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The UK Patent Office, now called the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO), is the Government organisation that controls IPR. It runs the patent registration process, registers designs and issues trade marks. They also produce some very useful free guides. In our page on the UK Patent Process we have described the eight steps to getting a patent and step one contains a link to the Patent Office Guides. We strongly recommend that you look at these guides as they contain a lot of good advice.

You can use more than one type of protection for your idea. The types of intellectual property rights (IPRs) are described below.  You cannot protect a technical function with copyright or a design right. You cannot rely on a patent to protect the appearance or product name. So sometimes you need to use more than one type of protection for your idea.

If in doubt, seek advice by contacting our IP experts or have a look at Our Frequently Asked Intellectual Property Questions page. You can also look at our top ten tips for Inventors. Keep it Confidential!

If you have to tell other people about your idea before you have a patent application or registered design application in place, then make sure that they sign a confidentiality agreement.  If you join the free Online Services you can download a typical agreement that you can adapt for your own use.  To apply for a patent, you must not have disclosed your idea without one of these in place!
The pictures below show the four main types of Intellectual Property.
 The Intellectual Property Office has created some great videos to explain how to protect your ideas.
Just click on the pictures to play them. 
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The ways to protect your idea are called Intellectual Property Rights or IPR for short. These are ways of proving that you own the idea.

They can be used to stop other people copying your idea. Our Discovery Service can tell you whether your idea is protectable and help you with advice about how to do it. Just click on the Free Information Pack button above to get more information. Click here for the Intellectual Property Office video that explains what IP means to you.

You cannot patent a website or a business idea but you can use registered trade marks and designs and copyright to protect the details.
The four main ways to protect your idea are;
  • patents                      this is about how things work and what they are made of

  • registered designs      this is about what things look like

  • trade marks               this is about brands and product names

  • copyright                   this is about written or artistic works including software, pictures, and drawings