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Using Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is a way of protecting an idea and can be used in several ways.

New ideas

To begin with, when you have formed an idea that you wish to protect, it is important to make sure that there are no existing patents which cover an idea which is the same as yours.

When developing your idea you should consider whether you need to use other technology to improve your idea. If you think it would be beneficial to your idea then you should seek to get a licence from the owner of the technology which you wish to use. It is important to seek legal advice when licensing someone else’s technology to ensure the protection of your own idea.

Tied in with licensing, you may wish to go into partnership with another business or individual. You should consider writing up a confidentiality agreement with anyone you go into partnership with to ensure the protection of your idea.

You should consider gaining IP protection before your idea goes to market.

Technological ideas

If your idea involves technology there are two ways in which you can attempt to protect it.

Firstly, if your idea would be hard to copy due to the process involved in making it, you could opt just to make it a trade secret.

A trade secret is appropriate if your idea is not eligible for intellectual property protection or if you wish to protect your idea beyond a patent. The problem with a trade secret is that it does not protect you from someone replicating your idea off their own back, and while it may seem unlikely that this will happen, it is definitely something to consider. You may also need to consider how well you will be able to keep the idea secret, for example at the production stages. Trade secrets are protected by the law of confidentiality and if you wish to tell someone about your idea you should draw up a confidentiality agreement. If it is broken you have the right to take legal action.

Secondly you could apply for a patent which would protect your idea.

Creative and design ideas

If your idea is creative or design based, there are two protection options to consider.

The first option of protection to consider is design registration - this is appropriate when your design is unique or significantly different from others on the market. By registering your design you have the exclusive rights to how the design looks and the right to take legal action against anyone who copies your idea. Once your design is registered you have the right to sell your design and the IP rights which go with it, or license out your idea whilst retaining the IP rights.

The other protection available is copyright which comes into play immediately with original, creative or artistic works. It does not protect ideas and does not need to be registered.

New businesses

The first thing you should do when you start your new business is come up with a name. A name will need to be registered with Companies House but if you want to protect it you should consider making it a trade mark.


If your business has a website it is important to note that if you subcontract the creation of your website to an outside individual, they will retain the copyright unless it is transferred.

The © symbol should be added to any original work which you display on the website, along with the owner's name and the date on which it was produced.

Promotional items

Any promotional items produced to promote your company should be protected under copyright law.


If you seek investment from an outside source it is important to draw up a confidentiality agreement with whoever you are going into business with to ensure the protection of your business idea.