Patent, copyright, or trade mark - do you need them?

Starting your own business can involve a fair amount of creative work. From your company name to logo, ads to website, even unique products that your company might produce.

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Each original design, work or product is considered the property of you as an individual or of your business. However, it can be a bit confusing to remember which is which, as well as whether your company needs to apply for protection of your branding or inventions.

There are three main types of protection for this type of property: patents, copyrights, and trade marks. Each is important if it applies to your business, so read on to learn more.

Trade mark

A trade mark is the most basic of these protective measures that can be taken out on intellectual property. You might recognise a trade marked brand name or logo by the ® symbol at the end. This indicates that the name or image has been trademarked and is therefore protected from unauthorised reproduction.

Trade marks are also quite simple to register. You can apply to register a trade mark online with a credit card as long as your name or logo matches the criteria required for registration.

This criteria states that what you wish to trade mark should be a unique combination of words, colours, sounds, and/or logos. It cannot be offensive, misleading, three-dimensional, too general, or too similar to existing trade marks.

It is also necessary that you search the database for trade marks to ensure that your idea has not already been registered.

After that, it’s about paying the fee (£170-£200) and following the guidelines to register your trade mark through gov.uk.

Different from a trade mark, a copyright is the © symbol you see involving various works. A copyright can also be applied to a broader range of intellectual property than a trade mark.

For example, as the creator, you would own the copyright for any: original literature, art, music, film, as well as web content and other non-literary content.

It is not necessary to apply for a copyright. As the creator of the original work, you would automatically own the copyright and be known as the ‘first owner’.

You can license your copyrighted material out to other to use for agreed-upon purposes.

Patent

A big step up from a trade mark and copyright is a patent. Notoriously difficult to get, patents concern the creation of a unique invention. This type of intellectual property includes design and technology ownership.

Applying for a patent can be a long and expensive process involving legal professionals, and may not be necessary for an invention, especially if it is not expected to generate significant income.

In many cases, a copyright or trademark can be enough to cover the important aspects of intellectual property.

However, if a patent is necessary because you expect it to make money and need it to be protected from being copied, you must ensure that your invention offers something new, useful, and innovative in order for it to be successfully patented.

It cannot be a dramatic work, literary or non literary work, music, discovery, business strategy etc. but must be a tangible object that is able to be built or used for a particular purpose.

What is the purpose?

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In the case of trade marks, copyrighted works and patented inventions, the purpose is to be able to defend their ownership in the situation that another individual or competitor uses them without permission.

They allow you to take legal action against those who use them without authorisation to protect your intellectual property.

IP and Debitoor

You can use Debitoor to register your patents and rights. By adding them as an expense, you can then classify them as an asset to keep track of amortisation (depreciation) and include it in the ‘Patents and rights’ category.

Written by WhitneyWhitney, 25 May 2016 in General