Intellectual property can roughly be summed up as something you create using your mind, i.e. a story, invention, artistic work or even a symbol.
It is not uncommon that the courts have had to deal with infringement cases, where inventors have had their work illegally stolen/copied. This infringing behavior can result in massive economic damages, especially for smaller companies.
Pursuing an infringement case of any kind has the potential to bring numerous expenses. Startups as well as established companies should always cover their legal basis. Startups might need legal guidance to avoid copying other companies unintentionally, whereas established companies often look to defend their assets from infringement.
Intellectual property law includes a wide array of legal areas of contention, such as copyright law, patent law, design law and trademark law.
Having the correct type of intellectual property right helps you to stop or act against people stealing and/or copying:
- the names of your products or brands
- your inventions
- the design or look of your products
Copyright, patents, designs and trademarks each have different sets of rules. This means that, among other things, some types of work are inherently protected from the creation, whereas others require registration in order to enjoy the same protection.
Patents can protect inventions that have yet to be in the public domain. Inventions are important to keep secret. It is recommended that during development, an invention is only disclosed under a Non-Disclosure Agreement to preserve the ability to patent them in the development phase.
An invention has multiple definitions. It is often categorized by its ability to solve a problem, even if the problem it solves was not considered as such. Patent law requires registration by submission in order to enjoy legal protection.
A trade mark is any sign or characteristic that can be visually displayed and that serves to differentiate a company’s product and services from competing products and services. This entails words, sentences, slogans, names, company names or names of properties, letters and numbers, figures, shapes, accessories and packaging. Trade mark law is not inherently protected and requires registration.
Copyright law protects literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work as well as software, databases and audio/visual recordings. Unlike many other intellectual property rights, such as designs, trade marks and patents, it is not possible to register copyright in the UK. Copyright is unique in that it arises automatically in the UK as soon as certain requirements are met.
A design is a two or three dimensional appearance of a whole product or a part of the product.