Research and develop ideas, new products and services

How to protect new product ideas


If you create something unique or come up with a great idea for a viable, commercially successful product or service, you will likely have intellectual property (IP) that you can protect and exploit.

IP in new ideas

All businesses have IP. Your business' IP is what sets it apart from its competitors. For example, it could be your business name, logos, inventions, product designs or other creative work.

Some IP rights are automatically safeguarded by IP law, but there are also other types of legal protection you can apply for. Depending on the type of IP you have in your product or service, you may want to:

  • register a design
  • apply for a trade mark
  • file a patent

Read an overview of the different types of legal protection for intellectual property rights or find out about protecting intellectual property.

Businesses in Northern Ireland can get advice on IP-related matters from Invest Northern Ireland.

Confidentiality and non-disclosure

At some stage, you will probably wish to discuss your new product or service idea with a third party or test it with customers and clients. It's important to understand that, once you put an idea into the public domain, it can no longer be considered confidential or a trade secret, so you need to take steps to protect it.

Before talking to any third parties, it is a good idea to ask them to sign a non-disclosure or confidentiality agreement. This prevents them from sharing details of your idea with others. See more on non-disclosure agreements.

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) offers a number of online tools which can help you better understand your IP rights. Access the IP for business tools.