What is intellectual property?

Intellectual property is a set of legal rights put in place to stop a person or business stealing another’s ideas, designs or products.

Just having an idea isn’t quite enough to secure intellectual property rights though, you’ll have to have something more tangible in place – so while having an idea for a book won’t count, any words you have written towards that book will.

So, if you’ve come up with the prototype for the next must-have piece of tech or a winning idea for a new business, here’s all you need to know about intellectual property in the UK…

Why is intellectual property important?

If you’re an entrepreneur looking to launch a new product, or a writer with the next best-selling novel up your sleeve, it’s important you get the right type of intellectual property in place.

Although there’s nothing to stop anyone stealing your idea, protecting your intellectual property means it’ll be easier for you to take legal action against anyone you think has stolen your ideas.

What are the types of intellectual property?

There are four types in intellectual property:

• Copyright
• Design
• Patent
• Trade mark

Copyright and some Design rights are given automatically, but other Design rights, Patents and Trade marks will only be granted on application, and this can take time – up to five years for a successful patent.

What is the right type of intellectual property for you?

Intellectual property can be owned by an individual, a number of individuals, or a business, and you’ll need to keep in mind that the intellectual property for anything you create while in employment will most likely be owned by your employer.

If you’re self-employed then you’ll most likely own the intellectual property of all your creations, even if they’ve been commissioned, unless there’s something in your contract that states otherwise.

If art, video, writing (including web content), or music (including sounds recordings) are your thing then you’ll be automatically be covered under copyright law.

If, on the other hand, you’re looking to protect the colours, design and packaging of a product then you’ll have to apply for a registered design.

For a product name or logo, you’ll need a trademark, while and invention or new product might need a patent.

How has artificial intelligence impacted intellectual property?

A government consultation has looked at whether current UK laws are fit for purpose when it comes to creations and inventions made by artificial intelligence (AI). The consultation has also considered whether laws should be relaxed to make copyrighted material more accessible for data mining and machine learning.

The consultation has concluded that UK copyrigtht laws should now be amended for data mining and machine learning.

This means that copyright holders will still have control of who can access their material and will still be able to charge for access. They will still also be able to control its wider use. But they will no longer be able to charge data miners extra.

This is part of the government’s plan to make the UK a leader in data mining and AI development. You can find out more at this government press release on AI and IP: copyright and patents.

For more on copyrights and other types of intellectual property, visit GOV.UK