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Here are some of the intellectual property right you should consider

The main types of intellectual property (IP) rights in the UK are:

  • Patents
  • Trademarks, both registered and unregistered
  • Copyright
  • Trade secrets.
  • Design rights, both registered and unregistered

Here is a summary for each IP right:


  • Patents can protect inventions which are not yet in the public domain. For this to apply, it is important to keep inventions secret and disclose them only under a Non-Disclosure Agreement to preserve the ability to patent them.
  • Requirements for protection include that the invention is new, something that can be made or used, and not just a foreseeable modification to something already out there.


  • Registered rights: If you are launching or already own a business, it is strongly recommended to register your brand as a trademark. This creates both an asset and a right you can enforce.
  • Unregistered rights: These may be created by using your brand over time, as goodwill is built in it. This may enable the owner to bring a passing off action to prevent 3rd parties from using an identical or highly similar brand. However, there are disadvantages to relying on this approach –the less the uncertainty and the heavier the burden of proof.


  • Copyright can protect original literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic work, as well as software and databases and audio/visual recordings.
  • Copyright in the UK cannot currently be registered (so there is no central register and no fee requirement). Copyright arises automatically in the UK as soon as certain requirements are met, including the need for the work to be written down or recorded.
  • It is best practice to mark original work with the copyright symbol © and the name of the author/creator, and the date of creation – not least so 3rd parties are put on notice that the work is protected by copyright and can trace the copyright owner.

Trade secrets

  • Trade secrets can protect business information e.g., recipes and customer lists. There isn’t a specific register for this. In the UK these can be protected under the common law of confidence, through keeping the information secret and only disclosing it to those that have signed non-disclosure agreements.


  • Designs can protect the appearance, shape, configuration, or decoration of the whole or part of a product.
  • Requirements for protection include that the design is new and creates a different overall impression to any earlier design already in the market. The design should not be made public before registration is sought.
  • Unregistered rights: Unregistered UK ‘Design Rights’ will arise automatically to protect certain shape and 3D designs. However, Design Rights provide less protection than Registered Designs and are of shorter duration (10 years after it was first sold or 15 years after it was created).
  • Registered Designs:Designs can be registered through the UK IPO. Before launching or applying to register a design it is advisable to conduct a clearance search. Once registered, designs can be renewed (on payment of renewal fees) every five years for up to 25 years.


*Please note that, with effect from the end of the Brexit ‘transition period’ on 31 December 2020, EU-wide rights no longer give protection in the UK and the UK will not be deemed to form part of any relevant EU-wide regime. This has particular implications for the UK’s trademark and registered/unregistered designs regimes. We are happy to advise further on any of these points, including the impact of Brexit.


Onyx Solicitors can advise you on your UK IP rights and help to guide you through the application processes. Please do not hesitate to contact our specialist team here at Onyx solicitors on 0121 268 3208 or email us at with your query.

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