What You Need to Know About Intellectual Property

There are a number of ways you can legally protect your designs – this is known as Intellectual Property (IP). Filing an application to register a design, copyright, trade mark or patent can be an expensive process, which is why it is useful to understand the various forms of protection available and whether it is suitable for your business.

Registered Design 

A registered design protects the aesthetic of a product in the country or countries in which it is registered. In legal terms, the visual appearance of a product includes the lines, contours, colour, shape, texture or material used. A registered design does not protect any mechanical aspects of a product; however, there have been instances where the function of a product is protected using a registered design as is it is indicative to the products’ appearance.


A copyright can be used to protect original pieces of work such as: literary texts, drama, music, art, photography, layouts or typographical arrangements, recordings and broadcasts. There is no official copyright registration system in the United Kingdom, but the creator can protect their work by displaying © symbol. If a creator wanted to enforce their copyright, they would need to demonstrate that their work was produced before the piece of work that they were challenging.


Trade marks can be used to protect a logo or brand. The content should not describe the product or service being supplied or any characteristic of them, such as quality, quantity, purpose, value or geographical origin. A registered trade mark is represented using ® symbol. The letters TM represent a trade mark that has not been registered with the Intellectual Property Office and can be used by a company or individual to protect a brand under common law.


A patent can be used to protect unique products and includes how something works, what it does, how it does it, what it is made from and how it is made. If a product is successfully protected by a patent, it will enable the patent owner to take legal action against anyone making, using, importing or selling the product without their permission. Patents are quite possibly the most expensive form of intellectual property, not only due to the direct cost of processing a patent, but the cost of enforcing a patent if infringed. However, a registered patent does act as a deterrent against others wishing to copy an invention.

Depending on the nature of your product and intended business model, IP protection may or may not be valuable to you. More detailed information can be gained by contacting the Intellectual Property Office.