We all benefit from ideas, making them potentially valuable commercial assets. However, unlike tangible assets, they can be copied easily and at no cost, at least in principle.
 
This could deter businesses and individuals from investing time, money and effort in creating new ideas, because they could simply use other people’s ideas instead. Even where people do create new ideas, they could be deterred from sharing these, for fear that someone else would profit from them.
 
However, governments have overcome these problems with Intellectual Property laws allowing people to obtain legal protection preventing unauthorised copying of certain types of original ideas, transforming these ideas into valuable commercial assets.
 
There are two main categories of legal protection for Intellectual Property:
Intellectual Property
  • Patents – Legal protection for novel inventions, covering a wide range of products from pharmaceuticals and medical technologies through to some software, toys and games. It provides a right to exclude others from selling, making or using an invention.
  • Trade marks – Legal protection for branding marks that identify particular products or services from others, including names, logos and jingles.
  • Industrial designs – Legal protection for product appearance, shapes and colours, and packaging and decorations.
Each of these must be registered.
 
Copyright
 
Is automatic legal protection covering written work, films, music, visual art and architectural design, amongst other things. In the UK, there is no need to register copyright.