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What is the meaning of intellectual property?

View profile for Jade Fairhurst
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Passing off - what is it and how can I prevent it?

Put simply, intellectual property (IP) is property created by use of the mind, such as inventions, designs, literary and artistic works, images, symbols and so on. Just like other forms of property, particularly tangible property, intellectual property can be owned. Ownership usually lies with the creator of the works, even if that individual has created the work through commissioning from another person, that is unless there is a contract in place with the commissioner giving them the rights to the property.

What is intellectual property law UK?

As with tangible property, intellectual property requires legal protections to protect and enforce the rights of those that create it. There are several different protections in place under this area of law such as:

  • Patents
  • Copyright
  • Trademarks
  • Design rights

How is intellectual property protected?

You can protect your intellectual property in several different ways. However, the type of protection you will be seeking very much depends upon your creation. Below are some of the protections that are available:

IP coveredProtectionHow long does it take?
Product names, logos, “jingles”Registration of trademarkFour months
Literary and artistic works, photography, art, films, music, web contentCopyrightNo formal applications are required
Inventions, products, medicinesPatentingFive years
Product appearance, including packaging, patterns, shape, decorationRegistration of a designThree weeks





This table is not exhaustive. IP is a complex area of law, and quite often more than one type of protection could be relevant to any single creation. For example, you may wish to register the name of your creation and its signature logo as a trademark.

We suggest that where your IP is not yet registered with sufficient protections in place, you keep your creation and ideas to yourself. Where you may need to discuss the creation or idea with third parties, you may wish to make use of non-disclosure agreements.

Why should I protect my intellectual property?

In the “real-world”, if somebody stole your physical property such as your car, or your mobile phone, this would amount to a criminal offence. In the IP world, if somebody steals your creation or copies your ideas, this may amount to a civil wrong. But that is only if you have the necessary protections in place over your creation or your ideas.

If you do not have the right protections in place, then really your creations and ideas are open to anybody stealing or copying them.

How do I get intellectual property rights?

Seeking the right protections for your work can be a confusing process. Much consideration needs to be given to the type of protection you will require, and whether any additional protections may be required to ensure there are no “loop-holes” in your rights.

What do I do if someone has stolen my intellectual property?

There are many ways in which someone may steal your intellectual property. For example, they may be using or selling your patented product, using some of your copyrighted work without your permission, or using a trademark that is like one you have registered.

If you suspect someone has stolen your intellectual property, it is important that you act quickly to seek advice on this complex area. Whilst an amicable solution may be able to be reached, perhaps through mediation or otherwise, legal action may be necessary to resolve any dispute you may have.

If you require advice on what protections are available for your creations or ideas, or how to go about protecting your creations or ideas; or if your intellectual property has been stolen our commercial litigation department can advise you on your rights. Call us today on 0161 696 6170.