With piracy an increasing problem in music and film, the matter of intellectual property rights has really come to the forefront of every creative’s list of concerns. This guide will explain to you what can be considered as intellectual property, alongside the types of cover you can gain for your product:
What is intellectual property?
Intellectual property is considered to be something unique that you have created. The unique product could be something you have invented; something’s appearance; a brand and/or its logo; written content for the likes of websites and pamphlets; artistic content such as photography or illustration; film or music recordings/compositions; or computer software.
What is key to remember is that you can only protect something that has been fully produced, as in it has been wholly written or recorded; you cannot protect an idea. As such, if you tell someone your idea for a story and they develop it into a novel, you cannot sue them for breaching your intellectual property as said property is not in existence on your part.
However, in the course of business anything you produce within work time may not necessarily be yours in terms of intellectual property. Upon employment, your contract should name who owns the rights to anything your produce in the course of work, whether it belongs to you or the business. If it isn’t in the contract, make sure you ask for it to be written in as this can prevent complaints at a later date.
Types of protection
The nature of your produce is essential in deciding which kind of cover you need. Below is a brief rundown of the types of intellectual property protection and what they cover:
Copyright protection is automatic when your create something original. It protects written and literary works; dramatic, musical and artistic works and their performances; television, film, sound and music recordings; computer software; and illustration and photography. If you choose to make your work public you should post it with the © logo, your name, and the year it was created, as this shows that you own the work in question. Copyright will last for the rest of your life, and then an additional 70 years following your death. Your product will then be considered ‘in the public domain’. Copyright is also valid in overseas countries that have signed the Berne Convention, however the length of copyright waivers from country to country.
Patents protect items that you yourself have invented, and stop any other party from making, using or selling the product without your permission. To qualify for a patent, your invention has to be new; ‘genuinely inventive’ as opposed to an extension of an existing invention; and something that can be physically made and used. Patents do not cover anything covered under copyright, and patents can also not be registered for: schemes, rules or methods (including medical treatment methods); new types of plants or animals; or ideas/hypotheses. Unlike copyright, patents are not automatic so they require you to undergo a registration process to protect your property. Patent requests entail the preparation of an application that describes your invention along with statements that define its features, and are best handled in conjunction with a patent attorney. You should also search for any identical patents already in existence before filing your application. The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) will then process your request, before publishing it in the public domain to allow for any objections to be made. After this, your patent will then be granted or refused. Patents can last for up to 20 years following the initial date of application, but after four years you should renew it every year thereafter if you want to keep it.
A trademark is something that defines your business, such as a logo, sound or tagline. In order to register your trademark, it must be entirely different from any other trademark that is registered to a similar product or service as yours. Registered trademarks last for only 10 years, after which you should renew them. Additionally, they are only valid in the country in which your register them. To register your trademark, you should ensure that it qualifies as a trademark, as it cannot be amended after registration. Again, the IPO will process your application after making it available for public scrutiny, before granting or rejecting your request. Successfully registered trademarks are given a certificate for proof, and will be logged in the IPO database.
What to do if someone is using your intellectual property
- Write to the offender yourself, or have an intellectual property lawyer draft you a letter to send to them, requesting that they refrain from using your intellectual property.
- If you have no joy, you can take the case into mediation or arbitration. This usually costs £1000 per day through the IPO’s mediation service, but can help you to reach an agreement or licensing deal with the offender.
- If both of these do not work, you can take the case into the court system. This can be expensive, and the maximum pay-outs you can win in the Patents Court are £500,000 in damages, and £50,000 in legal costs. In other words you may end up paying out more than you win, hence why court should be your very last resort.
About the Author: Nicola works alongside DWS Solicitors who provide commerce and technology advice. She loves keeping up to date with all the latest tech innovations and creative writing trends.