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
3. Trade marks
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).
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
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.
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.
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.
6. SECTOR-SPECIFIC REGULATIONS
There are specific regulations and protections relating to the following industries:
– genetic engineering,
– software and databases,
– the development of plant varieties, and
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
This information sheet was produced by:
UK Trade & Investment Marketing
1 Victoria Street
Tel: +44 (0)20 7215 4957