Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) are hugely important and very
valuable assets to businesses, therefore protection against and
enforcement in respect of the infringement of those rights should
be pursued vigorously and taken very seriously.
What you need to do to protect your rights depends on precisely
what you are protecting, as we explain below.
What are IPR?
IPR allow you to own, control and protect the products of
'human intellect' which you have created. You can therefore
control the use of, for example, an invention; software or brand
that you have created.
Types of Intellectual Property
There are numerous categories of IPR that cover different
Copyright – prevents the copying of 'artistic
output works' (see further details below of examples).
Patents – protect inventions, to include how things
Trade marks – are used to protect brand names and/or
Registered design rights – protect new designs
relating to the lines, contours, shape, texture or materials of a
Unregistered design rights – protect any shape or
configuration of a whole or part of an article. It protects
functional objects, to include parts of a machine which are not in
Database rights – protect collections of information
What is protected? What rights am I given? How long
does protection last?
Copyright affords protection for 'artistic
output/works' which includes but is not limited to literacy,
musical, artistic works, films. It provides protection against
third parties from making identical or similar copies of the
artistic works. It is automatically granted from when the work
first published therefore you do not need to do anything to secure
Patents need to be registered. They protect
'new' inventions which involve an inventive step (i.e.
something that is a leap over existing technology) and it is
capable of being industrially applied. Protection lasts for 20
years from the application.
Registered trademarks give you exclusive
rights to a mark. It prevents third parties from using your mark in
the course of trade for identical goods or services and/or for
similar goods or services if there is likelihood of confusion and
/or for dissimilar goods or services if the use is detrimental to
or take unfair advantage of the mark. If the mark is registered it
is easier to sue for infringement. A benefit of a trademark is that
it indicates the origin of source of the product. Substantial
investment in often made in a mark/brand in advertising and
building up the brand. You should ensure, therefore, that your mark
is registered and accordingly protected. The rights last
indefinitely whilst the mark is registered.
Registered design rights give you the
exclusive right to use the design. A third party will infringe your
rights if he does anything which is your right, i.e. making,
offering, putting on the market; importing; exporting or using the
product to which the design is incorporated, without your consent.
Registered Design Rights need to be registered with the
Intellectual Property Office. The rights last 25 years from
Unregistered design rights protect three
dimensional shapes. The rights prevent copying of the design. The
right is automatic and lasts for 10 years.
Database rights prevent a third party from
extracting or utilising the contents of the database. The right
arises automatically upon creation of the database and lasts for 15
years from the creation of the database.
In order to protect your IPR, you first need to consider what
you are trying to protect. You then need to establish whether you
need to take any steps (such as register your right) so to obtain
the maximum protection. If a third party infringes your rights we
would strongly advise obtaining legal advice about how to approach
the alleged infringer, as if you make allegations which have no
grounds, then you may end up having to pay damages to the alleged
infringer. IPR are valuable assets to your business, so ensure you
protect them as zealously as the family silver.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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