Business legal advice
Information about legal advice for new businesses including useful links to legal advice services.
As a creative, you should consider your work as property. There are various intellectual property systems that you can use to safeguard your work. Here you will find online advice about intellectual property, Design Right, Creative Commons, Trade marks and patents.
Copyright protects artistic, musical, literary and performance works and works of artistic craftsmanship. This includes novels, poems, films, songs, sculptures, buildings, drawings, film scripts and operas.
For further information on copyright, read the Copyright factsheet.
Design right protects the appearance of a product resulting from its shape, colour or material but NOT its function. This applies to designers.
Design Right doesn't protect features of a product that are functional, that must fit (screw tops) or match aesthetically (car doors matching the overall design of the car) or methods or principles of construction (the fact that a chair needs three points of contact to the floor to stand).
We have two kinds of design right in the UK, registered and unregistered design. Unregistered design rights exist automatically.
There are also two kinds of EU wide design rights: Registered community design; and unregistered community design. These rights exist in parallel to national design rights.
For further information download the Design IP factsheet
Creative Commons is an easy-to-use licensing system. It allows users to share copyright protected work online without asking the owner of copyright work for permission first.
It is not an alternative to copyright but is firmly rooted in copyright law.
There are many advantages to use Creative Commons. But there are also some issues you should consider before publishing your images online under a Creative Commons licence:
How to use licences: visit the Creative Commons website, packed with useful information.
Creative Commons short summary: read the Creative commons factsheet.
A 'trade mark' is any sign capable of distinguishing your goods or services from other goods and services. It may consist of words, logos, the shape of the goods or their packaging, or a combination of all of these. A valid trade mark enables you to prevent others from taking unfair advantage of the goodwill in your brand.
In the UK, we have unregistered and registered trade marks. Registered trademarks provide much stronger protection than unregistered trademarks because you can prevent anybody who uses an identical or similar sign in the same area of trade from using your trade mark.
To find out more about what signs can be trade marks, read Trademark factsheet. Go to the IPO website if you want to register a trade mark in the UK. Watch this step-by-step guide on how to choose your company name and avoid infringing other people’s trade marks.
If your idea or innovation has an industrial application then you may wish to consider applying for a patent.
A patent gives protection to an invention that is new, involves an inventive step, is capable of industrial application and is not specifically excluded from patentability (e.g. as a pure discovery or scientific theory). A patent gives the holder a monopoly for up to 20 years (subject to payment of the required fees).
If you think you have a good idea and it may be patentable, speak to a business adviser first. Use a confidentiality agreement.
You should also speak to an IP expert to find out about other strategies of protecting your idea without the expense of filing a patent.
For further information on patents read the Patent factsheet.
Please do not use legal templates without first obtaining professional legal advice. As copyright and unregistered design rights arise automatically (i.e. there are no registration requirements) there is no central register stating when or if a work obtained protection. It will be up to you to keep good records which help prove that (i) protection exists; and (ii) you own the copyright/design right.
Practical steps you can do: