Intellectual property rights in the UK

An Expert's View about Intellectual Property Law in the United Kingdom

Posted on: 30 Aug 2010

This fact sheet summarises the key factors in protecting intellectual property rights in the UK.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS This information sheet summarises the key factors in protecting intellectual property rights in the UK. The factors covered are: 1. The UK?s position on intellectual property rights 2. Patents 3. Trade marks 4. Copyright 5. Industrial design rights 6. Sector-specific regulations 7. Further information The UK is renowned for strongly encouraging business competition, entrepreneurial activity and innovation. A key aspect of this is the protection of new ideas and concepts provided by intellectual property rights (IPR). 1. THE UK?S POSITION ON INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS The UK takes a fair, pragmatic and transparent approach in supporting companies to secure their IPR. The key organisation responsible for overseeing IPR in the UK (including patents, trade marks, designs and copyright) is the UK Intellectual Property Office ( The Intellectual Property Office is also responsible for ensuring that the UK complies with the main international agreements on IPR. It is responsible for liaising with the World Intellectual Property Organization (, the European Union ( and the World Trade Organization ( specifically in relation to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights which covers 140 countries. 2. PATENTS Technical inventions can be protected by patent. A patent is granted by the Government for an invention that is new, involves an ?inventive step?, is capable of industrial application and is commercially viable. To apply for a patent in the UK, businesses need to develop a ?patent specification? and lodge it with an application form at the UK Intellectual Property Office. For further information, please see: The UK Intellectual Property Office strongly recommends that an application for a patent is developed using the services of a registered or chartered patent agent who will have the necessary skills and experience required to prepare the patent specification. For details of patent agents, please contact the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys at: When the patent is granted it gives the inventor the right, for a limited period, to stop others from making, using or selling the invention without the permission of the inventor. A UK patent will only provide rights to an inventor in the UK. It is important, therefore, that if an inventor wishes to protect the invention internationally, applications are made either to individual countries or to one or both of the following: ? in Europe, the European Patent Office (www.european-patent-, and ? globally, the World Intellectual Property Organization ( under the Patent Cooperation Treaty, signed by 140 countries. 3. TRADE MARKS A trade mark is a sign that can distinguish the goods and services of one business from those of another business. Trade marks can be words, logos, pictures and/or sounds. There are 45 classes of business activity in the UK under which a trade mark can be registered. Registering a trade mark costs £200 (and a further £50 for each additional class of business activity). Businesses have the choice of making their own application or of using the services of a specialist trade mark adviser. For further details, please see the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys at: The initial registration of a trade mark takes approximately two months. If there are any objections to the trade mark, the applicant is entitled to appeal. If there are no objections to the trade mark, the UK Intellectual Property Office publishes the trade mark application in the Trade Marks Journal for a further period of three months. Provided there are no objections during this period, the trade mark is formally registered and the applicant will receive a registration certificate. For more information on trade marks, please see: ? for a UK trade mark: ? for a European Community trade mark covering all European Union countries: ? for a global trade mark: 4. COPYRIGHT It is not necessary to apply formally for copyright protection as the action of creating a piece of work forms the copyright. Copyright covers various forms of intellectual capital including computer programs, websites, databases, literature, technical drawings, photography, art, music and films. For more information on copyright, please see: 5. INDUSTRIAL DESIGN RIGHTS These are rights granted to a designer where the aesthetic appearance or specific shape of an object, but not the technical invention, can be protected by means of a registered design. To apply for a UK industrial design right, applicants must complete form DF2A which is available from the UK Intellectual Property Office at: In addition, European legislation allows designers to apply for a Registered Community Design for all European Union countries. For further information, please see: 6. SECTOR-SPECIFIC REGULATIONS There are specific regulations and protections relating to the following industries: ? biotechnology, ? genetic engineering, ? software, ? the development of plant varieties, and ? semiconductors. IPR related to these sectors is particularly complex and companies are recommended to take professional advice. For further information, please see: 7. FURTHER INFORMATION This information sheet was updated in March 2010. As information changes from time to time, please contact the organisations listed or UK Trade & Investment to confirm any item that you intend to rely on. This information sheet was produced by the Marketing Group of: UK Trade & Investment 9th Floor Kingsgate House 66-74 Victoria Street London SW1E 6SW Tel: +44 (0)20 7215 4957 Email: Website:
Posted: 30 August 2010

See more from Intellectual Property Law in the United Kingdom

Expert Views    
Intellectual property rights in the UK   By UK Trade & Investment
EC COMPETITION LAW AND POLICY: A SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST   By Obinna Onyeneke, The Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen