Protecting your intellectual property - checklist

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The trade marks, patents and other intellectual property (IP) in your business can be valuable assets. Learn how to protect IP from being exploited by others.

  • Track your existing intellectual property. This can include innovative ways of working, product designs, services, company names, domains and brands, bespoke databases and software.
  • Make use of the free online tools to check what intellectual property you own and how you can protect it.
  • Ensure employment, freelance and consultancy contracts clearly state your ownership of all intellectual property developed for you.
  • Use patent searches early in the development of new products and processes to check whether they are already protected by someone else.
  • Keep a log of evidence recording the development of intellectual property: for example, dated and signed copies of drawings and drafts which can act as evidence of ownership in the event of any future dispute.
  • Keep new inventions secret until you have decided whether their commercial viability justifies the cost of patent protection.
  • Consider alternatives: for example, rapidly capturing a market niche to discourage competitors.
  • If you need to disclose your ideas, consider using a non-disclosure agreement.
  • Consider filing an initial patent application to give you the time to develop or sell the idea. Contact a patent agent for advice.
  • Contact a trade mark agent for advice on trade mark searches and registration to ensure that any trade mark you develop is properly protected.
  • Take advice on the extra steps needed to protect your intellectual property internationally.
  • Maintain protection for patents (for up to 20 years) and trade marks while the commercial case remains by paying renewal fees as necessary.
  • Identify your designs (for the shape or appearance of a product) which are automatically protected by design right.
  • Consider whether new designs for the appearance of part or all of a product are worth protecting with stronger design registration.
  • Identify materials which are automatically protected by copyright. Add the copyright symbol, your name and the creation date to emphasise it.
  • Enforce your rights by identifying breaches and pursuing offenders, but think carefully before initiating uncertain and expensive legal action.

Online patent renewal service

Use the online patent renewal service on the Intellectual Property Office website to renew your patent quickly, simply and cheaply.

Note: You can still renew by post if you prefer.

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