There are four main areas of Intellectual Property (IP).
Copyright is an automatic right that doesn't need to be registered. It applies to the expression of an idea such as literature, music or art.
Further information is available from the
Intellectual Property Office - Copyright.
patent protects your invention and lets you take legal action against anyone who makes, uses, sells or imports your invention without your permission.
What can be patented?
Your invention has to be:
- something that can be made or used
- not excluded
Further information, including how to apply for a patent online, is available from the
Intellectual Property Office - Patents.
Search existing patents
Before you apply for a patent it is worthwhile conducting a search of existing patents that may already protect part, or all, of your invention.
Espacenet||Free access to more than 80 million patent documents worldwide, from 1836 to date.|
Patentscope||Free access to more than 37 million patent documents including international patent applications and some national and regional patent offices. |
Registered designs protect the look and appearance of a product.
Designs operate on a first-come, first-served basis. If someone else has already registered or disclosed your design or a similar one, it is not available.
Save time and money by searching for designs that may conflict with yours before you apply.
Further information, including how to apply for a registered design, is available from the
Intellectual Property Office - Designs.
How to find registered designs
There are a number of free registered design databases.
Lorcano Classification||An international classification used for the registration of industrial designs.|
British National||Designs registered in the UK, supplied by the Intellectual Property Office. |
Designview ||Registered designs for all European Union Member States.|
trade mark is any sign used by a trader to distinguish their goods and services from those of others. It must be:
- capable of being graphically represented and,
- capable of distinguishing
There are some exceptions that cannot be protected.
An unregistered trade mark can be protected but this can be difficult and expensive.
Further information, including how to apply for a trade mark online, is available from the
Intellectual Property Office - Trade Marks.
Searching for trade marks
Article 6ter||Details state emblems, official hallmarks, etc. that are not allowed to be registered or used as trade marks. |
Nice Classification ||An international classification of goods and services applied for the registration of trade marks. |
Vienna Classification||An international classification of the figurative elements of trade marks.|
USPTO||US database of registered trade marks and pending applications. |
Community Trade Mark ||Comprehensive trade marks information for all European Union Member States. |
Madrid System ||The international trade mark system for registering and managing marks worldwide.|
TMView||Details of trade marks from all participating offices. |
British National||Trade marks registered in the UK, supplied by the Intellectual Property Office.|
Identifying and protecting your IP
It's important to identify and protect your IP early on, but if you're new to the subject, where do you start?
The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is the government body responsible for granting IP rights. IP for Business from the IPO is a range of online tools designed to help you understand, identify, protect and exploit your IP assets to their fullest potential. Whether you’re a complete novice or looking to brush up on existing skills, they have the right tool for you:
• What is it? A free, interactive online learning tool to help you identify assets which may be protected by IP rights. Made up of four modules on the main IP rights, it takes around an hour to complete and is also CPD accredited.
• Who is it for? Everyone, from small business owners to professional advisors.
• What is it? A free online assessment of your business to help you identify and add value to your IP assets. Based on your answers to a series of simple questions, it provides a confidential report with advice on how to protect your IP.
• Who is it for? Businesses looking for a more detailed look at their IP.
• What is it? A specialist course for business professionals. It will help you develop an in-depth understanding of IP and practical skills you can use in a business environment. Can be completed in a classroom (face-to-face) setting or online.
• Who is it for? Professionals looking for a comprehensive course in IP.
• What is it? Perfect for accessing simple IP information on the go, the app gives you an overview of IP rights and how to make the most of them. Free to download on Apple iOS and Android devices.
• Who is it for? Anyone who wants instant access to IP information.
In addition the IPO's business pages are packed with useful advice including; case studies, details of upcoming events and where to access further support.