Have an idea and want to protect it?

Think 5 mins read 5th Jul 2019

The aim of this blog post is to give a brief overview of the different forms of intellectual property you can use to protect your idea.

First things first, before legally protecting your idea it is always worth checking whether your idea already exists. This may seem obvious, but in a fast-paced ever-changing society, it isn’t impossible for two people to have thought of the same idea…

So, what types of legal protection are there?

There are currently four types of legal protection you can apply for in the UK which are; patents, trademarks, copyrights and designs. All four types essentially exclude the right for another person or company to make, use, sell or import your idea, and can be applied for on the Government website (see links at the bottom of the page).

1. Registered design

What does it cover?

This type of legal protection covers illustrations when saved as JPEG, GIF or TIFF files.

How long does it last?

They can last up to 15 years in the UK and 3 years in the EU.

How much does it cost?

The current fees of the Government website range from £50 to £150 depending on the number of designs you need to cover.

2. Patents

What does it cover?

Patents are commonly used to protect inventions. This is because the current Government qualifying criteria requires an ‘inventive step’ and a ‘non-obvious’ idea.

How long does it last?

Patents typically protect your idea for 20 years from the filing date depending on the industry sector.

How much does it cost?

If you apply yourself, between £200 and £300 however, if you chose to employ a patent attorney it is usually between £2,000 and £3,000 depending on the complexity of the idea.

3. Trademarks

What does it cover?

This type of protection covers ideas involving some sort of graphical representation. For example, this could be a word or sign that directly identifies a good or service.

How long does it last?

Trademarks typically last for 10 years from the filing date and can be extended by periods of 10 years at a time.

How much does it cost?

Filing a typical application for a single mark for a single good or service costs around £650-£800, and additional marks can cost around £145.

4. Copyright

What does it cover?

Copyright automatically covers most types of work once it has been recorded or written somewhere. The only work it does not automatically cover are names, slogans or titles. If you would like to copyright either of those, you can do so by registering them. To deter infringement, it is recommended to include the copyright symbol (©) along with your name and year of creation next to any of your published work.

How long does it last?

Copyright typically lasts for 70 years.

How much does it cost?

Although the automatic copyright does not cost, it may be wise to register your work. This registration fee ranges from £40 to £80 depending on the length of cover you require. Registering your work becomes helpful if your work is infringed, as this will supply evidence to prove your claim.

Can you give me some examples?

"Gary's smoothie business launched a new vegan product this summer at a few events. He now wants to dive into full production and get it into supermarkets as soon as possible..."

Taking into account the nature of Gary's business and how many variations of smoothie recipe's there are in the world, applying for a patent would be lengthy and costly. There would also be no guarantee of it being accepted.

As many smoothies are similar in taste, it is ultimately the logo that will help the consumers associate that great taste with Gary's brand...

Gary should therefore apply for a trademark.

"Steve, a garage inventor, has created a strimmer that detects hedgehogs and immediately cuts the power..."

In this case, Steve's invention is unique in terms of its functionality. If he believes there is truly a market for this invention, it is worth applying for a patent. This would protect his invention for 20 years, giving him peace of mind as well as plenty of time to get his business off the ground.

"Rachel has created a new high-speed facial recognition software for airport security. She wants to launch her product around the UK/world this year..."

In this case, the high-speed problem solving the software has to do can be copyrighted.

Rachel could apply for a patent however, this would only protect the idea behind the invention and not the software. As there are many facial recognition software's currently on the market, it is unlikely this patent would be accepted anyway.

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