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Intellectual Property in the UK

Managing Intellectual Property in the UK

Intellectual Property (IP) is something that is created in or with the application of the mind, it is something intangible mostly. This can be, for example, something like an invention, a musical piece or a story. In business specifically, IP can help to grow and expand the business. Investment in IP can build recognition through products, brands, or services. IP should be strategically managed in business to gain the most out of it and as a result, over time, the value of IP belonging to the company expands and becomes much like the physical assets of any business. It is recommended that the correct procedures of registration for IP are pursued to protect IP from plagiarism or theft.

What is a Famous Example Of An Intellectual Property Dispute?

Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz both credited themselves with the invention of the study of ‘calculus’ a branch of mathematics. Leibniz had published a paper in 1684 and 1686 on the topic and was the first of the two men to do so according to sources. However, in Newton’s work, Opticka 1704, he credited himself as ‘father of calculus’ in which a dispute/debate arose. Newton accused Leibniz of plagiarising an earlier theory of his called ‘science of fluxions’ written by Newton in 1665/66 but Leibniz died before ownership could be settled. In the science and mathematical community today, both men are credited with the invention as both parties hold merit and proof over the IP ownership through written works.

How Can a Business Protect and Manage Intellectual Property?

To ensure the business protects IP correctly, some steps should be taken. Firstly, checks should be made that no one else has created the same or similar IP already. Draining resources into something someone has already created is damaging to a business’ reputation and finances. Secondly, IP should be valued, without doing so it is hard for any business to recognise the true worth of these assets. The business should treat IP assets as it would with its physical assets. Conducting an IP audit is a good idea to keep on top of such information. This can help to establish a database of what the company owns regarding IP. Registering protection rights for IP is paramount. Failing to do so means that a business or creator may lose the asset. Some IP rights require a formal process of application, examination and registration. Whereas others do not require the application of these rights because they are provable, like a piece of music written down or recorded in some way.

Types of Intellectual Property Rights

There are 4 main types of IP rights in the UK:

  • Copyrights: In the UK, copyright is an automatic right that comes into fruition as soon as the work is created. There are different rules in some instances.
  • Patents: Can only be applied if you have created something new and useful. This can be used to protect such things as machinery, computer hardware and pharmaceuticals.
  • Trademarks: Apply to register your trademark to protect a brand, allows the owner to take legal action if used without permission.
  • Designs: Registered design protects the ‘look’ of a product and unregistered design rights offer limited protections and can be hard to prove

IP rights allow an owner to take action under civil law in the UK to stop others from taking credit for their work. You can own IP rights under some conditions such as if you created the property originally and thus own the copyright, patent or design requirements on the IP. If you have bought the IP rights from the creator or previous rights holder. Finally, if you have a brand/name that can be trademarked. IP can have more than one owner, belong to a business or to a person(s) as well as be sold or transferred. IP laws/rights are enacted to protect the intellectual property of creators and other owners to help stimulate advancements in technology and other areas that require inventions of an intangible nature.

Trade Secrets

One final aspect concerning IP is Trade secrets. These are secrets not known to the world at large, for example, the recipe for Coca-Cola. Trade secrets by nature are hidden from competitors and are handled with a particular set of procedures for protection. Trade secrets can be protected with non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and non-compete clauses in contracts meaning anyone privy to the information may not disclose the secrets under threat of severe penalty including prosecution as to do so could destroy a business.

How to Proced

If you would like help with your trademark filing, we recommend visiting the trademark office website.

If you are looking for business policy and procedure documents, legal agreements, contracts or advice, please contact us using the form below.


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