Intellectual property: the basics
How to protect intellectual property
Most businesses create and own some type of intellectual property (IP). Depending on what you create, you can use patents, trade marks, design right and registration, or copyright to protect your intellectual property assets.
Different rules apply to different types of intellectual property.
Patents protect inventions, including the features and processes that make things work. You have to apply for and register a patent to secure protection. Find out more about IP rights: patents.
Copyright protects published artistic work, including writing, film, music and computer software. Unlike most other forms of IP, copyright applies automatically when the work is first published. Read more about IP rights: copyright.
Trade marks are signs that distinguish between goods and services (eg words, logos, brand names, pictures, shapes, sound etc). You don't have to register a trade mark to use it, but registration grants you exclusive rights for its use. Read more about IP rights: trade marks.
A design refers to the features of shape, configuration, pattern or ornamentation that give a product their unique appearance. You can protect designs through automatic unregistered design rights or design registration. Find out more about IP rights: designs.
Depending on the IP assets that you wish to protect, you may also want to look at:
- digital intellectual property and your business
- confidentiality agreements
- non-disclosure agreements
Find more tips and advice on protecting intellectual property.
Some areas of IP rights and legislation have been affected by EU Exit. For current information on these, see: EU exit and innovation and R&D.
Invest NI Helpline0800 181 4422
IPO Information Centre0300 300 2000