Some types of intellectual property (IP) rights (such as copyright and design right) arise automatically. Others (like trade marks, design registration and patents) you have to apply for. It's important that you keep these secret until you've had a chance to register them.
Keep important hard-copy information locked up and, if you need to disclose your idea to someone, consider using a non-disclosure agreement.
How to avoid IP infringement
Take special care when trying to sell or license an invention, idea or design to an agent, manufacturer or potential partner, even if registration is complete.
Apart from a confidentiality agreement, if you have not protected your idea by applying for a patent, trade mark or design, it might be worth posting a dated copy of your idea to yourself using recorded delivery and lodging the unopened envelope and postal record with your bank or solicitor.
Note that this only shows that you were in possession of an idea on the date shown, but will not prove that you own it.
Protecting IP on digital files
Information stored electronically, particularly on computers connected to the internet, needs protection from both lapses in security and IT disasters.
- ensure sensitive information is kept on password-protected areas of your system
- install anti-virus software and keep it up to date
- install firewalls to prevent unauthorised users from hacking into your system and update them regularly
- back up your work and ensure back-ups are stored securely, preferably off-site
- protect your system against power surges and failures
See more on intellectual property crime and your business.
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