Key Factors in Protecting Intellectual Property Rights in UK - March 2013


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Key Factors in Protecting Intellectual Property Rights in UK - March 2013

  1. 1. Information Sheet INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS This information sheet summarises the key factors in protecting intellectual property rights in the UK. The factors covered are: 1. The UK’s position on intellectual property rights 2. Patents 3. Trade marks 4. Copyright 5. Industrial design rights 6. Sector-specific regulations 7. Further information The UK is renowned for strongly encouraging business competition, entrepreneurial activity and innovation. A key aspect of this is the protection of new ideas and concepts provided by intellectual property rights (IPR). 1. THE UK’S POSITION ON INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS The UK takes a fair, pragmatic and transparent approach in supporting companies to secure their IPR. The key organisation responsible for overseeing IPR in the UK (including patents, trade marks, designs and copyright) is the UK Intellectual Property Office. The Intellectual Property Office is also responsible for ensuring that the UK complies with the main international agreements on IPR, and for liaising with the World Intellectual Property Organization, the European Union and the World Trade Organization (specifically in relation to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights which covers 140 countries). 2. PATENTS Technical inventions can be protected by patent. A patent is granted by the Government for an invention that is new, involves an “inventive step”, is capable of industrial application and is commercially viable. To apply for a patent in the UK, businesses need to develop a “patent specification” and lodge it with an application form at the UK Intellectual Property Office. The UK Intellectual Property Office strongly recommends that an application for a patent is developed using the services of a registered or chartered patent agent who will have the necessary skills and experience required to prepare the patent specification. For details of patent agents, please visit the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys website. When the patent is granted it gives the inventor the right, for a limited period, to stop others from making, using or selling the invention without the permission of the inventor.
  2. 2. A UK patent will only provide rights to an inventor in the UK. It is important, therefore, that if an inventor wishes to protect the invention internationally, applications are made either to individual countries or to one or both of the following: – in Europe, the European Patent Office, and – globally, the World Intellectual Property Organization under the Patent Cooperation Treaty, signed by 146 countries. 3. TRADE MARKS A trade mark is a sign that can distinguish the goods and services of one business from those of another business. Trade marks can be words, logos, pictures and/or sounds. There are 45 classes of business activity in the UK under which a trade mark can be registered. Registering a trade mark costs £200 (or £170 if filed online) and a further £50 for each additional class of business activity. Businesses have the choice of making their own application or of using the services of a specialist trade mark adviser. For further details, please visit the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys website. The initial registration of a trade mark takes approximately two months. If there are any objections to the trade mark, the applicant is entitled to appeal. If there are no objections to the trade mark, the UK Intellectual Property Office publishes the trade mark application in the Trade Marks Journal for a further period of three months. Provided there are no objections during this period, the trade mark is formally registered and the applicant will receive a registration certificate. For further information on trade marks, please visit: – for a UK trade mark, the UK Intellectual Property Office website, – for a European Community trade mark (covering all European Union countries), the European Union website, or – for a global trade mark, the World Intellectual Property Organization website. 4. COPYRIGHT It is not necessary to apply formally for copyright protection as the action of creating a piece of work forms the copyright. This covers various forms of intellectual capital including computer programs, websites, broadcasts, databases, literature, technical drawings, photography, art, music and films. 5. INDUSTRIAL DESIGN RIGHTS These are rights granted to a designer where the aesthetic appearance or specific shape of an object, but not the technical invention, can be protected by means of a registered design. To apply for a UK industrial design right, applicants must complete form DF2A which is available from the UK Intellectual Property Office. In addition, European legislation allows designers to apply for a Registered Community Design for all European Union countries.
  3. 3. 6. SECTOR-SPECIFIC REGULATIONS There are specific regulations and protections relating to the following industries: – biotechnology, – genetic engineering, – software and databases, – the development of plant varieties, and – semiconductors. IPR related to these sectors is particularly complex and companies are recommended to take professional advice. 7. FURTHER INFORMATION This information sheet was updated in March 2013. As information changes from time to time, please contact the organisations listed or UK Trade & Investment to confirm any item that you intend to rely on. For all investment enquiries, please contact the ‘UKTI Investment Hub’ on +44 (0)20 7333 5442 or via email at This information sheet was produced by: UK Trade & Investment Marketing 1 Victoria Street London SW1H 0ET Tel: +44 (0)20 7215 4957 Email: Website: