Intellectual property is one of the most valuable assets a business can have, but failing to secure your intellectual property means someone else can. This immediately puts your business and any product or service you offer at risk.
Intellectual property applies to inventions, certain discoveries, written or recorded work, slogans, logos and designs, and other original creations and ideas. Protecting and securing your intellectual property is crucial to ensuring the longevity and success of any business venture.
How do I protect my intellectual property?
Patents, copyrights and trademarks are all ways of protecting your intellectual property. They are legal designations granted to intellectual property holders, designed to protect that property from being copied, sold or used in any way without the owner’s authorisation.
As your product or service becomes successful, your intellectual property develops an intrinsic value. You’ll need to prevent competitors from duplicating your work, and ensure your business is solely entitled to any profits your goods or services generate. Business investors will often assess whether you have taken the appropriate steps to protect your intellectual property to secure your business.
What is the difference between patents, copyrights and trademarks?
It’s not uncommon to confuse patents, copyrights and trademarks, considering there are similarities among these kinds of intellectual property protection. They are each different however, and are used to serve different purposes.
What is a patent?
A patent is the grant of property rights to the inventor of a product or process. It gives you the right to take legal action against anyone who makes, uses, sells or imports your invention without permission.
To file a UK patent, an application must be made with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). You can also file a UK patent application through the European Patent Office (EPO) or the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
A patent is valid for a limited duration, the length of which differs depending on the type of patent that is granted. In the UK, a design patent tends to last for 20 years from the date on which the patent was issued, while utility patents last for 20 years from the date on which the application was filed.
While the time to obtain a patent in the UK usually takes around 2.5 years, this can range from 1 year to as much as 5 years. As soon as your patent application is filed, it obtains the status ‘patent pending’, which means no one else is able to obtain a patent covering your invention.
What is a copyright?
A copyright is geared toward protection of literary, artistic and dramatic works, such as books and videos. The primary goal of copyright law is to protect the time, effort and creativity of a work’s creator.
The Copyright Act therefore grants the owner exclusive rights to reproduce that work, prepare derivative works based on the original work, distribute copies of the work by sale, lease or other transfer, and perform or display the work publicly. The copyright owner is also able to authorise other people to do any of these things.
A copyrighted work can be identified by the symbol ©. It signals to anyone looking to duplicate your work that it is secured by official legal protection. But copyright protection only applies to the particular form or manner in which information or ideas have been produced. Copyright Law does not cover the actual ideas, concepts, facts, or techniques contained in the copyright work.
A copyright does not have to be registered because copyright protection arises as soon as your work is created, under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. The period your copyright work is protected for depends on a number of factors, including the type of work you have created. If you are a poet, for example, your work will be protected until 70 years after your death.
What is a trademark?
A trademark (sometimes referred to as a service mark) is used to protect the words, slogans, logos or other devices used to identify a company brand. A trademark identifies and distinguishes your brand as a source of goods from those of competitors, whereas a service mark refers to the source of a service, rather than goods.
Not all words and names are capable of being protected as trademarks. They must not be generic or flatly descriptive, but rather suggestive (eg. Instagram), and can benefit from being arbitrary (like Apple) or even fanciful (such as Bumble). You can only adopt a trademark if it is not “confusingly similar” to another trademark already registered within a similar trademark classification.
Registered trademarks can be identified by the abbreviation ™ while in the process of registration, or ® once the registration has been accepted. It signals to all potential competitors that your brand has official legal protection and cannot be replicated.
Unlike patents and copyrights, a trademark does not expire after a given number of years. Trademarks are issued depending on ‘use’, meaning a trademark can last forever so long as you continue to utilise that mark to identify or distinguish the source of your goods or service.
How do I secure my intellectual property internationally?
A patent, once issued, applies only to the country in which the application is made. However, it is possible to make an international intellectual property application to ensure your intellectual property is protected internationally. This involves conducting an international patent search to determine the patentability of your invention. Read more in our blog on why you need to do a patent search.
Each country has its own copyright law which means copyright practice can vary, but most countries will protect works created in other countries in the same way that they protect their own citizens’ creations. It is advised you consult with a legally-trained professional to determine if and how your intellectual property is protected abroad.
Trademarks must again be applied for in each country your business is to operate. You can apply to the Patent and Trademark Office in each country that is strategic to your business. Within the European Union, there is a Community Trademark, and a number of countries have signed-up to an international agreement called the ‘The Madrid Protocol’, enabling business to search and register trademarks internationally.
How can Global Voices help secure my intellectual property?
Making an international patent application, or registering a trademark overseas requires the specialist skills of legal translators. Legal translations are one of the most difficult branches of the translating and interpreting professions, not only because the translations produced must be flawless, but also because each country has its own unique legal system and legal terms—even minor errors in a legal translation can render patents, trademarks and copyrights invalid.
You can rest assured with Global Voices, as each of our legal translation services are fully certified for quality and accuracy. The standard is an ISO 9001:2008 or ISO 9001:2015 and EN 15038 certification, which means it possesses demonstrable ability to consistently provide products and services that meet customer and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements.
As international business and global commerce rates rise, the need for multilingual contracts, patents and other legal documents is rapidly growing. Don’t leave the security of your business’ intellectual property to chance when it comes to filing an international patent. Use the resources of specialised legal translation services to make sure your business doesn’t face legal disputes later down the line.