Jargon buster: Intellectual property (IP)

Please do add your own jargon-busting snippets in the comments section below. The more lingo we can demystify together, the better.

Assignment: transferring IP rights to someone else.

Author: the creator of copyrighted work.

Claims: the parts of an invention you want to protect when you apply for a patent.

Confidentiality agreements (CDAs): also known as non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). You can't copyright trade secrets so you get people exposed to yours to sign one of these for legal protection.

Copy-protection devices: technology that prevents people from making copies of copyrighted work.

Copyright: free protection for creative work such as literature (manuals and marketing copy included), theatre scripts, films, music, art, broadcasts, recordings and book layouts. Copyright automatically applies to new work, so there are no forms to fill. It prevents your work being copied in any medium.

Database right: this protects databases in much the same way as copyright protects artistic works. It too is free and automatic.

Defensive patent: a type of patent that protects the owner from being sued rather than safeguarding a device.

Design right: automatic, free 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 registered design.

Enforcement: what you do to stop people infringing on your intellectual property rights, such as suing or taking out an injunction. For some IP rights you need to prove your work was copied (such as design rights). Check with the IP Office for more info.

Entitlement: the right to own a patent.

Equivalent: a patent filed overseas that's the same or very similar to a patent filed in the UK. They're usually filed by the same person on the same date.

Importation invention: an invention that already exists but is being brought to the UK for the first time.

Infringe: copying or doing the thing protected by intellectual property without permission. If someone starts manufacturing your patented device, they're infringing your IP.

Innocent infringer: someone who infringes IP who could have no way of knowing the invention or material was protected, and so is exempt from any legal action.

Insufficiency: a reason for a patent being rejected, meaning your description of your invention doesn't explain how it works.

Intellectual Property Office: the government body responsible for IP rights in the UK.

Internal priority: when you're able to file an application for the same patent someone else has already applied for within the last year and in the same country, and you get priority over them.

International patents: Patents only cover the country where you applied for them, so you need to apply elsewhere too to get international protection. See equivalent and visit the World Intellectual Property Organisation for more info.

Inutility: a reason for a patent being rejected, meaning your mechanism doesn't work.

IP rights: the umbrella term for how IP is legally protected, including trademarks, copyright, design right and patents. UK IP rights don't usually cover you in other countries so you need to apply separately there to protect your idea abroad (copyright is an exception to this).

IP: intellectual property. Property (which in legal terms mean anything you can own) that's a result of intellectual effort and original creative thinking, such as inventions, artworks or designs.

Licence: when an IP owner gives someone else permission to use their IP. It's written out as a contract.

Madrid Protocol: legal reference meaning you can apply for IP rights in other countries when you already have a patent in one.

Monopoly: exclusive rights to IP. Patents and registered designs give you a monopoly.

Moral right: the right to be recognised as the author of a copyrighted work.

Patent: IP rights covering the functionality of your product: how a specific part works. The mechanism must be new and not covered by any other patents. You need to renew a patent after five years, and then every year for up to 20 years.

Plant breeders rights: protection for newly-created varieties of plants or seeds. Go to the Plant Variety Rights Office and Seeds Division in the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Priority: how long you have after filing a patent or registered design in one country to file and equivalent application (with the same filing date) in another. Compare with internal priority.

Protect: to safeguard your idea or invention against being copied, by owning its IP rights.

Provisional specification: a short description of your invention in your IP rights application. You expand in the complete specification.

Publication right: you get rights equivalent to copyright if you're the first person to publish a literary, musical or artistic work where copyright for the work has expired.

Registered design: exclusive rights for the look of your product, including its 2D decoration but excluding functionality. The £60 registration allows you to sell or license your design. Use this IP Office table for differences between design right and registered design.

Registration: getting protection in a specific area because you've been granted a UK patent.

Renewal: IP rights expire so you have to renew them, usually for a fee. This happens after five years then annually for patents, every five years for registered designs and every ten years for trade marks.

Restoration: going about reviving your patent when it's expired because you haven't paid the fees.

Revocation: when a patent, registered design or trademark is taken off the register.

Statement of Invention: the part of your written application for a patent that outlines its purpose, though not detail of how it works.

Trademark: symbols that identify your business and its products, such as your logo, domain name and slogan. You need to apply for a trademark. It must be distinctive and within the bounds of law and morality.

Trailer Clause: look out for this in your employment contract. It gives an employer the rights to a former employee's inventions for a set period after they've left the business.

Working requirements: means that your invention is limited to use in a specified country. Your IP rights can be revoked if you defy this requirement.


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