What is Intellectual Property?

By George Burton

Senior Associate

“Intellectual Property” can be a rather inaccessible phrase. In the simplest of terms it is the brand, products and “get-up” of a business which are, of course, invaluable assets to any trader.

Generally speaking, intellectual property is an asset, a lot like a property or a car, but unlike those items, it is not made of material but, rather, exists through creative thought or intellectual effort. 

It is defined in legislation as meaning “any patent, trademark, copyright, design right, registered design, technical or commercial information or other intellectual property” (section 72(5) of the Senior Courts Act 1981).

This too might seem to be a frustratingly broad definition.  Fortunately, there is wide consensus on what all of the listed items are. 

Essentially, and in short, anything which relates to a company’s brand, public image (other than its goodwill) original literary, dramatic or artistic works (and also broadcasts too) inventions, designs and spreadsheets are intellectual property.  All of these are capable of protection in law to prevent their being copied or misused.

This is of course very important.  The last thing a growing business needs is for a competitor to start trading under a logo which is similar or copying an invention that is the basis for a unique and lucrative product, for instance.  It is not just small businesses who are vulnerable to claims and / or copying allegations.  For instance, recently Lidl has pursued a claim against Tesco, claiming that Tesco’s Clubcard Prices logo was an infringement on its own mark and, in-so-doing took unfair advantage of Lidl’s reputation as a discount supermarket. 

The mark or brand of a business is integral to its reputation and success in many ways.  Changing it, or disputing proceedings regarding it, can have significant implications and the best course is for business to protect their intellectual property and / or to investigate what intellectual property it may have, if it infringes upon anyone else’s and, indeed, if it is being infringed upon.

Please contact our Dispute Resolution Team on 0345 646 0406 or fill in our online enquiry form for more information and a member of our Team will be very happy to assist.