Copyright and Patents

This section gives information on the different types of ‘intellectual property’ and how these can be protected. The main areas covered are trade marks, copyright, designs and patents – the procedures and protection provided by each of these are different (and may not be what you expect!) – links within the text will lead you on to further sources of information if you need it.

What is a Trade Mark?

  • A trade mark is a sign which can distinguish your goods/services from those of another business. A trade mark can be in the form of words, logos, pictures or a combination of these.
  • In order to be able to register a trade mark it must;
  • be distinctive for the products involved
  • not be deceptive or illegal or immoral
  • not be similar or identical to registered marks for the same or similar products.

What is Copyright?

  • Copyright give the creator of a piece of work the right to control ways their material can be used. The rights cover:
  • copying
  • adapting
  • distributing
  • communicating to the public by electronic transmission
  • renting or lending copies to the public
  • performing in public
  • Copyright protects only the following types of work:
  • original literary works
  • original dramatic works, including works of dance or mime
  • original music works
  • original artistic works
  • published editions of works
  • sound recordings on any medium
  • films, including videos
  • broadcasts.
  • So if your product does not fall into one of these categories, copyright does not apply and you should refer back to the section on trade marks above.
  • There is no official register for copyright – it is a right which comes into effect immediately that the work is ‘fixed’ i.e. put down on paper, recorded on film, as an electronic file etc. More information on copyright can be found on the UK Patent Office website at

What is a Design?

  • A registered design works in a similar way to a trade mark but relates to the appearance of all or part of a product. Features such as the:
  • lines
  • contours
  • colours
  • shape
  • texture
  • materials
  • of the product or part of the product will form the basis of the registration.
  • In order to be registered, the design must:
  • be new – it must not be the same as any design that has already been be made available to the public
  • have individual character
  • be visible in normal use
  • not be illegal or immoral

What is a Patent?

  • A patent is a right granted by the government to an inventor which, for a limited period, prevents others from making, using or selling the invention without the permission of the inventor.
  • Patents normally cover products or processes that have new functional or technical aspects – for example, the way things work, what they do, the way they are made or what they are made of.
  • In order to be able to patent an invention it must:
  • be new – it must not previously have been made public in any way
  • involve an inventive step – if compared to what is already known the step would not be obvious to someone with knowledge and experience of the subject
  • be capable of industrial application – the invention must take the practical form of an apparatus or device, a new material, substance or process.
  • Some inventions are excluded – generally these are:
  • a discovery
  • a scientific theory or mathematical method
  • an aesthetic creation (literary, dramatic or artistic work)
  • a scheme or method for performing a mental act, playing a game or doing business
  • the presentation of information or a computer program
  • a new animal or plant variety
  • a method of treatment of the human or animal body by surgery or therapy
  • a method of diagnosis.

Other possible ways to protect your business or product name

  • Registering your business name with Companies House may prevent other businesses from trading under your name. Please read the advice available on the Companies House website for more information. A good point to start is:
  • Registering any domain names which use your business name or the names of important products/services that you supply may also be advisable. Business Link provide guidance on this.



Please note: The information given is based on interpretation of current applicable legislation. Only the courts can interpret statutory legislation with any authority.