Intellectual Property

Forbes Solicitors' intellectual property solicitors provide advice on all aspects of intellectual property law, including trademarks, patents, and copyright.

More about Intellectual Property

Our experienced intellectual property lawyers work with a range of clients, from entrepreneurs to established businesses, to protect their valuable intellectual property assets. Our IP solicitors can help with drafting and negotiating contracts, advising on infringement disputes, and handling the registration process for your intellectual property.

What is Intellectual Property

What is Intellectual Property

Intellectual property broadly covers creations of the mind, such as inventions, literary and artistic works, symbols, names, images, and designs used in commerce. Intellectual property is most commonly protected in law via patents, designs, trade marks and copyright, each of which, if protected properly, prescribe exclusive rights to use them.

Intellectual property law in the UK is a complex area and depending on the products and services that your business provides, there are a series of intellectual property rights that you may either automatically hold on creation or following active steps to obtain intellectual property protection. Our guide to intellectual property rights discusses each intellectual property right, how it arises, and the protection afforded to the holder. In the United Kingdom, the most common forms of intellectual property rights are as follows:

  • Trade marks - these can be protected on a registered or an unregistered basis;

  • Copyright;

  • Designs;

  • Patents; and

  • Confidential Information and trade secrets.

Whether you are a small business that has recently started trading or have been established in your industry for several years, it is always worth considering how you can protect - and later exploit - the intellectual property rights that your business owns. It is estimated that up to 80% of the value in a business can be found in its intellectual property, and having appropriate registrations and licensing arrangements prevents the likelihood of third parties copying your products and services, but also increases the chances of third party investments in your business or franchising opportunities in the future.

As Intellectual Property rights often tie in with other Information Technology policies and agreements, we also offer a range of other services for your business. Click here to see our IT services.

Why choose our intellectual property solicitors?

Why choose our intellectual property solicitors?

Our intellectual property solicitors have extensive experience in protecting and enforcing intellectual property rights, including trademarks, patents, copyrights, and trade secrets. We provide tailored legal advice and solutions to meet the specific needs of our clients, whether they are individuals, startups, or established businesses. Our team is dedicated to providing high-quality, cost-effective services and achieving the best possible outcomes for our clients.Who do our intellectual property solicitors help?Our intellectual property solicitors help individuals and businesses protect their intellectual property rights, including trademarks, patents, copyrights, and trade secrets. They also assist with licensing agreements, infringement disputes, and other related legal matters.

How can our intellectual property lawyers help ?

Our intellectual property lawyers can help protect your creative works, inventions, and brand identity by providing legal advice and representation in matters such as trademark registration, patent applications, copyright infringement, and trade secret protection. We can also assist in negotiating and drafting licensing agreements, conducting IP due diligence for mergers and acquisitions, and enforcing your IP rights through litigation or alternative dispute resolution. Our goal is to help you maximise the value of your intellectual property assets and minimise the risk of infringement or misappropriation.

Our legal experts possess vast experience in providing legal services for Intellectual Property cases to clients throughout the UK. Get in touch with us now to consult with our team.

I had no previous experience of such matters nor a recommendation for an IP focused solicitor from anyone I trusted, so I called Forbes on the basis of an internet search result.From the very first contact I experienced professional and friendly support with very quick responses to emails and requests for telephone consultations. The aspects of the laws governing the dispute were clearly explained to me, giving me confidence in my legal position and the knowledge base of the individuals from Forbes that were involved with my IP issue, namely Daniel Fletcher and Adam Estell. Both of these gentleman were professional, friendly, efficient and supportive throughout my dealings with them and I would recommend them without a moments hesitation.

Martin

Daniel and his team have been exemplary in their interactions and services provided. They have the perfect sweet spot when it comes to professional and personable approaches to the cases they have handled for me.I always felt totally briefed and informed of decisions around actions and next steps. What was most impressive about Daniel was his inclination to get to really know me as a person, about my businesses, and then how best to achieve the objectives we had set ourselves. I look forward to working with Daniel and his team again on future projects.

Mike

Forbes have done work for us in the past on drafting of terms and more recently we have engaged with them on an intellectual property issue and review. The service we have received from them has been outstanding. Communications are always clear, meetings concise and action focused and all staff we have dealt with have been great. We will certainly be looking to use Forbes for all future legal matters.

Sarah

We discovered that a completely unrelated firm was attempting to profit by linking themselves to our company name and our reputation and immediately sought help. Half way through a Friday afternoon, we were not expecting to hear back - but we did. Our email was responded to and within a short time we had Daniel Fletcher on the phone, with a clear plan for how we could proceed. This was followed up on Monday and by Tuesday a forceful letter had been dispatched. By Friday we received assurances that the other company would withdraw every reference to the offending material and this was acted on promptly. All sorted inside a week. I cannot recommend Forbes more highly.

