Intellectual Property Archives - MLP Law

Protecting your copyright

Copyright is a type of intellectual property, which allows the owner to prevent others from using it without their express permission. In the UK, copyright is dealt with under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988

Copyright arises automatically upon the creation of the work itself and can exist in various forms, including (but not limited to) original literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic work, non-literary work (such as web content and databases), and music, tv and film recordings. 

Generally speaking, it will be the person who creates the work in question who owns the copyright in the work. However, if the work is produced as part of an individual’s employment, then (unless otherwise stated) the owner of the copyright will be the employer and not the individual.

Your work is an asset

You (or your employers) will likely have spent a considerable amount of time and money producing your copyright. It is an important asset in your business and should therefore be protected accordingly from misuse. 

What can you do to not only protect your copyright but enforce it should others be in breach of it?

Mark it as copyright

By letting others know that your work is copyrighted will hopefully act as a deterrent. Potential infringers will note that you have an awareness of copyright law and that may take action against them should they use your work without permission.

Marking your work as copyright is a simple exercise. For example, it could be as simple as using the © symbol, which is recognized worldwide as the standard symbol for copyright. 

We would also advise stating the year the copyrighted work was created. If there are any disputes as to the owner of the copyrighted work at a later date, being able to show that you created the work first will strongly help your case. 

Finally, we advise that you include the person or organization who owns the copyright. Again, this will help you assert ownership if your copyright is infringed. 

  1. Keep evidence

We strongly advise keeping supporting evidence and records of not only your finished work but at various stages until completion of the work. 

For example, we recommend keeping records that show how your copyrighted work has progressed. This can include keeping copies of drafts (if the work is written work), sound recordings (if it is a musical work), or beta versions (if the work is computer software). Together, this will help you establish that the copyrighted work is yours and that you have created it over time. 

2. Consider licensing your copyright

If you consider your copyrighted work to be of value and potentially appealing to others, you may consider licensing it to them, either on an exclusive or non-exclusive basis. This can result in a significant source of additional income for you. It will simply permit the other party to legally use your copyrighted works. By licensing your copyrighted works, you will not only retain control and ownership of your copyright, but you will also receive an income for doing so. Also, if you find that a party has infringed your copyright, negotiating a license for their ongoing use of it may be an amicable (and financially beneficial) way to resolve the dispute. 

In light of the above, have you taken appropriate steps to ensure your copyright is protected? Furthermore, have you considered ways in which you can exploit your copyright and receive income?

If you would like advice on protecting or exploiting your copyright, please contact our Commercial and IP team on 0161 926 9969 or commercial@mlplaw.co.uk to receive expert legal advice for your business.

What is Intellectual Property and how do I protect it?

Intellectual Property (IP) is a term used to describe a range of legal rights that attach to certain types of ideas and information and to their form of expression.  It is crucial that businesses are aware of different IP rights to ensure that they: protect what they create; maximise their competitive position; and avoid infringing the IP rights of other businesses.

 

Types of IP

Copyright

Copyright protects original artistic, musical, dramatic and literary works, including computer programs, sound recordings, films and broadcasts.  Copyright protects the expression of an idea (rather than the idea itself).  It protects against actual copying of another’s work.  It does not protect against independent development of the same idea.  Copyright arises automatically on the creation of the work.  It generally lasts for 70 years following the death of the author.

 

Trade Marks

A trade mark is a sign or symbol used by a business to distinguish its products or services from those of another.  It can be a brand name, company logo or trading style.  To be registrable, a trade mark must be capable of: being represented graphically; distinguishing goods or services; distinctive and not excluded by statute.  Trade mark owners can apply for a UK or an EU trade mark.  Both registrations initially last for ten years and are renewable.

 

Passing Off

The goodwill in a business’ name or brand can also be protected by an action for passing off.  It is based on the principle that goods and services are not to be sold under the pretence that they are the goods and services of another.   It requires: a goodwill or reputation attached to the relevant goods or services; a misrepresentation that could mislead the public; and evidence of damage.  An action for passing off can be both difficult and expensive which is often why businesses choose to register a trademark.

 

Patents

Patents provide inventors with a legal monopoly over inventions by protecting new and inventive technical features, products and processes.  To qualify for protection, an invention must be: new; involve an inventive step; be capable of industrial protection; and not specifically excluded from protection.  In most countries, patents last for 20 years.

 

Design Rights

Design rights protect the appearance of the whole or part of a product.  They can be registered or unregistered:

 

  • Registered designs – must be: novel; of individual character; and not excluded by statute. Design owners can apply for a UK or an EU registered design.  Protection lasts for 25 years with registrations renewed every five years.

 

  • Unregistered designs – protection arises automatically on creation of the design and provides protection against copying of the design.

 

Confidential Information

It is possible to protect sensitive information through rights in confidential information e.g. know-how and trade secrets.  To be enforceable, the information must be: confidential in nature; disclosed in circumstances in which an obligation of confidence arises (e.g. relationship of employer and employee); and its unauthorised use must be detrimental.  Whilst not strictly an IP right, confidential information protects commercial and technical information and does not need to be registered.

 

Get in touch

If you would like further information about protecting your IP, or believe that your IP is being infringed by another business, please do not hesitate to contact us on 0161 926 9969 or by email hello@mlplaw.co.uk