Intellectual property – commonly referred to IP – denotes knowledge or creative work that can be treated as an asset or physical property; it can be owned by both businesses and individuals alike. Intellectual property often has value commercially and has strict protection from intellectual property law. This article will investigate the basics of intellectual property and intellectual property rights.
Perhaps the most famous of the intellectual property rights is the patent. They protect the features and processes that make things work and allow their inventors to profit from them. A patent is effectively a contract between an inventor and the state that – in return for disclosure of their invention – grants them a monopoly right for the use of that invention for a period of 20 years (from the date of patent application).
A patent allows you to take legal action against anyone for copying, manufacturing, selling or attempting to import your invention; usually the existence of the patent alone is enough to deter this though.
The second part of this article covers the equally famous Copyright. When compared to patenting, Copyright is a little broader in the areas that it covers; they include Literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works as well as layouts, typography, recordings and broadcasts. In order to copyright a piece of work, it must be original.
The length of a copyright protection varies depending on the type of work in question. However, it is worth noting that the length of most copyright is calculated from the death of the original creator.
Another thing to note is that if your work in copyrighted in the UK, it is usually protected internationally as well – unlike patents.
Copyright protection allows you to protect your original work from being used or distributed without explicit consent. It also gives you grounds to follow legal proceedings should the presence of a copyright now deter plagiarism.
The third section of this article is based around Trademarks – another famous form of Intellectual property protection. A trademark is sign or logo that helps to identify and differentiate a brand, product or service with a market place. Trademarks are often referred to as ‘brands’. Trademarks must be registered; if they aren’t then they aren’t in fact trademarks at all. A trademark must be renewed every 10 years.
Trademarks must follow a fairly specific set of rules, for example:
Successfully trademarking something comes with its own benefits though. For one, it is likely to deter people from using your trademark without first gaining permission. It also makes it much easier to take legal action should somebody wind up using your trademark maliciously or without permission. It also brings extra protection against counterfeit goods.
The final area of intellectual property to be covered is trade secrets. Unlike the previous sections of the article, trade secrets can be protected without a specific registration process and, as such, can be protected for an unlimited amount of time. There are some fairly specific rules regarding trade secrets and specifically, what can actually be considered a trade secret.
The information cannot be widely known information or readily accessible (it must actually be a secret)
The secret must have value commercially because of the fact that it is a secret
The owner of the secret must have made reasonable measures in order to keep the information secret
In the UK, in order to protect a trade secret legally you must disclose that the information is a secret and ensure that a Non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is signed before the information is divulged.