The different types of IP for your business

Intellectual property (IP) protection will be one of the most important things you will do for your business, and it's surprising how much you can protect with various kinds of IP protection - but be aware that there are different kinds for the different parts of your business. This guide will help you differentiate between the kinds of protection:

  • Copyright
  • Designs
  • Patents
  • Trade Marks


Copyright protection safeguards any artistic or creative works your business may have, meaning people can only reproduce it with your permission. This includes any literature - for example, instruction manuals, drama, music, art, layouts used to publish a book or other work, recordings, and broadcasts. It can apply to any medium, so you can't reproduce a book on the internet, and a copyright protected work can have more than one copyright.

  • Copyright protects creative works
  • It can apply to any medium
  • A protected work can have more than one copyright


Design protection covers the appearance of your product - anything which might make it unique to the eye. There are three ways to protect your design. Registered designs mean it is illegal to copy or use your design in the UK for up to 25 years; design right is automatically created by the law when you create an original design and lasts for up to 15 years, and copyright is automatic if you do not plan to mass produce or manufacture your product.

  • Design protection covers your product's appearance
  • It is automatic for up to 15 years
  • You need to register and pay if you wish to protect your product for longer


A patent covers the functionality of your product - how it works, what it does, and how it does it. There are a few rules, though - the product must be new, and it must be inventive. Once you're granted the patent, you will need to renew it after five years, and then every year for up to 20 years.

  • Patents cover your product's functionality
  • It must be a new, inventive design
  • You will need to renew it after five years

Trade marks

Trade marks protect anything you use to identify your business. This includes your name, your logo, you domain name, and any slogans, shapes, colours or sounds you associate with your business. You can apply for a trade mark for any of these, as long as they are recognisably distinctive, and not deceptive, or contrary to 'law or morality'.

  • A trade mark protects your business' identity
  • Make sure it's distinctive for the goods or services you provide

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