How to protect your intellectual property
Your business has intellectual property (IP), and it's one of
your most valuable assets. It sets you apart from your competitors.
In many cases it is your key to commercial success. Protecting it
from sneaky business copy-cats is one of the most important things
you can do. Use this guide to find out how and why you to protect
What is intellectual property?
- Property, in legal terms, means anything you can own.
Intellectual property (IP) is property that's a result of mental
effort and original creative thinking.
- Inventions, artworks, designs, works of literature, logos,
brands and creations are all examples of IP.
- The most common types of IP are patents, trademarks, copyright
- Different types of IP fall are split into two categories:
industrial property and copyright.
- Industrial property is for things like devices and inventions
(which can be patented), trademarks, and industrial designs.
- Copyright refers to artistic works, such as works of
literature, photographs, musical works, drawings, paintings,
sculpture, photography, and theatrical works.
Why do you need to protect your IP?
- Protecting your IP is a safeguard against unscrupulous
- You need it to protect your brand and design, original
inventions and creations, new technological creations, business
name, slogans, logo, and marketing and advertising copy.
- You can take anyone who copies your protected IP without your
permission to court. This is, however, expensive. You need to be
able to prove your IP was infringed.
- You can also license or sell your IP to other businesses for a
few once it's protected.
- You also need to make sure you're not infringing other
business' IP, else you face legal action.
Protecting your IP
- First you need to identify what IP you have to protect.
- Use our guide on the different types of IP to identify what type of
protection you need and whether you need to apply for it.
- Some types are automatic and free (such as copyright), others
you need to apply and pay for.
- For the types of IP rights you have to pay for (such as
patenting) you need to establish whether it's worth the money. Make
sure your idea is commercially viable before committing time and
money, and that it looks likely to generate more money than the
- Patenting can be a very long, difficult and expensive process
(think thousands of pounds and upwards of six months, or often
years). Consulting an IP solicitor wouldn't go astray, and you need
to make sure you've got the time and money for the process.
- Before trying to protect your own IP, or indeed before
finalising any decision on using it, run patent searches and
trademark searches to ensure you're not infringing any other
business' - or you risk a crushing legal suit.
Copyright: a category for IP that refers to
Trademark: symbols that identify your business and
its products, such as your logo, domain name and slogan.
Design right: protection for the 3D aspects of your
design, excluding surface decoration (which is covered by
registered design). Use this IP
Office table for differences between design right and
Patent: IP rights covering the functionality of your
product: how a specific part works. The mechanism must be
IP rights: the umbrella term for how IP is legally
protected, including trademarks, copyright, design right and
Industrial property: a category of IP that refers to
things such as devices and inventions (which can be patented),
trademarks, and industrial designs.
Infringe: copy or do the thing protected by
intellectual property without permission. If someone starts
manufacturing your patented device, they're infringing your IP.
Smarta Business Builder
To help you on your business journey, we've created Smarta Business Builder, the complete online
tools package for growing your business. Website
Documents and Email - all in one place
- from just £20 per month with no contract! Try it out today.