Any creative work recognised as being an asset or physical property is referred to as Intellectual Property (IP) and this covers four main areas – copyright, trademarks, design rights and patents.
Karen Edwards, Commercial Solicitor, explains “Copyright applies to work that has been written or recorded in some way and covers literary, dramatic works including dance and mime, films and music, sound recordings and broadcasts. Artistic works including paintings, photographs, maps, sculptures, logos and architecture are also covered. Copyright law protects you from other people using your work without your permission and you have the legal right to take action to stop this.”
A trademark identifies a product or organisation and can be a slogan, word, design or symbol that is unique. Trademarks are registered with an appointed Government body and recognised throughout the EU. The Community Trade Mark (CTM) covers all EU countries.
Patents are granted by national government to the creator of an invention, giving an exclusive right to manufacture, use or sell the invention. It also protects against unauthorised use of the invention. To obtain patent protection your invention must be new – that is – not in use anywhere at the time of filing. It must not be an adaptation or combination of products that exist already and it must have an industrial application and technical use. If you do not protect your invention by patent anyone can use it without your permission.
A design is usually the appearance of a product – colour, texture, shape etc. Usually the creator of the design owns the design rights unless the work was created while employed. The employer would then own the rights to that work. Designs can be protected by copyright and design rights and are registered in much the same way as patents.
Karen concludes “If you need any advice on copyright, trademarks, design rights and patents, please get in touch on 01202 499255.”