Patents protect inventions by giving the owner of the patent the right to stop anyone from making or using the invention. This right to stop others is limited in time, usually, for up to 20 years. In other words, a patent is a right to stop competition for the invention for a limited period.
Key Patent points to remember:
- Don’t make the details of your invention public before you file a patent application.
- To get a patent, your invention must not have been disclosed publicly anywhere in the world before you apply - even by yourself.
- Patents are not kept secret - they are published, usually 18 months after application.
- Ignorance that you are infringing someone else’s patent is no defence.
Trade marks are signs, which are used to distinguish the goods or services of one trader from those of another. In this context, the word “sign” is used very broadly. Although most trade marks are words or logos or combinations of the two, other forms such as three dimensional shapes, combinations of colours and even sounds can be, and indeed are, used as trade marks.
Trade marks are a most important means of protecting the reputation and goodwill that a trader has built up.
Trade Mark registration gives you the best protection from unfair competition.
Generally speaking, the protection afforded to industrial designs under European law is for the “new” features of shape, configuration, form, patterns or ornament of an industrial product, which convey an aesthetic effect. In other words, there must be some appeal to the eye in the design for which protection sought.
Copyright is a right associated with a particular “copyright work” such as books, films, music, and computer programmes etc. It is easiest thought of as a right to stop people copying the work, either in the same form, or in some other form without permission.
Design can be very important, and can for instance be the reason that a particular product is chosen or desired. A significant amount of work may be involved in producing a design, and it is therefore important wherever possible to provide protection for this design work. Design protection can be very important in preventing competitors from using the same or a closely similar design. Design protection may be used when necessary against another party who has produced the same or a closely similar design, and particularly where a design has been copied. Design protection can also be used in licensing a design to third parties and therefore potentially providing an extra income source.