Skip to main content

Joint Research Management Office

Types of IP rights

a lightbulb with a question mark inside it


This gives the creator of an original piece of work the ability to prevent any unauthorised use of the work, such as copying, for up to 70 years after the death of the owner. Copyright may apply to a wide range of creative, intellectual, or artistic forms, or "works".  Copyright does not cover ideas and information themselves, only the form or manner in which they are expressed. Copyright arises automatically once a copyrighted piece of work is recorded, however, use of the words “Copyright [insert Author and year of creation]” can be included at the end of a publication to alert the reader that the works are protected by copyright.

In order to use the “Copyright” statement at the end of articles, the work produced must be capable of attracting copyright. In order to do so, the work must have originated from the author and there must have been more than a trivial level of effort expended creating it. Therefore simply replicating another’s work will not qualify as an original piece of work, however, creation of a piece of work or utilising another piece of work to create something which is substantially new and original is likely to pass the threshold for originality.

Industrial design right

Sometimes called "design right" or “design patent”, these protect the visual design of objects that are not purely utilitarian. It could be a shape, configuration or composition of patterns or colours, or a combination of pattern and colour in three-dimensional form containing aesthetic value.  These design rights can be either registered (in the UK with the Intellectual Property Office) or unregistered. Protection for registered designs last a maximum of 25 years with renewal required every 5 years. The unregistered design right arises automatically, however proving a third party’s infringement of an owner’s unregistered design right can prove expensive and difficult.


A patent protects technical inventions. It is a form of right granted in the UK by the Intellectual Property Office (in other countries ‘patent office’) to an inventor or their successor-in-title, giving the owner the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, offering to sell, and importing an invention for a period of up to 20 years from the date that the patent application is filed, subject to renewals. As part of the application process, the patent will be disclosed to the public.

Plant variety

Plant breeders' rights or plant variety rights are the rights to rights to ensure that no other party may use the owner’s plant species for production or reproduction, sale, alteration, export or importing or harbouring stock. This right lasts for 25 years for plants or 30 years for trees, vines or potato varieties.


A recognizable sign, design or expression which distinguishes the products or services of a particular trader from similar products or services of other traders. These rights fall into either registered or unregistered trademarks. Registered trademarks enable the owners to protect against unauthorised use of the trademark for an indefinite period of time subject to renewal every 10 years. Unregistered trademark rights arise automatically, however in order to protect it from being copied by a third party the owner is required to bring an action for passing off and prove evidence of misrepresentation and damage. Both of which may be difficult, expensive, time-consuming and ultimately unsuccessful.

Trade dress

A legal term of art that generally refers to characteristics of the visual and aesthetic appearance of a product or its packaging (or even the design of a building) that signify the source of the product to consumers. Trade dress that serves to identify and distinguish the source of goods or services may be protected as a trademark or service mark if it is both distinctive and non-functional

Trade secret

A formula, practice, process, design, instrument, pattern, or compilation of information which is not generally known or reasonably ascertainable, by which a business can obtain an economic advantage over competitors and customers.  Trade secrets may be protected in 2 ways, via the use of NDAs or confidentiality clauses in contracts or via the Trade Secret Regulations provided by statute.

Return to top