Creative industries: international trade regulations

Protecting the intellectual property inherent in your design and creative output


Intellectual property (IP) is any form of original creation that can be bought or sold - from music to a unique item of merchandise. The four main types of IP rights are patents, trade marks, designs and copyright but there are many other ways to protect your IP.

Copyright protects written, theatrical, musical and artistic works as well as film, book layouts, sound recordings, and broadcasts. As it is an automatic legal right, you can't actually apply for it. You may, however, be able to buy, sell or transfer copyright.

Usually your copyright work will be protected abroad automatically in the same way that it is protected in the UK. See copyright for your business.

As IP rights account for much of the value created in the creative and media sector, you should carefully consider how to protect your business. Even if you protect IP at home, you are advised to check the strength of IP protection in each country so as not to lose marketing opportunities abroad. For example, a UK producer will have little success in marketing a film overseas if pirated copies are already circulating.

You should incorporate IP protection into all your business relationships including suppliers, distributors, partners, customers and your employees. Protection is particularly important where these relationships relate to technology transfer or transfer of business knowledge.

You can read about how and when to use IP.

You should also ensure that your imported goods do not breach the IP rights of other businesses, eg watch out for counterfeit goods and design infringements. Infringing goods can be seized and destroyed by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). You can ask HMRC to check for imported counterfeit versions of your goods.