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Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property (IP) is the general label given to patents, copyright, trade marks, designs and know how, all of which are originally created in the mind.

IP rights offer protection to the owner, and can be valuable and tradable assets.

Patents cover products or processes that are novel and inventive.  Patents are therefore concerned with how things work, what they are comprised of or how they are made.  If someone comes up with a completely new or improved medical device for example, patent protection may be appropriate. A patent provides the owner with a monopoly right preventing others from using that invention, as specified in the patent claims.

Copyright refers to legal protection for original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work, sound recordings, films and broadcasts. It provides protection against copying, occurs automatically when the work is produced and in the UK it does not generally need to be registered. In the NHS, copyright may be relied upon for protecting any original written work including training materials and computer software.

Trade Mark
A trade mark is a sign or badge, which is capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one trader from another. Examples include a word, a phrase, a logo, a smell, a sound or a combination of these.  Trade marks may be used by companies as a marketing tool, to ensure that customers can recognise the product of a particular trader.

Design Registration
A design registration protects the visual appearance of an object. This can include the shape and configuration (three dimensional) of an article or the pattern or ornament (two dimensional) applied to an article.  A design registration provides the owner with a monopoly right preventing others from using that design.  

Unregistered Design Right
Unregistered design right applies to original, non-commonplace designs and protects any aspect of the shape and configuration (three dimensional) applied to an article.  It is not a monopoly right, but provides protection against copying in a similar way to copyright.

Visit the UK Intellectual Property Website for more info