Do I have any intellectual property?


If you’re a designer, a software developer or are using a name to sell your goods or services, you probably already have some protection for your intellectual property (IP) without realising.

There are three main types of IP rights that exist automatically, without you having to do anything but create something. These are copyright, unregistered trade marks, and unregistered designs.


Copyright protects against copying of a whole or a substantial part of an original work. What do we mean by a work? This is a catch-all term for the likes of photographs, music, films, books, software, website content and brochures.

Unregistered designs

Like their registered counterparts, unregistered designs protect the look of products.

Unregistered trade marks

Unregistered trade marks provide some protection against other people or companies using the same name as you. Other laws, such as the law of passing off, may also provide you protection. Passing off can offer protection against companies offering their goods or services as if they are yours or have some relation to you when they don’t.

Think holistically

Automatic ‘unregistered’ IP rights are advantageous because they are free and can be invaluable if you have no other protection. It’s therefore important to remember that they exist.

However, there is no doubt that they are not as powerful as registered IP rights.

It is important to consider whether any registered IP rights such as patents, trade marks and registered designs could bring value to your business.

In any sophisticated organisation an holistic approach should be taken. Unregistered IP rights should be used to complement registered rights, rather be seen as a free replacement.

Answer last updated: 17 Jan 2018