The answer to this question is yes; there are precautionary measures that you can take to shield your creative works and inventions. As COVID-19 spread across the world, the amount of free time that people had multiplied like never before. Therefore, people had time to create some truly innovative works. These works could ultimately be world-changing and develop society in an unprecedented way. But have you made sure that you will be recognised amongst all of this: should you apply for intellectual property rights to protect your creative work?
What are intellectual property rights?
Intellectual property is something that you create using your mind. It refers to any original creation of the human mind (i.e., intellectual creation) such as literary works, stories, artistic works, scientific or technical creations, inventions, computer codes, designs, symbols, names, images etc. Often abbreviated to IPR, these rights seek to protect the exclusivity of a creative work or invention to the creator of the work or inventor for a set period. These rights provide protection for creations and inventions and enable individuals to gain recognition for their creations and inventions and in some cases, earn money from these creations. With the protection of IPRs people are encouraged to create and commercialise their inventions driving society forward and improving our living standards.
What types of things can I protect?
An idea. Something that may seem as small as an idea can be protected by an IPR. An idea is an intellectual creation and thus should be capable of protection. From this is the basis of what a piece of intellectual property truly is and it is quite surprising what you can protect. A whole range of things fall under the umbrella term ‘intellectual property’.
Registration is voluntary but registration provides important benefits such as proof of ownership. So always make sure to protect your intellectual property no matter how big or small it may seem. Remember everything starts off as an idea.
What types of IP rights are accessible to me?
Trademarks: a trademark is a distinctive mark or sign that is used in trade to distinguish your goods or services. Trademarks identify the source of products to the consumer. Trademarks set out to protect your brand – essentially what makes you, you. , Trademark rights come from the use of the product and therefore can be held indefinitely. Like a copyright registration of a trademark is not required but registering your trademark can offer additional benefits as it creates an asset and gives you a clearer right to enforce the trademark. UK trademark registrations can be renewed every 10 years for a fee and can last indefinitely so long as they are used and renewed.
Design registration: Design registrations protect the appearance, shape, configuration or decoration of the whole or part of a product/logo from the shape of an aircraft to a design of a cloth. The design may consist of two-dimensional features such as lines, colour or patterns or three-dimensional features such as the shape or surface of an article. To be protected an industrial design must be new or original and create a different overall impression to any earlier design already in the market. The design should not be made public before registration is sought. Design registrations can be renewed on payment of renewal fees every five years lasting for a maximum of twenty-five years with continual renewal.
Copyright: Protects expressions of ideas and creative works such as books, audio/visual recordings, movies, photos, musical compositions, databases, website content, articles and software applications. You do not need to register or pay for copyright. Copyright protection exists from the moment the work is created – once you create something it is yours. So, you do not need to apply for this type of protection and it usually lasts for life plus an additional fifty years.
Patent: A patent is an exclusive intellectual property right that can be used to protect inventions (or discoveries) that are new (i.e., not yet in the public domain), non-obvious and useful e.g. a new machine, a new process (i.e. way of doing things) etc. It is essential to keep inventions secret and disclose them only under a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) in order to retain the ability to patent them. When a person holds a patent others are prevented under law from making or using the product or offering the product for sale. Like trademark protection, patent protection is territorial so protection of a trademark in one territory will not protect it in another. It is important to note that getting a patent is a lengthy process requiring professional help. There are also strict guidelines, but we are here to help you through the whole process. It is all worth it though as this gives you twenty years of protection.
Trade Secrets: Trade secrets are specific private information that is vital to a business because it gives the business a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Trade secrets protect secret processes, distribution methods and other confidential information. If a trade secret is acquired by another company it could harm the original owner. Examples of trade secrets would include the recipes for Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pepsi or Coca-Cola or customer lists. There is no specific register so you do not have to register your trade secret to protect it. In the United Kingdom trade secrets can be protected under the common law of confidence by keeping the information secret and only disclosing it to those who have signed an NDA. However, if you are the owner of a trade secret and someone steals your trade secret or discloses it you can issue legal proceedings against the “thief” and ask the court to prevent them from using and or disclosing your trade secret.
These are just a few of the potential avenues that you could take. You should regularly take stock of your IP assets and carry out an “IP Audit”. This will help in ensuring that your IP protection is up to date. We can go through all the available options with you personally or alternatively you can visit the services section of our website before contacting us.
What happens if someone infringes my IPRs?
Well, the good news is that you can (come to us for legal advice and we will be more than willing to help). Firstly, we will walk you through the relevant steps to take to stop the infringement from happening. To get started we could send the other party a letter (known as a “cease and desist” letter) making them aware of their breach and requesting that they stop. We can also explain the other options available to you, for example, you could agree to grant the other party a licence to use your IPR. Essentially, this means charging them a fee to use your intellectual property.
If none of these solutions work, then mediation or court proceedings could work for you. We can give you guidance throughout and help you find the best pathway for you. So let Pure Business Law help!
How Pure Business Law can we help?
Pure Business Law are specialist IP solicitors based in Bedford and London and operating nationally. If you need advice on an IP claim or dispute or wish to carry out an IP Audit, please contact us on 01234 938089 or alternatively you can contact us by email at email@example.com and a member of our team will be in touch as quickly as possible. Pure Business Law is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and is a licensed member of the Law Society of England and Wales.