About Intellectual Property
|"If a man invents a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path
to his door", goes the old saying.
To this should be added, "But he must ensure his intellectual property rights are in order before he shows off his new product".
Intellectual Property Rights (or IP rights) are, broadly, Patents, Registered Designs, Design Copyright (or "Design Rights"), and Trade Marks. Patents protect technological inventions, such as how your new product works or is made. Registered Design, and Design Rights, or Copyright, might protect what the product looks like, because these protect aspects of the appearance of mass produced goods.
A trade mark is the brand name which distinguishes your product or business from the competition. It need not be a name at all. One of the most famous and certainly the oldest registered trade mark is the BASS TRIANGLE, registered in 1875 and still going strong!
If you have made a technological advance on how some article works, or is manufactured, you might consider Patent protection for the technological invention. If you are concerned with protecting the appearance, including ornamental patterns, then you should seek to secure a Registered Design.
Copyright is the right to reproduce or authorise others to reproduce artistic works, (including drawings). Copyright in a drawing does not actually depend on artistic merit, but on whether sufficient labour, skill and judgement went into producing it to give originality. A "Design Right" was specifically created by the 1988 Copyright Designs and Patents Act to protect the shape of articles.
Ensure your IP rights are in order before telling anybody about your new product, or design. Telling a third party about your idea or showing them your designs or your product could jeopardise any subsequent application to get a patent or design registration. Also what you think is a "new" idea might actually infringe some other established IP rights. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery; but not when hard cash is involved!
Consult a properly qualified IP advisor before making any attempt to exploit your new idea. Take advice on conducting preliminary searches, and on filing any relevant application to protect your new idea before proceeding to show off your new design or bringing it into use, or committing yourself to the name or logo.
Consider what protection you need for your patent or design before you show it off. Trade marks should be registered for the goods or services for which they are used or proposed to be used. Although there is no legal obligation to register a trade mark it is best to do so. Registration of a trade mark will normally be granted to the first applicant and not necessarily the first user.
A trade mark can last forever; other forms of intellectual property right do not. Patents, Design Rights and Copyright give protection for limited periods. Trade mark rights can be renewed indefinitely.
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