When it comes to tangible property, the rules governing theft are clear and well understood by the vast majority of people. However, what about intangible property, such as art, writing, inventions or even just ideas. Whilst this type of property may be from the mind, therefore “intellectual”, it is still protected in law. Whether a large business, or a self-employed individual, understanding and utilising intellectual property rights is important. Especially in the modern era, where counterfeit goods and dodgy knock-offs are growing in popularity.
There are different types of intellectual property rights, with different options for different types of property. For some, you may need to apply for protection, however in some instances, protection is automatically applied.
With this in mind, what are your intellectual property rights and how do they correspond to your business?
Probably the most famous form of intellectual property protection, copyright is applied automatically, without the need for an application or payment of fees. The types of work in which copyright is applicable include, original literary work, illustration, photography, non-literary written work, sound and music recordings, film and television recordings, broadcasts and the layout of published editions of written, dramatic and musical works.
Some people choose to add a copyright symbol to their works in order to showcase that it’s protected. However, this protection will apply, whether you add the symbol or not.
Copyright protection is relatively broad, preventing the misuse of your property in a variety of ways. It prevents people from copying your work, distributing copies of your work, renting or lending copies of your work, performing your work in public, making an adaptation of your work and putting your work on the internet.
Registering a Trademark
When it comes to protecting your brand, business owners can choose to register their trademark. This allows you to prevent other parties from using your brand without permission. It also allows you to sell and license your brand, for example franchising.
When it comes to what exactly can be trademarked, this includes words, logos, colours and sounds, or some sort of combination of all of the above. However, there are strict rules about what can and cannot be trademarked, for example words that are too generic cannot be protected. It’s also worth noting that offensive branding cannot be protected.
This process requires paying a fee of at least £170, but often you’ll pay more. It’s also worth noting that the process usually takes from 3 to 4 months. Trademarks last for 10 years and you therefore need to reapply if necessary.
Registering a Design
Registering the design of a product can provide protection, should another party try to copy this design. This can be particularly important if the business is based around the product itself. You can only register a design as long as the product in question is new. Features such as the physical shape, configuration, decoration, colour and pattern, can all be part of the design. Again, there are restrictions to this type of protection, for example you can’t register offensive designs or those that include national flags or emblems.
The process of registering a design usually takes up to 3 weeks and will cost £50. This protection lasts up to 5 years and can be renewed, up to a maximum of 25 years.
A patent is a specific type of protection which is applied to inventions. The idea being that the inventor has created something new and this cannot be copied by other companies. The process of acquiring a patent can be difficult, as the requirements can be quite stringent. In order for an invention to qualify for a patent, it must be truly new and not just a modification of an existing product. There are also many things which cannot be patented, for example medical treatments or diagnoses, a scientific or mathematical theory or any sort of artistic work.
The process of acquiring a patent can last up to 5 years and will cost a minimum of £310. Once a patent has been awarded, it lasts up to 5 years and then you must reapply each year after this, up to a maximum of 20 years.
Choosing to protect your intellectual property can mean the difference between a thriving, successful business and one that is plagued with copycats and therefore struggles to get ahead. It’s only by employing these powerful tools that you can safeguard your company.
Copyright protection can be a complex issue, especially as so many businesses have to deal with a variety of financial obligations, on top of intellectual property considerations. The team at Taxation Investigation can provide expert financial and accounting solutions.