Cheat Sheet

Patents, Registered Designs, Trade Marks and Copyright For Dummies (UK Edition)

If you have a great idea for the next big thing, an eye-catching logo, or an exciting business concept, you need to understand how to safeguard your creations. This Cheat Sheet gives you a basic grounding in intellectual property to ensure that you’re the only one cashing in on your creativity and hard work.

Navigating the Perilous Patent Path

Because a patent is the most expensive and complex type of IP (intellectual property) right, first analyse whether you can protect your IP with copyright, a trademark, or a service mark, or by keeping it under wraps as a trade secret.

If you and your IP professional decide that a patent is the way to go, and you have the time and money to see the process through to the conclusion, here’s the patent process in a nutshell:

  1. Make sure the invention is really yours and doesn’t belong to your boss, your spouse, or your business partner.

  2. Do a patent search to make sure that no one else has already come up with your formula, process or invention.

  3. Check that your invention passes the test – it’s new, and wouldn’t be obvious to someone knowledgeable in the field.

  4. Prepare a patent application, including:

    • A short abstract of the invention

    • The claims

    • A description and accompanying drawings, if applicable

    • A brief description of each figure of the drawing

    • A brief discussion of the general field, background and circumstances of the invention

    • A summary of the invention

    • References to any prior applications

  5. File your patent application, paying special attention to filing deadlines.

  6. Prevent publication of your application if you’re not ready to proceed due to commercial considerations.

  7. If you allow your application to publish, pursue and prosecute your application through the UK-IPO.

  8. Appeal adverse decisions of the Examiner.

  9. Get the patent granted.

Getting Protected with Copyright

A copyright protects an Original Work of Authorship (OWA) – think short story, computer program or song lyrics, for example – which must be the author’s original creation. Here’s some at-a-glance info on copyright:

  • As soon as you create a work, you automatically enjoy copyright, which prevents others from copying, publishing or performing your work.

  • Make sure that you own the work. In other words, you didn’t produce it as an employee, or as a work made for hire.

  • You don’t need to register your copyright; it’s an automatic right upon creation.

  • Mark your work as a copyrighted work to discourage infringers and give yourself legal advantages by using the copyright symbol, followed by your company or personal name, and the date of creation, for example: © Widgets Ltd 2011.

Making Your Mark with Trademarks

You can trademark all sorts of different things. Different types of marks distinguish your product, service or company from others. Here’s a brief description of the different marks:

  • Product names and logos, commonly known as brands, or trademarks, which distinguish your product from others.

  • Service marks, such as certification marks, and membership or association marks.

  • Corporate identity, such as trade names, which are typically business names and logos.

A good trademark or service mark has the following characteristics:

  • Original (do a search first)

  • Distinctive character

  • Recognisable

  • Memorable

  • Pleasant associations

Keeping Trade Secrets

Trade secrets can take many forms, such as your customer and supplier list, your next marketing campaign, a particular process or formula, or your finances. Here’s how you can protect them:

  • Have all employees, contractors, consultants, advisors and suppliers sign a confidentiality agreement.

  • Restrict access to areas of your office or plant.

  • Mark documents with a confidential legend.

  • Limit circulation of confidential documents.

  • Lock away sensitive material.

  • Include warnings and directives in your employee manual.

Patents, Registered Designs, Trade Marks and Copyright Acronyms to Know

The world of patents, registered designs, trade marks and copyright can be a minefield of jargon and acronyms. Here’s a quick reference to help you out:

ARIPO Western Africa Patent Office
CIPA Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys
CPA Chartered Patent Attorney
EAPO Eurasian Patent Office
EPA European Patent Attorney
EPO European Patent Office
EU European Union
IP Intellectual Property
IPR Intellectual Property Right
ITMA Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys
OA Office action (by a patent or trademark examiner)
OAIP Southeastern African Patent Office
OHIM European Trademark Office (Office of Harmonization for the Internal Market)
OWA Original Work of Authorship (protected by copyright)
PCT Patent Cooperation Treaty
PVPA Plant Variety Protection Act
PVPO Plant Variety Protection Office
RTMA Registered Trade Mark Attorney
UK-IPO United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office
USPTO United States Patent and Trademark Office
WIPO World Industrial Property Organization
WMFH Work Made For Hire
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