Intellectual property (IP) can be almost anything unique that you have created. It can include a product, a business or brand, your writing, an invention – any idea you have brought to life that isn’t a copy or recreation of something that already exists.
The steps to protect your IP vary if you want to register a design or apply for a trademark or patent. But, in general, registering your personal intellectual property usually requires you to:
- Make sure your work is original and unique.
- Define exactly what it is, what it looks like, or how it works.
- Apply using this information through the official routes – often via the government website.
- Wait for a response. If your application isn’t approved, you may be able to appeal.
In this guide you can understand the different types of intellectual property protection and how to apply for them. If you want to take some of the pressure off, the intellectual property lawyers available from First4lawyers have a huge amount of experience in this field.
Who can own intellectual property?
While you might expect the person who thought of the idea and created it would be the sole owner of the intellectual property rights, this isn’t always the case. The creator or team of creators can own the rights, but they can also be sold to a new owner, or be owned by a business.
If you create something as part of your work role, it’s likely your employer will own the intellectual rights – your work contract should cover this. If you are self-employed and create something on behalf of a client, your contracting agreement should state who owns the rights.
If you have a dispute with a client about an issue like this, or have any other IP-related concerns, contact us today to discuss your options.
Property protection: explained
There are two types of protection for intellectual property. The first is automatic protection, which includes copyright and design right. This covers writing (both printed and online), artwork (including photography), film (including TV shows, web series, and feature length films), and music or other sound recordings.
There is also protection that you need to apply for, which includes trademarks, registered designs and patents.
Each of these types of protection are applied to different kinds of property, and have certain rules. Here we’ll break down everything you need to know about applying for each.
How to apply for a trademark
Trademarks are typically used to protect a brand. This includes logos, the names of products or services, and any songs or sounds tied to the branding. Trademarks let you take legal action against copies or counterfeits of the brand displaying the trademarked design, and give you permission to sell or license your brand.
To register for a trademark, you’ll need to check if your branding can be qualified for a trademark. It must be totally unique and can’t be an interpretation of something that’s already trademarked. There are certain rules around what you can’t trademark, which are worth learning about if you haven’t trademarked anything before.
Once you know if your branding fits within the legislation guidelines – and hasn’t already been trademarked by someone else – you can begin the application process.
- One of the most important parts of registering for a trademark is identifying a class for the brand. The class will legally indicate the type of brand you’re registering – for example, Class 15 is used for musical instruments, while Class 38 is for telecommunications. Look at the full trademark class list to find out which class your intellectual property will fit into.
- Once you’ve identified your class, you can fill in an application form online or send in the post. The full list of trademarking application forms can be found on the government website, along with each fee – registering for a trademark will start at £170, with each additional class costing £50 each.
- You’ll find out if your application has been approved or denied within 20 days. If it’s been approved, your application will be published in the trademarks journal for a total of two months, to allow anyone to dispute the trademark.
If your application is denied, you have three options. You can either withdraw the application which totally ends the process; speak directly to the person who has disputed the application from the journal; or defend your application if it has been rejected straight away.
The latter two options include legal action, so it’s certainly worth speaking with an experienced lawyer for their assessment and guidance.
Approved trademarks last for 10 years. Once this period runs out, you’ll need to renew it.
How to register a design
If you’re looking to officially register your design – rather than simply use the automatic design right – you’ll need to send in up to seven illustrations showing the design from each angle. There are several rules for how the designs must be presented, so make sure you follow them carefully so everything goes smoothly.
If you’re only looking to register a certain part of your design, or want part of the design excluded from registry (for example, the colour), you should note this on the application.
The application form can be found on the government website, and can be submitted either online or through the post. It should also include your images, as well as a completed fee sheet – the first design you register will cost £60, with each additional design being £40.
You’ll know the results of the application within a month, and if your design hasn’t been accepted you’ll have a two-month period to argue the decision.
How to apply for a patent
Patents are used to protect inventions. Inventions are considered a product or item that is completely new, can be made and used, and isn’t a simple modification of something that currently exists.
As one of the most difficult, expensive and lengthy protection processes, government officials highly recommend you work with a patent solicitor on your application. Patents cost thousands of pounds even before you know if your application will be accepted, and take at least five years to be registered.
During this time you’ll be unable to display your invention to the public, which means you can’t sell it or even market it.
The process will require you to fill out several very specific legal forms; present evidence; request examination, and, if you’re not accepted, reapply and present information about why you previously failed to meet standards and how this has now changed.
It’s tricky to do on your own, but a specialist solicitor, such as those available through First4lawyers, will be able to help you understand if a patent is right for you and your property, give you the best chance of succeeding on your first application, and could even save you money.
Learn more with First4lawyers
Contact us for a no obligation discussion about registering your intellectual property, and find out what type of protection would be best for your circumstances.
Note: First4lawyers offers this information as guidance, not advice. Before taking any action, you should seek professional assistance tailored to your personal circumstances and not rely on First4lawyers’ online information alone.