Intellectual Property

Author: Ziaad Khan, Business and IP Centre – British Library

Are you thinking of starting a business but haven’t considered intellectual property in relation to your products and services? To avoid potentially costly mistakes you might want to think again!

Intellectual Property is a legal right that allows you to protect your inventions and artistic creations which prevents anyone else from using your work without your permission. Allowing you to own things that you create in a similar way to owning any other kind of physical property.
If you are an inventor, designer, songwriter, film maker, computer programmer, cake maker, artist, photographer, novelist etc the various forms of intellectual property will allow you to protect your work.

There are five main types of intellectual property:

  1. Patents protect inventions, how they work or how they are made.
  2. Trade Marks protect names, logos, slogans etc. and allow the public to easily identify your products and services. If they like a particular product they can easily find it again and also recommend it to their friends and colleagues due to the identifying elements (name, logo, slogan etc) ie the trade mark.
  3. Registered Designs protect the outward appearance of a product ie what it looks like. Any product where the outward appearance is important (clothing, furniture, wall paper etc) can be protected with a Registered Design.
  4. Copyright protects artistic and written works such as books, films, songs, photographs, computer programmes etc.
  5. Finally the fifth type of intellectual property know as Trade Secrets and Know How whereby recipes, formulas, techniques, special skills and methodology are kept confidential.

So how does this all relate to you and your business?
Well, if you are starting a business you will need to look into protecting your name, logo or slogan that you have for your products and/or services by registering a trade mark. But before you do that you will need to see what names are already being used as you do not want to infringe on someone else’s trade mark. If you put a particular name on your website, letterheads, any printed materials – business cards, flyers etc. it will cost a lot to change all of those if you later find out that someone else is already using the same (or similar) name for the same type of products and services.
Also, if you are starting a business you will also need to look at copyright as your website and various elements within your website will be protected by copyright.
Other areas of your business may be protectable by patents, registered Designs and/or trade secrets depending on what you are doing.

So this is where things can become a little complicated; especially if you are not sure of what elements of your business can be protected and by what form of intellectual property; what can you register? How do you register? What has already been registered? Are you infringing on something that already exists?

However, most of these questions can be answered by various excellent sources of information available to anyone who wants to find out more about intellectual property and their business:

The Intellectual Property Office is the official government organisation that deals with all forms of intellectual property in the UK. You register your trade marks, patents and registered designs with them. Their website holds a wealth of information regarding all forms of intellectual property including the various registration stages, the charges, non-disclosure agreements etc.
Telephone (at a local charge rate): 0300 300 2000

It may be useful to talk to an intellectual property attorney as they can talk to you in full confidentiality about what aspects of your idea can be protected and the best way to do so as they will have practical experience and training in the protection of all forms of ideas and inventions.
The Chartered Institute Of Patent Attorneys (CIPA) is the professional body for patent attorneys in the UK and includes professionals who can advise on patents, trade marks, designs and copyright also. Most of their members will provide a free thirty minute advice session and there is a directory of attorneys on their webpage:

The City Business Library and The British Library provide various workshops and webinars on intellectual property that range from a good basic overview of patents “A Beginners Guide To intellectual Property” which covers the main areas of intellectual property and how they may apply to your business right through to specialist webinars on patent, trade mark and registered design searching.
Further information on the various Intellectual Property and Business courses available can be found from the following links:

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