IP Essentials - Types of Intellectual Property
There are several different kinds of IP that can overlap to cover a single product or process in several ways, the main types include the following:
Patents for inventions
Patents for inventions (product or processes) that are ‘new’ and ‘non-obvious’: these tend to protect how something works, can last up to 20 years (upon renewal), are seen as ‘strong’ IP being ‘registered’ but are expensive to obtain. More information..
Utility Models or Petty Patents
Utility Models or Petty Patents for novel, but slightly less inventive, inventions (we do not have this protection in the UK, but mention here as other countries do): they tend to have shorter lifetimes than patents, 7-14 years for example, are ‘registered’ and may be less expensive to obtain than patents.
Registered Trade Marks
Registered Trade Marks for your company and brand names inform your customers that the product or service comes from you. These are ‘registered’ so seen as strong rights, may be easy and relatively inexpensive to obtain, can last forever (upon use and renewal), and can be powerful tools in the marketplace. Unregistered trade marks can also be useful, but you must prove ownership and use. More information..
Registered Designs for the 2D or 3D appearance of a design applied to a product: these can last up to 25 years (upon renewal), are “registered” so seen as somewhat ‘strong’, although these are not always examined (in other words these may be obtained relatively easily and inexpensively), and may be subjected to validity examination if you choose to exercise these. More information..
Unregistered Design Right
Unregistered Design Right gives free, automatic protection for the internal or external shape or configuration of an original design, i.e. its three-dimensional shape: this can last in the UK for 15 years from first creation or 10 years from first marketing but you must have good records of creation to ‘prove’ ownership and be able to prove copying if you want to exercise this. This type of right is not available widely outside the EU and in the EU lasts just 3 years.
Copyright gives free, automatic protection for drawings, instructions, software, logos, it can last for up to 70 + years, but some types of ‘industrial’ copyright have a more limited term, again you must have good records of creation to ‘prove’ ownership and be able to prove copying to exercise this, it is available widely across the world with varying requirements for registration or to prove ownership etc. More information..
Trade Secret (Confidential Information)
Trade Secret (Confidential Information) to protect customer lists, build instructions, commercial information and so on, if this information is secret and treated as such;
Database Right provides free automatic protection for a collection of independent works, data, or other materials arranged in a systematic or methodical way (a database) from unauthorised extraction or re-utilisation for up to 15 years from completion or publication within the UK and the EU;
Domain Names, Social Media & Company Names
Domain Names. Social Media Names and Company Names are your presence on the web and at Companies House, these can be relatively cheap to obtain, at least initially, and can last forever.