How does intellectual property law affect me?
Intellectual property is a form of original creation by an individual or company and that individual or company therefore has the right to sell it as it becomes, in essence, their property.
It can affect you in many ways because if you come up with an original creation you will want it to be protected so that either only you can benefit from it or you can sell it and make profit.
It will also be vital to know if you are using somebody else’s intellectual property, because if you are you can be sued.
There are four main types of intellectual property that you should know about and they are as follows:
A patent will be taken out when an inventor makes something which is uniquely different from anything that has been made previously.
Patents are often synonymous with inventors who will produce something and then look to secure a patent so they can benefit from it exclusively.
When somebody invents something new they must apply for a patent if they want exclusive rights to it. Patents are not handed out easily as it is not beneficial to let someone have a monopoly over a particular product. However, time-limited patents are thought to act as an incentive to invent something because, in the period it is patented, the creator can make a lot of money from their creation.
A trade mark is essentially a way of protecting a brand; for example ‘coca cola’ is a trade mark and you would be sued if you produced something and then branded it as coca cola. It is important to trade mark your brand early because if you do not then somebody else could use your brand, possibly even trade mark it themselves and then use the goodwill of the business that you have built up.
Copyright is usually associated with music artists since when they write a song they will own the copyright for the lyrics and another artist cannot sell music using those lyrics without requesting permission.
Copyright does not just affect musicians; it covers all types of work including film and literature. In fact copyright is an automatic right which means unlike other IP rights you don’t have to register it. So if you write a story and somebody else copies and sells it they are breaching your copyright.
Design rights tend to be more complicated because the IP right concerns the physical and visual appearance of a product. It is often much easier to prove breach of IP right in copyright and patents than in design. Often design rights will overlap into other areas of IP and an individual may be in breach of design rights and trade mark at the same time.
It is important to be aware of IP rights because if you breach them you are likely to be sued for any loss the company or individual that owns the rights has suffered. IP rights are property and should be treated as such.
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