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About Intellectual Property Protection, a brief outline from a UK View

IPR is important because:
They are assets of potential high value and like other forms of property can be bought, sold, hired or licensed to generate royalties. Frequently, owners of IP have never considered intellectual property licensing as a means of extracting more value from their assets.

What is covered by IPR?
A Patent is a right granted by the state or EU for an invention. The right provides the owner with a monopoly for up to 20 years to prevent others from copying the invention. Patents have to be applied for and need renewing on the 4th anniversary of filing and annually thereafter, (UK). An invention must meet three criteria to qualify for grant of a patent. It must:

  • be novel;
• be non-obvious, and
• work

A Trade (or Service) Mark is a right granted by the state or EU under its intellectual property law in respect of goods (or services) that protects words, symbols and combinations of the two used to market or signal the goods (e.g. a logo). The right provides the owner with exclusivity over the mark for unlimited duration providing that renewal fees are paid and the mark is in use. A mark has to be: applied for; a sign that can be graphically represented, and distinguish the goods from those of another supplier.

A Registered Design is a right granted by the state and/or EU under its intellectual property law that protects the shape and/or the appearance of an object by preventing others from legally copying the design. Registered designs have to be applied for and must be novel. They have a maximum life of 25 years (UK & EU) and must be renewed periodically by payment of a fee.

Copyright is automatically enjoyed by creators for the ‘expression’ of their work, not the underlying ideas. The right is not registrable (UK) but is asserted by the creator. Copyright duration is complex but for many cases amounts to the remainder of the lifespan of the creator plus 70 years.

A Design Right is a non-registrable right protecting any aspect of the shape or configuration of an article where the design is original. The duration of the right is limited to a maximum of 10 or 15 years (UK), 3 years (EU). The right is ‘asserted’ by the owner.

Know how has no legal protection, but trade secrets may be covered by a duty to maintain confidentiality. Both are safeguarded as far as possible by keeping them secret and limiting access to them.

Domain Names are also very important and allied to intellectual property protection. Depending on type they may be owned or licensed.

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