Angela

My whole experience with Forbes from start to finish was professional and I felt well taken care of. My solicitor made the whole process seem very easy and always got back on time, providing transparent information and he was also very polite. Forbes Solicitors LLP is focused on delivering high levels of customer experience but more importantly they are results driven giving you what you want to see. I would definitely use Forbes Solicitors again if I need to and would recommend anyone else to use them.

Modasar

Recognition of our work

Additional Information

Trade Marks

Protect brand names and/or logos for your business and its goods and services.

Registered Trade Marks:

  • Allows you to put the ®symbol next to your brand.

  • Grant an exclusive right to the trade mark and can use this to oppose third parties from using or seeking to register an infringing trade mark.

  • It is obtained in the UK through registration with the Intellectual Property Office ("IPO") and internationally through similar governing bodies and can last indefinitely subject to compliance with the payment of trade mark fees and continued use.

Unregistered Trade Marks:The Trade Marks Act 1994 contains a series of absolute grounds, which preclude the registration of trade marks that are of a descriptive nature or those trade marks that lack distinctiveness and cannot be distinguished from the goods/services in question.

Should registration of your trade mark not be possible, then you may still use the trade mark on an unregistered basis (providing that a third party has not obtained registration for a similar or identical trade mark, or otherwise has acquired goodwill in the trade mark).

Unregistered trade marks and the goodwill that is held in a business can be protected and enforced against a third party infringer under the tort of passing off, under which a claim will be successful if the following can be established:

a) there is a goodwill attached to the goods and/or services that are offered by the innocent party;

b) a misrepresentation has occurred (whether innocent or not) by the guilty party that it is the provider of such goods and/or services; and

c) loss or damage has been caused to the innocent party as a result of the guilty party's misrepresentation.

Copyright

Under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 copyright protection is available for artistic works (for example, paintings, engravings, photographs, architectural designs, logos, technical drawings etc.), literary works (for example, instruction manuals, computer programs and some types of database), broadcasts, dramatic works, recorded works etc.

Unlike many of the other forms of intellectual property, there is no registration procedure for copyright; instead, once the work is fixed (i.e. in writing, recorded or otherwise), copyright protection automatically arises.

This does not offer a monopoly right as a trade mark does, however the existence of copyright protection prevents the unauthorised copying and publication of your copyrighted works by a third party (including any secondary infringements that may take place as a result of this primary infringement)

Subject to some exceptions, copyright protection expires at the end of the period of 70 years from the calendar year in which the author dies (note that the author of the works may not necessarily be the owner of the copyrighted works, should works have been commissioned during the course of their employment).

Once copyright protection has been established, in order to protect the copyrighted works and prevent third parties from copying the same, businesses commonly mark the copyrighted works with the © symbol, their name, and the year in which the works were created.

Design Rights

Design rights protect the shape and configuration of the whole or part of an original object and seek to prevent third parties from copying that appearance.

Under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, certain designs are automatically protected on an unregistered basis upon their creation; however, in some instances it is also advisable to obtain registration (under the Registered Designs Act 1949, as amended), in order to prevent third parties from copying your products.

Registered Designs: These provide the holder with an exclusive monopoly right to use and exploit the design and bring an infringement claim against a third party that infringes this right.

Exist for a period of 25 years post-registration, which is significantly longer than the protection afforded to unregistered designs, as below.

It is obtained in the UK through registration at the IPO and internationally through similar governing bodies.

Unregistered Designs:This protects three dimensional shapes comprising the whole or part of an article, such as the configuration of an original product that you may manufacture (note that in this regard, there is an overlap with the rights afforded under copyright laws).

The owner of an unregistered design right has the exclusive right to reproduce the design for commercial purposes by making articles to that design or a design document recording the design for the purpose of enabling such articles to be made.

Primary infringement by a third party occurs where it carries out - or authorises a third party to carry out - an act which is an exclusive right of the owner (i.e. by making designs which are an identical copy of the owner's designs).

There is no registration required and the right arises automatically from when the designs were recorded or made available for sale or hire.

In most cases, unregistered design rights last for a period of 10 years from the end of the calendar year in which the designs were made available for sale or hire.

Patents

A patent provides the inventor of a unique and original product or process the monopoly right to prevent third parties from making and selling the same invention without permission.

In the UK, patents are obtained through registration with the IPO, and have a duration of 20 years from their filing date, providing that annual renewal fees are paid and the patent is not subject to invalidation proceedings.

Under the Patents Act 1977, in order for registration to be obtained, it must be established that the patent is new, involves an inventive step, is capable of industrial application, and it is not specifically excluded from protection as a patent (exclusions include surgical techniques carried out on the human body, inventions which would, if exploited, promote anti-social behaviour, and plant or animal varieties.)

