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

 

 

Intellectual Property Rights

What are UK Intellectual Property Rights?

UK Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) can be broken down into different categories:

  • Patents
  • Trademarks
  • Un-registered Designs
  • Registered Designs
  • Copyright

Patents protect inventions for up to 20 years for both the product and the process. To be granted a Patent your product / invention must be (a) something that can be made or used, (b) new and (c) inventive (not modified from something that already exists). It can take several years to get a Patent granted and your Patent will be published 18 months after filing the application.

Trademarks protect a business’ brand name, product or service by using words, logos, sounds or a combination of any of them. It distinguishes your goods and services from your competitors. To be effective, it needs to be registered for all the classes of goods and services for which it is going to be used. Trademarks are renewed every 10 years.

Un-registered design rights are an automatic protection for the shape and configuration of a product, both internally and externally, providing it is an original design and that it’s a design that is non-commonplace. Protection can last up to 15 years, however in the last 5 years of protection you must give a licence of right to anybody who asks.

Registered designs protect the overall visual appearance of a product (2D and 3D), providing the design is new, is not offensive, does not utilise protected flags or emblems and is not an invention (you will need a patent for this).  Protection can last for up to 25 years but must be renewed every 5 years.

Copyright protects a wide range of written and recorded material. You don’t have to apply for copyright it is automatically applied. The scope of its protection extends to software, databases, photography, drawings, literally work and promotional material. It must be written down or recorded and the protection can last a long time.

What about European and Worldwide IPRs?

IPRs are only generally valid in the country where the right is registered. In order to get European and / or Worldwide protection for your IPR, you must either:

  1. register your right in the country where you want protection;
  2. apply to have your right protected in multiple European counties; and / or
  3. apply to have your right protected in multiple Worldwide countries.

Each application for National, European and Worldwide protection can coexist together.

Patents for European applications must be submitted through the European Patent Office (EPO). Patents for worldwide applications are submitted under the Patent Cooperation Treaty and can be done through the national IP Office or the EPO. It can take up to 4 years to be granted the patent after you make your application

Applications for a European Union Trademark (EUTM), previously called a Community Trademark (CMT), must be submitted through the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). A EUTM is valid for 10 years and is renewable every 10 years.  Applications for a worldwide trademark must be based on an existing trademark application and can be applied for with the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO).

As with trademarks, applications for European design rights, both registered (RCD) and unregistered (UCD) must be submitted through the EUIPO. You get 5 years’ protection for a RCD and this can be renewed every 5 years to a maximum of 25 years. International design protection is applied for with the WIPO but unlike trademarks, does not have to be an existing design.

It is not necessary to apply for copyright in most countries in order to have the protection (as it is an automatic protection), nevertheless, in some countries, voluntary registration does give the creator additional benefits such as proof of ownership.

How Important is Intellectual Property for my business?

If you own a business it’s very likely you own Intellectual Property.

Over time, businesses build up goodwill and recognition that is linked to the brand, the products and the services they offer.

It is important that IPRs form part of any business plan. IPRs can, and are valued, just like any other business asset. Having ideas, products, goods, services or any other assets that can be linked to IP (and can be protected) will raise the value of the business.

Therefore, as a business grows, IPRs become an important business asset and so should be identified as early as possible.  What might seem unimportant today may well be worth millions in the future.

The UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) have a useful health check tool on their website which will help you identify the IP in your business.  https://www.ipo.gov.uk/iphealthcheck.

How to use the protection given?

Businesses invent products to solve problems and as IPRs are a legal form of protection to stop others using, making and importing your creation its vital to know how to use them.

  • Licence to others for use

Granting a licence permits the other person / company to use the IPR and do something usually in return for a fee.  Without this licence, anything that is done can be classed an infringement.

Licencing out is a great way to share costs and risks.  You receive revenue from that licencing but do not take all the risk of manufacturing, promoting and/or selling a product. A business may want to collaborate / work together to develop new products and services. You may licence to other businesses to sell in territories that you cannot cover.

Whoever you grant a licence to is free to use the IPRs so you will need to consider the commercial aspects of your business: will your brand be affected, could a competitor work around it and take away market share or will it restrict the growth of your business by the licensor charging royalties that are too high.

  • Confidentiality Agreement / Non-disclosure Agreement (NDA)

Before revealing details of your product / venture to other interested parties, you can ask them to sign a Confidentiality / Non-disclosure Agreement to prevent them from stealing your IPR / ideas.  These are relatively simple and straightforward to draw up but can slow down the process if the other side are reluctant to sign and / or have the Agreement looked at by a legal representative.

  • Install an early warning system

Installing software so that when any images are uploaded by someone else it recognises and compares this to your IPR giving you the chance to take action as early as possible.


If you or your Company would like any advice on protecting or licencing out your Intellectual Property Rights please call us on

0161 926 9969 or alternatively email commercial@mlplaw.co.uk.