Many inventors, artists, and creative individuals make the mistake of thinking that their intellectual property is automatically protected from imitation or theft. While this is certainly true in some cases, the complicated world of intellectual property law can make it difficult to know whether or not you’re truly protected.
In the UK, there are four different areas of intellectual property law: design rights, patents, copyrights, and trademarks. Each aspect of intellectual property protects something different – a creative work, for example, is protected by copyright, while a new type of technology is protected by patent.
As you may be able to see, there is a reasonable degree of crossover between most types of intellectual property protection and the creative works or designs they are designed to protect. A new technology could be both creative and a design, making it difficult to know whether it’s best protected by copyright or a patent.
If you’re confused about the best way to protect your intellectual property, it’s very important to speak with an experienced IP lawyer. Inventions, designs, and creative works that aren’t protected by any form of intellectual property protection are open to duplication and imitation from other people, making them very vulnerable.
In some cases, you may not need to seek any type of protection for your intellectual property. Artworks, for example, are normally protected by copyright after they are completed, preventing the need for any type of formal process of registration.
There are certain conditions to this ‘automatic’ protection. Artists need to mark all of their work as copyright protected by listing their name and the work’s creation date before it becomes public.
In other cases, however, you will need to take part in a formal registration process to protect your intellectual property. Patents, for example, need to be registered in order to offer any legal protection for your technology or design. You will need to prove that your patent protects a new intention, and is not protecting a modified version of an existing invention.
Patents are only issued for inventions, technologies, and designs that can be built and used. This does not necessarily exclude non-physical technologies – digital or virtual technologies can also be patented. However, it does exclude innovations in mathematical or scientific thinking, which can be used but not built.
Many other forms of intellectual property exist, with most able to be protected using either patents, copyright, design rights, or trademarks. The design for a certain type of product can be registered and licensed to businesses and individuals, giving its creator a level of control and protection over its use and development.
It’s also possible to register more than one form of intellectual property protection for a single invention, design, or creative work. A new product, for example, could be protected using both a patent and a trademark, securing it from theft by businesses and protecting its name from improper use.
This is a normal process for many products and technologies, which are frequently protected using a combination of patents, design rights, and trademarks.
About the Author: This guide to intellectual property protection was written by Vannin Capital. Visit their website to learn more about corporate litigation options in the UK.