Confidential Information

It is widely established that should an individual or entity receive confidential information in confidence, they cannot take advantage of it, unless they are expressly authorised to do so.

In order information to be protected under the common law of confidentiality, the following three-stage test must first be satisfied:

a) The information itself must have the necessary quality of confidence (here, factors to consider are whether the information relates to a trade secret and whether it is already in the public domain);

b) The information must have been imparted in circumstances imposing an obligation of confidence (such as during contractual negotiations, whereby parties commonly exchange information relating to trading practices and product specifications, or during the course of an employee's employment); and

c) There must be an unauthorised use of that confidential information to the detriment of the holder.

It is not necessary to obtain registration for your confidential information (unless, of course, such also comprises the aforementioned registerable intellectual property rights, for which registration would be advisable), and such rights last indefinitely, subject to authorised disclosure.

In order to ensure that your confidential information is adequately protected, we would recommend that your commercial and employment contracts contain appropriate restrictions on when your confidential information can and cannot be used or disclosed by the contracting third party. Alternatively, you can implement a confidentiality agreement or non-disclosure agreement where there is no more formal legal contract governing the relationship.

Intellectual Property FAQs

What does an intellectual property solicitor do?

An intellectual property solicitor provides legal advice and assistance to clients on matters related to intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. They help clients protect their intellectual property rights, negotiate licensing agreements, and litigate disputes. They also advise on the commercialisation and exploitation of intellectual property assets.

What are the options available to me to protect my business' brand?

There are various protections available for the different forms of intellectual property. The following is a brief summary of these protections.

Trade marks Protect brand names and/or logos for goods and services It grants an exclusive right to the trade mark It is obtained through registration with the Intellectual Property Office ("IPO") and can last indefinitely subject to compliance with the payment of trade mark fees Copyright This protects artistic work, for example, literacy, dramatic, musical, photographs etc This does not offer a monopoly right as a trade mark does, however it prevents copying There is no registration procedure involved, copyright arises automatically It lasts for 70 years from death Registered Design Right This affords protection to new designs for consumer items It is a monopoly right It is obtained through registration at the IPO It last 25 years from registration Unregistered Design Right This protects three dimensional shapes This prevents copying There is no registration required and the right arises automatically It last approximately 10 years in most cases Patents This protects new inventions It is a monopoly right It is obtained through registration with the IPO Lasts 20 years from application Confidential Information This protects secret information It protects against unauthorised disclosure There is no registration required and it arises automatically It lasts indefinitely subject to authorised disclosure Database Right This protects a collection of information This protects against unauthorised copying It arises automatically and there is no registration This lasts for 15 years from the creation of the database

When can I obtain copyright?

Copyright protects creative output so long as the artistic work, be it graphic, literary, dramatic or musical are original and substantial enough to amount to a 'work'. The protection of copyright arises automatically as soon as the artistic work has been created.

How do I register a trademark?

To register a trademark you need to apply to the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). You can do this online or by post. Your application should include a clear representation of your trademark, a list of the goods or services you want to use it for, and the relevant fees. The IPO will examine your application and, if successful, will publish your trademark in the Trade Marks Journal for scrutiny purposes. If there are no objections, your trademark will be registered.

What are the different types of intellectual property rights?

The different types of intellectual property are patents, trademarks, designs, copyright, and trade secrets. Patents protect inventions, trademarks protect brands and logos, designs protect the appearance of products, copyright protects creative works, and trade secrets protect confidential information.

How to get intellectual property rights

Intellectual property rights can be obtained by registering your invention, design, trademark or copyright with the relevant government agency. For patents, you must apply to the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), while trademarks and designs are registered with the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO). Copyright protection is automatic, but you can register your work with the UK Copyright Service to provide evidence of ownership. It is important to ensure that your intellectual property is original and not already protected by someone else's rights.

What brands can I trade mark?

To register brand names or logos as trade marks the marks must firstly be capable of being graphically represented and must be distinctive enough to distinguish the goods of one undertaking from another.

A mark will be refused by the IPO if it consists exclusively of words designating the quality, quantity, purpose, geographical origin or common trade terms of the product or services (unless constant use has already made the mark distinctive). The IPO will also refuse marks that are likely to deceive the public as to what the products are or can actually do or other marks that are against public policy.

Other businesses may object to a trade mark if it is identical or similar to their own mark, especially if the mark will be used for promoting similar goods or services.

How do I protect my new idea for an invention or process?

A patent can be obtained to protect your rights to a new invention. If a patent is granted, the inventor will get a monopoly over use of the invention for generally 20 years.

