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How to protect Intellectual Property - copyright, trademarks and patents

View profile for Matthew Fretten
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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.

Matthew Fretten, Commerical Partner, says “Copyright applies to work that has been written or recorded in some way and covers literary, dramatic works, dance and mime, music and films, sound recordings and broadcasts. Artistic works include photographs, paintings, maps, sculptures, logos and architecture. Copyright law protects you from other people using your work without your permission and you have a legal right to stop this.”  

A trademark identifies a product or organisation and can be a slogan, word, design or symbol that is unique to you. Trademarks are registered with an appointed government body and recognised throughout the EU. The Community Trade Mark (CTM) covers all EU countries. You may still be able to take action against someone who illegally uses your mark, even if you have not registered it, by using the common law of ‘passing off’. However, you must be able to prove that the mark is yours, you have built up a reputation using this mark and that you have been damaged in some way by the unlawful use of it by another person.

Design rights usually apply to the appearance of a product – colour, texture, shape etc. The creator of the design usually 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.

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. If you do not protect your invention by patent anyone can use it without your permission.

For a free initial meeting please call 01202 499255 and Matt or a member of his team will be happy to discuss any questions you may have.