As a growing number of people start their own businesses, they have to understand the basics of various matters which will affect their business. One area that needs to be understood by entrepreneurs is intellectual property (IP). In this post, we’ll be defining the difference between copyright, patents and trade marks and how important they can be!  Read on for a basic overview regarding what protection you might need to consider for your company and products.


A copyright is one form of intellectual property rights and it protects the expression of ideas. These include (but not limited to) architecture, art, books, computer software, music, and photographs.

An important aspect to note however is that while copyrights protect the expression of ideas, they do not protect the ideas or concepts themselves.  For instance a copyright can protect a particular photograph of a tiger, but other people may still create their own photographs of the same type of tiger.

Sometimes there is a requirement that the work is “an original work of authorship”, so titles, facts, phrases etc. typically can’t be eligible for copyright. However, there are some unique circumstances which allow this, so it is worth checking with a lawyer who specialises in IP.

Here in the United Kingdom there is no copyright registration procedure and therefore businesses can include the “©” symbol or the word “Copyright” with all materials it distributes. They should also include the year of first publication, the name of the owner, and the language “All rights reserved.”

When it comes to using third-party photos, music, or writings on website, marketing materials, etc. It is advised that you should find out if the piece of work can be reused for commercial or personal purposes. If it isn’t, then you could be subject to copyright infringement from the owner of the original piece of work.

Trade Marks

As you would have read from our other blog posts, a trade mark is a sign which distinguishes your companies products or services from its competitors. It can be a word, symbol, logos, slogans that identify the source of goods and/or services.

One of the most important aspects of a trade mark is that it adds consumer confidence in a product or service by association. Everyone recognises the trade mark symbol and therefore it acts as a great marketing tool.  Once you have a registered trade mark you can use the appropriate trade mark symbol ® next to your brand name.

As a startup you should look into protecting your brand early by registering your key trade marks. The cost of not protecting your brand can be very high, so getting a trade mark in the right stage of your startup is essential. In the UK and EU, trade mark registration can be done online and there are a number of trade mark packages available to choose from. Trade marks need to be filed in the appropriate classification, which can be a complicated process for most and is the reason why you should use a trade mark attorney to register your application.


It is extremely important for startups and businesses to understand the function of patents and how they fit into their business.

Not every startup business will warrant the need to build a patent portfolio, and patents are not easy to register. Briefly, patents protect your original inventions from your key competitors, and they also help you reduce the risk of being exposed to assertions of patent infringement by competitors and third parties.

An invention that hasn’t been introduced in the market is worthy of a patent application. In the UK, a website cannot be patented even if it offers a new function. If you feel you have a distinctively different website or app, then you should consider speaking to an IP attorney.

Patents are the most expensive and time consuming of all the types of IP. A patent gives you the exclusive right to make, use or sell an invention, meaning that it can exclude a competitor from making or selling the patented invention.

Patents have many additional benefits including helping to attract investors.  Plus, the filing of a patent application will enable the company to advertise “patent pending” along with its product or service, so it will help with investors, consumers etc.


So that should hopefully explain a little bit more about the ways you can protect your ideas, work and business, but do check out our infographic on copyrights, trade marks, patents and designs for a quick summary and FreemanHarris are on hand to help you if you have any questions.