The filing of a patent with the IPO is a crucial step as the protection is granted to the first person to file for the patent, not the first person to invent. In order to obtain a patent from the IPO the invention must be 'new', constitute an 'inventive step' and be capable of 'industrial application'. To be 'new' the invention cannot have been disclosed to the general public before the filing of the patent application. To be an 'inventive step' the invention must show thinking not obvious to a skilled person in that particular area, whilst 'industrial application' simply means that it is possible to make the product or carry out the process.

How do I apply for a patent?

To apply for a patent you must first conduct a search to ensure your invention is new and not already patented. Then, you can file an application with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and pay the required fees. Your application will be examined by the IPO and, if approved, your patent will be granted. It is recommended to seek professional advice from a patent solicitor or agent to ensure your application is complete and meets all requirements.

What about my business' reputation? Can that be protected?

The best way to protect a business' reputation is through the use of a trade mark. Trade marks protect the logos and brand marks of a business to which the business' reputation is attached and prevent other businesses from using the same or similar marks.

In addition to or in the absence of a trade mark a business may fall back on the common law concept of 'passing off'. This prevents other businesses from presenting their goods or services as the goods or services of your business and making unfair use of your business' reputation.

To succeed with a passing off claim it is first necessary to show that your goods or services have a reputation amongst customers and that this reputation is linked to a distinctive feature of the goods or services, such as a name or a packaging style. Once a reputation can be shown, passing off can be established if the other business is found to be using a similar feature which results in the customers actually being fooled as to the origin of the products and which is likely to damage either your profit or business' reputation.

Can I keep the secrets of my trade confidential?

The best means of protecting information considered to be confidential is to enter into an express agreement with a business partner or employees or anyone else that will be granted access to the information. With employees, confidentiality clauses can be included in their service contracts to ensure that information regarded as confidential cannot be exploited to your disadvantage either during their employment or for a period after their employment.

Without an express agreement the law still considers certain trade secrets and information to be confidential and remedies can be sought to prevent disclosure or to compensate for damage caused through disclosure.

How do I register a copyright?

Copyright is automatically granted to the creator of an original work. However, to have legal evidence of ownership, you can register your copyright with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). You can apply online or by post, and the fee varies depending on the type of work. The IPO will then issue a certificate of registration, which can be used as evidence in court if necessary.

What should I do if someone infringes on my intellectual property rights?

If someone infringes on your intellectual property rights you should take legal action by sending a cease and desist letter or filing a lawsuit. You can also seek mediation or arbitration to resolve the dispute. It is important to gather evidence of the infringement and consult with a lawyer who specialises in intellectual property law to determine the best course of action.

What does intellectual property mean for a business?

Intellectual property refers to the legal rights that protect a business's intangible assets, such as inventions, designs, trademarks, and creative works. These rights allow the business to prevent others from using or copying their intellectual property without permission, and can be used to generate revenue through licensing or selling. intellectual property is protected by various laws, including copyright, patents, and trademarks.

How to protect intellectual property

To protect intellectual property in the UK, it is important to register trademarks, patents, and copyrights. This can be done through the Intellectual Property Office. It is also important to keep confidential information secure and to have non-disclosure agreements in place with employees and contractors. In case of infringement, legal action can be taken to enforce intellectual property rights.

Do you really require an intellectual property solicitor?

Yes, if you have intellectual property that you want to protect or if you are accused of infringing someone else's intellectual property rights, it is advisable to seek the advice and assistance of an intellectual property solicitor. intellectual property law can be complex and specialised, and a solicitor can help you navigate the legal landscape and protect your rights.

How to sell intellectual property?

To sell intellectual property the owner must first identify the type of IP they possess, such as patents, trademarks, or copyrights. They should then conduct a valuation of the IP and determine a fair price. The owner can then market the IP to potential buyers through various channels, such as IP brokers or online marketplaces. Once a buyer is found, a legally binding agreement should be drafted and signed to transfer ownership of the IP.

Our dedicated Intellectual Property team

John Pickervance.jpg

Partner and Head of Department, Commercial

John Pickervance

Danniel Fletcher.jpg

Senior Associate, Commercial

Daniel Fletcher

Katie Lee.jpg

Associate, Commercial

Katie Lee

Useful Information

IP protection should be key for UK brands embracing International Trade

Insights International 7 min read

IP protection should be key for UK brands embracing International Trade

Contact Form

If you have an enquiry then please fill in your details and someone will contact you.

0800 689 0831 - Monday - Friday: 09:00 - 17:00

Request a call back

By submitting your enquiry you agree that Forbes can contact you.

© 2024 Forbes Solicitors is the trading name of Forbes Solicitors LLP Offices in Preston, Manchester, Salford, Blackburn, Blackpool, London and Leeds UK Main Office: Rutherford House, 4 Wellington Street (St Johns), Blackburn, Lancashire, BB1 8DD • Vat No: 174 394 344 Forbes Solicitors is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA No. 816356). Details of the SRA’s Standards and Regulations can be found here. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.