It would apply even if someone else commissioned the work. An exception to this rule would occur if a contract gives ownership rights to the other party.

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Note: In most cases, owning the intellectual property for something you created in relation to the work of your employer would not qualify.

How to Protect Intellectual Property

There are several important reasons for protecting your intellectual property and your work. It also simplifies the process of taking legal action against anyone who copies or steals it.

As the owner, it would be your responsibility to defend your intellectual property against an IP infringement.

The product or service you create will determine what type of protection you can get. Certain types of protection occur 'automatically', whereas you would need to apply for other types.

Automatic Protection:

Protection You Need to Apply For:

Note: You should keep the information on these types of intellectual properties a secret until they get registered. You can use non-disclosure agreements (NDA) if the idea needs discussing with someone.

Using Several Types of Intellectual Property Protection

Intellectual property law UK allows you to link more than one type of protection to a single product. For example, you would be able to:

Where to Get Free Help and Advice

There are several ways to get help with intellectual property right. Generally, you should first consider which type of protection you are going to need.

You can get help and expert advice from:

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

Copyrights

Understanding how copyright protects your work can help avoid cases of infringement. Further details in the guide explain:

  • How long copyright lasts in United Kingdom
  • How to stop people using your work (without permission)
  • The process of licencing and selling a copyright you own

Designs

The shape and configuration of objects get automatic protection by design right in United Kingdom. The section also covers:

  • Application procedure to register a design
  • How to find a registered design
  • How to update or cancel your registered designs

Patents

A patents step by step guide is a good place to start if you have a novel idea for patenting. The section explains the patent process with extra information on:

  • How to apply for, change, renew, or update a patent
  • How to file documents for a pending United Kingdom patent
  • How to search for a patent (or patent decisions)

Trade Marks

Learning how to register a trade mark will help to protect your brand. The advice and information in the section also clarifies:

  • How to renew or search for a trade mark (or trade mark decisions)
  • Procedures for updating or surrendering your registered trade marks
  • The process of giving notice of your intention to oppose a trade mark

Note: The short video [1:20 seconds] is part of the IP Basics series. It provides a quick introduction to intellectual property produced by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO).


Intellectual Property: How to Protect Your Work in United Kingdom

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