What is Intellectual Property?

You may have heard a lot of intellectual property in recent years. Perhaps you have seen cases of copyright or have always wondered what a trademark really is. They are both related to intellectual property. Let’s take a look what this is and break down the categories that you will want to know about.

Intellectual Property Explained

Intellectual property is something that you can create using your unique ideas and thoughts. When you have created something, it is then going to be protected as intellectual property. This is going to stop other people from copying and stealing it.

Intellectual property can be:

  • The name of your product
  • The name of your brand
  • The design of a product or item
  • Something you have written
  • Something you have made

You will be the owner of the intellectual property if you created it. This is true as long as whatever you created is protected by copyright, patent or design. In addition, you can own intellectual property if you have bought the rights from the previous creator or owner. There can be more than one owner, as well as intellectual property belonging to people or a business.


When you enjoy copyright, this is going to stop other people from using your work without your permission. This is something that you do not have to apply for. Everybody enjoys copyright over anything they create. For example, this can include any musical or artistic work, as well as photographs, illustrations, software and web content.

Copyright infringement is when somebody uses work that you have created without asking you. This could be copying, performing or communicating something to the public that belongs to you. If this happens, you can seek a remedy in civil action against that person. This can include an injunction to stop them continuing to commit the infringement or seek damages for the loses you have incurred.


If you have invented something, you can apply for a patent in order to protect it. It does not matter whether it is a complicated invention that has taken you 20 years or a simple concept that you created in two months. A patent will allow you to protect your invention. If anybody makes your product, whether this is to use or sell it, you are able to bring legal action against them. Some patents can take around five years for the application so it is best to keep your invention a secret until it has earned its patent. You may see the phrase ‘patent pending’ against some inventions. It is likely to be used when a patent has been applied for and is in the process but it has not yet been granted.

In order to earn a patent, your invention must be unique and new. It cannot be a modification of a product that exists or is known. The patent must also attach to something that can be made or used by another person. However, there are some things you cannot patent. This includes musical and artistic works, mobile apps, a scientific theory or a medical treatment.

Registered Design

A registered design means that no one else can use the design that you have created. The design of a product can include its appearance, physical shape or the configuration. The only criteria for registering your design is that its new and the design is not offensive in any way. In addition, you are not allowed to use any protected emblems or flags in your design plans.

When you are granted a registered design, this is going to stop anybody else from copying your ideas for up to 25 years. If they do copy your design, this means you can bring legal action against them. In order to apply for a registered design, you will have to file a formal application.


A trademark is going to show that you are unique and different from other traders due to your goods or services. For example, you can trademark your logo, slogan or shape of branding. This trademark can be placed on anything, such as your company’s building, product packaging and labels and vouchers. Applications can normally take around four months.

It is important to realise that a trademark can be registered or unregistered. You will see the symbol ® for a trademark that is registered by the Intellectual Property Office. For those that are unregistered, you will see this symbol ™.  It is going to be easier to bring a claim against someone if you have a registered trademark. However, ‘passing off’ claims can be made for an unregistered trademark. But they are harder to make and you will need to seek legal advice prior to bringing a case against somebody else. Their expertise will be valuable and enable you to understand your position.