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Intellectual Property - a basic guide

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by Startacus Admin

If you’re in copyright symbolbusiness or are planning to be, protecting your Intellectual Property is paramount and if you’re in a creative enterprise, especially so. However, rather than bombard you all with legalistic jargon and terminology we thought we would simply outline in simple terms, the basics that you need to know.

What is Intellectual Property?
In basic terms, Intellectual Property (IP) refers to creations of the mind and covers anything from inventions, designs and logos to literary and artistic works. In essence it allows people to own the work that they create. There are generally 4 types of Intellectual Property, namely Patents, Designs, Trademarks and Copyright. So, if, during the course of running your business you invent something new, design a logo, compose a piece of music or create a slogan or a brand, you ought to consider protecting it under one of these areas.

Why protect it?
Protecting something that you own ought to be a pretty natural instinct anyway. Basically if you don’t protect your IP, your idea, design or creation could be stolen or copied and someone else could potentially benefit financially from your artistic and creative endeavours. And nobody would want that would they?

How to protect IP
How you protect your IP really depends on which type of IP it is. Firstly identify the type of IP protection you might need, then weigh up if the costs and time involved will really be worth it. The process can be costly and can often take years to complete. You will also need to check that your design or creation isn’t itself infringing on someone else’s IP rights. To help you decide which type of IP protection you may need, we’ve given a brief summary of what they cover. Copyright covers any artistic or creative work, including writing, music and computer software. When a work is first published, copyright is granted automatically to the creator and this prevents your work being copied or reproduced. Patents cover inventions and the functionality of products and protect against your idea being sold, used or manufactured without your permission. They can be a lot more complex and time consuming to gain, but are certainly still essential. Trademarks are basically symbols, logos or even brand names that distinguish your business from another and protecting them is key if you want to really protect your unique identity. Design rights covers what your product looks like and prevents it being copied, used or manufactured by someone else.

Where to protect IP?
There are specialist firms and solicitors who can help you with all the form filling and applications and so on. However there are also some excellent online resources to help guide and inform you about what steps you should take. We’ve listed a few of the best of these below:

The World Intellectual Property Organisation - the UN agency devoted entirely to IP for all its’ member states
The IPO - if you’re based in the UK, this is the main government resource on all aspects of IP protection and enforcement
Irish Patents Office - the definitive information resource for Irish based businesses and enterprise covering all aspects of IP protection.

If you’re serious about your idea or business, it’s probably time to get serious about this too. Hope our back to basics guide helps! Check out the Legal section of the Startacus toolkit for handy Legal tips, articles and links. 

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Published on: 31st October 2012

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