Creatives: Why Should You Be Interested In Intellectual Property?

By knowing about Intellectual Property, as a creative, you will know what to do to protect your hard work from being copied without your permission.
 Intellectual Property infringements can cost you thousands where amongst other things people can produce a cheap replica of your products and sell them as the original. This can be detrimental to your future success by effectively stealing profits that should be yours and doing damage to your business reputation with low quality knock-offs.

What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual Property is complex. According to the UK Government website, Intellectual Property is a collection of rights. Having the right type of intellectual property (IP) protection helps you to stop people stealing or copying your creative work including:

  • The names of your products, business or brands

  • Your inventions

  • The design or look of your products

  • Things you write, create or produce

There are four main types of Intellectual Property

  1. Copyright - automatic and free for literary, artistic or dramatic and musical works

  2. Patents - granted for new inventions

  3. Designs Rights - you can register the look of a product you've designed and Design Rights must applied for at the IP office for new designs. Britain also has unregistered Design Rights automatically given for 15 years from the date created. It is very important to keep good records of the whole design and creative process as well as any meetings and correspondence in case you are ever required to prove the originality of your work.

  4. Trade Marks - can be applied for and registered for brand names, words, sounds and even smells.

What Counts as Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property is something unique that you physically create. An idea alone is not intellectual property. For example, an idea for a book doesn’t count, but the words you’ve actually written do.

A Quick Guide to Managing your IP

 NESTA, in the UK provides a step by step list of how to manage your IP:

- List your creative assets including your logo, business name, packaging design and products

- Have a simple confidentiality agreement with your clients BEFORE you start negotiations with potential manufacturers or investors.

- Register designs, patents and trademarks at the IP office.

-Buy the domains for your business name to secure your brand.
Keep the renewal dates in your diary, your domain name registrar usually send you a reminder by email.

- Mark your name or business name on all copies of your work along with the date and country. 

Creative Commons License

 Copyright protection is freely and automatically given whenever you create a photo, song, drawing, story, website, flyer etc. with no need to register

However, sometimes full copyright is too restrictive and you may want your creative work to be freely shared to get exposure without people having to come to you to ask for your express permission. 

This is where Creative Commons Licensing comes in. Creative Commons Licensing is a global movement and refines your automatic copyright and dictates how others may use your work without permission.

Read more about it here:

How to Monetise Your IP

Knowing about IP is important as your creative work is an asset. It can have a high value in the future and in some cases can be used as collateral or a legacy to pass down. It can give you a real advantage when negotiating deals and it can make you money beyond the sale of your creative work.

You Can:
- License your rights,  (retain your rights whilst granting permission to use) and make money on them

- Charge an Assignment fee (transfer of ownership) if the clients wants the rights

- Receive royalties

Enforce Your IP

As mentioned earlier IP infringements can cost you thousands

- Monitor what others in your industry are up to and get alerts on any new trademarks being advertised to ensure that they don't infringe upon yours.

- Have standard Cease and Desist letters ready to use if you find anyone is infringing on your rights

In the UK, the British Library has regular mini courses on IP and lots of information on their website.

This was just a brief outline about Intellectual Property and you will need to read up about the rules specific to  your country. This information is written in very general terms and should be used as a guide only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional advice.

In the US, Patent, trade mark and design applications can all be filed electronically through the USPTO website, and copyright through the Copyright Office website