This afternoon at the Business Show at London’s Excel, Charlotte Musgrave from D Young & Co Intellectual Property gave an introduction to patents and copyrights.
Typically patents are associated with technology companies, because they protect technical solutions. Trade marks are for brand names, and registered designs are about the look and feel of products. You need to apply for all of these things. It is possible for one company to have all sorts of protection in place. Say there is a new bike; perhaps it has a new design? New technology that needs patenting? A trademarked brand name? And all associated literature would have an automatic copyright.
D Young’s brochure defines the following:
Patents: A patent is an agreement between you and the state that can prevent others from exploiting your invention for up to 20 years, subject to annual renewal.
Trade marks: A trade mark us a sign used by a business to distinguish their goods and services from those of their competitors. Typically a trade mark may consist of a word or device (often described as a logo) although more unusual signs such as sounds or smells can also function as trade marks.
Registered designs: UK or Community registered designs can offer protection for up to 25 years (subject to renewal each five years). You are allowed up to one year from the date your design was first made public before you have to register it. Like other IP rights a registered design can be sold or licensed.
Copyright: Copyright is an automatic IP right that relates to the expression of an idea (not the idea itself) as soon as that idea is ‘fixed’ (written drawn, recorded or stored on your computer). You do not need to formally apply or pay for copyright protection. Copyright can be sold, licensed or assigned to someone else.
One of the key reasons you need to have a handle on intellectual property is it makes you a more viable option if you ever come to sell. Do not assume you don't need it - even small businesses may need it down the line, especially if your prodcut offering is particularly innovative.
Do remember that you need protection in each market you are operating in.