Protecting intellectual property

Types of legal protection for intellectual property rights


The type of intellectual property (IP) protection you can get depends on what you have created. Some legal rights arise automatically and others you have to apply for.

Automatic protection

Type of protection Examples of IP How long does it last Find out more
Copyright Original writing and literary works, art, photography, films, TV, music, web content, sound recordings and software The length of protection varies according to the type of copyright work, when and where it was created Copyright for your business
Design right Configuration and shape of three-dimensional products Lasts for 10 or 15 years, depending on when the product is first sold or created (whichever comes earliest) Unregistered design right

Protection you have to apply for

Type of protection Examples of IP How long does it last Find out more
Trade marks Distinctive product or brand names, logos, slogans, symbols, sounds, colours, etc Initially for ten years, after which it can be renewed indefinitely Trade marks
Registered designs Appearance of the whole or part of a product, including shape, lines, patterns, colours, texture and ornamentation Registration lasts for five years initially, but can be renewed for a maximum of 25 years Registered designs
Patents Inventions, novel products, or innovative processes (eg way of manufacturing) Granted patent can remain in force for up to 20 years, if renewed regularly Get patent protection for your business

In addition to the rights outlined in the tables above, there are a number of other ways of protecting your original ideas, eg using confidentiality agreements, copy protection devices, publication rights and trade secrets.

For more on those, see trade secrets and other IP protection.