How designers can protect their intellectual property

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Protecting your intellectual property can be a tricky process. As a creative designer it’s your job to ensure you’re sheltered if someone copies your ideas. Unfortunately, there are many loopholes that enable organisations to plagiarise work; therefore, being prepared for every eventuality is crucial.

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There are four main categories of intellectual property rights; patents, designs, trademarks and copyright. Each category refers to a different type of design. Understanding what’s relevant to your product is the first step towards ensuring you’re adequately protected.

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Intellectual Property Rights

According to Business Case Studies patents mainly refer to brand new products and can last for up to 20 years if renewed annually. Patents require distinct information regarding the technical specifications and operation of a product to ensure others can’t copy it and make something too similar.

Designs are the physical appearance of the product, such as the lines, shapes, contours and materials. A standard design registration lasts for five years; however, if it’s renewed annually it can last for up to 25 years.

Trademarks distinguish goods and services from other traders and often include worlds, logos, pictures, or a combination of all three. Essentially the trademark process is there to ensure people will recognise your brand and not confuse it with other companies. For this reason trademarks that bear close resemblance to yours could be rejected.

Copyright relates to the inner context of an idea. For example, anyone can write a story about teenage wizards and witches, but using the name Harry Potter for a character is a breach of copyright law. Copyright also covers aspects around existing IP’s, such as merchandise based on elements within the copyrighted idea.

Design Rights

According to GOV.uk when you sell a design the law automatically gives you Design Rights. This law gives you the rights to the design either 10 years after it was sold or 15 years after it was created (depending on which came first). Design Rights only apply to the shape and configuration of a product.

If you ever encounter disputes regarding your design you can seek aid from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), they will review your case and determine whether or not you have Design Rights.

Digital Protection

Protecting your digital assets is just as important as protecting your physical assets, especially as technology advances. According to Cheeky Munkey computer viruses cost the global economy billions every year; therefore, making sure your internal communication systems aren’t compromised is paramount.

Viruses and Trojans can be used by hackers to gain access to highly sensitive information. If the nature of your design is exposed to the public it’ll no longer be valid for copyright or other forms of intellectual property protection. As a designer becoming a victim of malware could cost you your entire business.

If you have worries about digital security there are options. Organisations such as the PGI Cyber Academy run courses specifically designed for business owners who are trying to reduce the risk of cyber-attacks.

Failure to take the necessary precautions could have devastating consequences. Always make sure your intellectual property is protected before you make your design open to the public. If you need help ensuring everything is legally sound seeking aid from professionals is certainly recommended.

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James Timpson

Author: James Timpson

James is a freelance writer with expertise on a number of creative topics.