Focus On: Intellectual Property Rights

26 April 2022 
2 minutes
Disputes & Litigation

In the current economic climate, it is extremely important for businesses across Northern Ireland to be able to protect their business ideas, designs and inventions. At MKB Law, our Litigation department has attained a wealth of experience resolving disputes for clients involving Intellectual Property matters. This article sets out some of the basic legal principles governing Intellectual Property rights that should be considered prior to the commencement of any legal action.

Intellectual Property rights are split into two main categories: Registered and Unregistered Intellectual Property Rights.

Unregistered Intellectual Property Rights

Copyright: Copyright is an automatic protection afforded to artistic expressions such as writing, literary works, art, photography, films, TV, music and web content. The owner of a copyright has exclusive rights to use the work in accordance with legislation. Copyright exists throughout the author’s lifetime.

Unregistered Trademark: A trademark is a sign, logo, word or phrase that distinguishes the goods or services of a business from those of its competitors. In Northern Ireland protection can be given to unregistered trademarks in certain situations. This type of protection normally arises through trading activities and no registration is required. For example, where a business has acquired a brand.

Registered Intellectual Property Rights

Registered Trademarks: A trademark can also be registered. You can apply to register your trademark online. Trademark registration lasts for ten years, after which time you can renew it indefinitely.

Patents: Patents are an intellectual property right which protects inventions or ideas. This can be a difficult, lengthy and expensive form of protection to obtain. If obtained, patents protect the owner for a period of 20 years from the date of filing.

Registered Designs: A registered design provides protection for the appearance of the whole or part of a two-dimensional or three-dimensional product. Design registration lasts for five years, however, can be renewed up to a maximum of 25 years.

Infringement of Intellectual Property Rights

Despite the protection afforded under Intellectual Property legislation, this does not guarantee that intellectual property rights will never be infringed. Remedies for an infringement include injunctive relief, damages and specific performance. Often steps to protect clients’ interests require to be taken as a matter of urgency and client are therefore advised to seek legal advice as soon as a problem first emerges.

This article is for general guidance only and should not be regarded as a substitute for professional legal advice.

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