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How to Protect Your Ideas

Ideas come in many shapes and forms, from printed design to physical design and from concept to finished product. How do you know if your idea is protected?

The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 will protect your idea from others and will prevent anything similar from being produced. But how do you know if your idea can be protected by it? This post will explore the different aspects of copyright in order to help you know whether or not you will be protected.

Works Subject to Copyright

There are several types of work that copyright applies to. The Act has simplified these in order to eliminate the specific treatment of engravings and photographs. Protected works include:

  • literary, dramatic and musical works:
    • these must be recorded in writing or otherwise to be granted copyright; and
    • copyright subsists from the date at which recording takes place
  • artistic works:
    • includes buildings, photographs, engravings and works of artistic craftsmanship.
  • sound recordings and films
  • broadcasts:
    • a broadcast is a transmission by wireless telegraphy which is intended for, and capable of reception by, members of the public.

Duration of Copyright

The Duration of Copyright and Related Regulations Act 1995 largely modified the provisions on duration of copyright. However, the provisions under the 1988 Act are given below as these received Royal Assent.

Copyright periods run to the end of the calendar year in which they would expire.The duration of copyright under the 1988 Act does not depend on the initial owner of the copyright, nor on the country of origin of the work. The following durations do not apply to Crown copyright, Parliamentary copyright or the copyright of international organisations.

  • Literary dramatic, musical or artistic works:
    • Copyright lasts for seventy years from the death of the author. If the author is unknown, copyright expires seventy years after the work is first made available to the public.
    • If the work is computer-generated, copyright expires fifty years after the work is made.
  • Sound recordings and films:
    • Copyright lasts for fifty years after the recording is made.
    • If the recording or film is released (published, broadcast or shown in public) within this period, the copyright lasts for fifty years from the date of first release.
      • Note that the Duration of Copyright and Rights in Performances Regulations 1995 amended the durations, for films only, to seventy years from the death of the last principal director, author or composer. If the film is of unknown authorship: seventy years from creation, or if released within this period, seventy years from first release.
  • Broadcasts and cable programmes
    • Copyright lasts for fifty years after the first broadcast or transmission. The repeat of a broadcast or a cable programme does not generate a new copyright period.
  • Typographical arrangements:
    • Copyright lasts for twenty-five years after the edition is published.

Design Right

The "design right" is separate from the registration of designs governed by the Registered Designs Act 1949.

To qualify, the design must be original (not commonplace in the field in question) and not fall into one of the excluded categories:

  • principles and methods of construction;
  • articles which must connect with or otherwise fit another article so that one or the other may perform their function;
  • designs which are dependent on the appearance of another article;
  • surface decoration.

The design must be recorded in a document after 1st August 1989.

The design right lasts for fifteen years after the design is recorded in a document, or for ten years if articles have been made available for sale.

I want to use someone else's data

The law allows licensing bodies to issue licenses to businesses that want to use other people's materials such as an excerpt from a book. This can then be reviewed on an annual basis to see if the license is still required.

One such licensing body is the CLA* who offer an online risk assessment in order to see if a license would be required. They also have an online video that explains about licensing.

* The Company Wizard is not affiliated with the CLA and cannot be held responsible for the content of external pages.

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