Key Facts about CopyrightCopyright is an automatic right. If you write a book or draw a picture then it automatically belongs to you. You are the author of any artistic or literary work or photograph. Copyright exists as soon as you create the work.
Copyright can only be used to stop someone copying the work. You cannot use it to protect the idea that is described in the work. So it does not stop the idea described being used by someone else; for that you need a Patent or a Registered Design. By committing your drawings to paper, or typing your product description, you automatically get copyright in these creations. You cannot register copyright in the UK and you do not need to provided that you can show you produced the original work.
Copyright protects a ‘work’ such as a business plan, the drawings for a product, a musical score and/or the lyrics, or a text for inclusion in instructions for an operations manual. The list also includes software. All these are automatically protected upon being set down in a recognisable format. It is not just for printed materials. You can also publish something in an electronic format like the memory or display of a computer.
It is important to recognise for software that the protection is for copying the code. Just as in a book, Copyright does not protect the ideas described in the software. This is why for products dependent on software a brand name protected by a Registered Trade Mark may also be an important way of protecting a business idea.
Things like web sites are protected by a combination of Copyright for any text and images, and Trade Marks for any special Logos or Brand Names. The web site URL has no legal significance although it could cause Trade Mark conflicts if you attempted to use a web site name that was similar to a famous brand protected by a Trade Mark.
There is no requirement for registration of Copyright, the rights in which may be highlighted by use of the © symbol, the year of creation of the work and the name of the right holder. Like this:
Copyright © Trevor Baylis Brands plc 2014
If you need to protect the name of a company or a product or you need to protect how something works then you need other types of protection. A company name needs to be registered at Companies House but that does not give you the right to use that name as a brand name. For that you need a Trade Mark.
A Trade Mark can be registered or unregistered. A registered Trade Mark gives you the automatic right to prevent anybody else using that name for the class of goods that you are selling. If you only have an unregistered trade mark then you will have to sue an infringer to enforce your rights. Somebody with a registered Trade Mark can stop you using the same unregistered mark. See our page on IP protection for more information.
To protect how something works you need a Patent and to protect what something looks like you need a Registered Design.