Intellectual Property Law

This is intended to be a very brief introduction to Intellectual Property Law, so as to familiarise yourself with what my future blogs will touch on and some of the issues that they raise.

What is it?

Intellectual property law is a wide umbrella term that is used to encompass many different aspects of the creative world. In short, intellectual property law aims to protect the expression of creative work in it’s many varying forms. Many of them do overlap so that alone can raise confusion! A little bit of the basics:

Copyright Law

This area of IP is governed by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. It is defined under Section 1, subsection 1 as being a property right which subsists in the following descriptions of work: (a)original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works, (b)sound recordings, films  broadcasts, and (c)the typographical arrangement of published editions. In layman’s terms, if you have an idea and have expressed it as a book, a drawing or a song, then that is automatically protected by copyright law and as such, no one can steal your idea and pass it off as your own.

Patents

Patents relate to inventions. Anything that an inventor creates can be protected by a patent. Under Section 1, subsection 1 of the Patents Act 1977 a patent may be granted only for an invention if the following conditions are satisfied: (a) the invention is new, (b) it involves an inventive step (i.e is not simply an ‘upgrade’ on a current invention) and (c) it is capable of industrial application (i.e can the invention actually be used in everyday life). There are however some exceptions (S.2) such as a discovery, scientific theory or mathematical method; a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work or any other aesthetic creation; a scheme, rule or method for performing a mental act, playing a game or doing business, or a program for a computer; the presentation of information.

Design Rights

These are closely linked to Patents and are concerned with protecting the overall shape and appearance of a particular object. This type of protection is automatic and last for either  10 years after it was first sold or 15 years after it was created, whichever is earliest. If you wish to protect your design for longer, there is still a formal registration procedure available as long as your design meets the criteria; be new; not be offensive (such as featuring graphic images or words); be your own intellectual property; not make use of protected emblems or flags (Olympic rings, for example); and must not be an invention or how a product works (you’ll need a patent instead!). If the design meets all these criteria, then a registered design right will protect it for 25 years, with a renewal needed every 5 years.

Why is it needed?

Without getting too bugged down in the legal theory surrounding IP Law, it is needed in order to protect a persons’ creative expression. An artist can protect their paintings, a writer can protect their novel and a musician can protect their albums. Personally, I find IP Law fascinating, because it is to some extent allowing people to protect their own ideas and creative outlets in a more theological manner than strict property law. For example, if I were to write a book, and someone was to steal the physical copy of the book, that would be a crime for stealing my property. But if someone was to steal the overall story, publishing the entire story under their own authorship name, then that would be a crime for stealing my intellectual property and my creative expression. In short, it prevents someone taking credit for work that someone else has done.

Why the fascination?

I have always been surrounded by very creative people: My father is a drummer, so I was brought up surrounded by musical instruments and musical scores. My mother is a photographer and studied as a journalist, so I think that is where my love of writing stemmed from. From as long as I can remember, I have been a reader. My main goal in life is to have a personal collection of books that rivals the British Library! However, I can just about draw stick men, my photographs are always blurry and the closest I got to mastering an instrument was the recorder when I was 8. I found that my true calling was in the academics, and it was during my time at law school I discovered a way of using academic means to help protect creative outlets.

This subject is easily the marmite of the legal world: You either love IP or you hate it. And I absolutely adore it.

I hope this brief introduction has helped you understand the basics of what I will discuss throughout this blog, and I hope I can instill some of my passion in you as you read.

T xx

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