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Introduction to intellectual property

Last updated: 01 April 2022

Introduction to intellectual property

Intellectual Property (IP) allows your business to own the things you create in a similar way to owning physical property. The internet in particular poses a huge challenge for those trying to protect their IP – the music industry has lost millions, online copyright abuse is wide spread, and consumers are increasingly used to free content on the web. Control and use your IP and make money from it.

The four main types of intellectual property are copyright, designs, patents and trade marks. Copyright automatically protects material such as literature, art, music, sound recordings etc. You can protect how something looks, the shape or pattern, with design protection. You can protect how an invention works or what it does with a patent.

Patents protect the technical and functional aspects of products and processes. You can protect the name, logo and so on that you use to identify your business or product, with a registered trade. Intellectual property also covers trade secrets, performers’ rights and much more.

Intellectual property protection gives you exclusive rights to your IP. But you must apply and renew your protection regularly.


Benefits of intellectual property protection

There are huge benefits to IP protection. If someone uses your IP without permission, that is they infringe your IP rights, you can take legal action. Even if you do not want to use your IP yourself, you can sell it, just like physical property – but remember you would then need permission to use it in future ( known as a licence) from the new owner. You may decide to let other people use your IP, but want to keep control of it – in which case you can licence it to one or more people.


Renewing intellectual property

To keep your intellectual property rights in force you must renew them at regular intervals from their filing date using the appropriate form and paying a fee.

Designs need renewing every five years, to keep your design in force for up to a maximum of 25 years.

Patents must be renewed do every year after the 5th year, to keep your patent in force for up to a maximum of 20 years.

Trade marks must be renewed every 10 years.

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