Note: You may notice that our websites tend to use the spelling trademark, when in fact, in the UK the correct spelling is trade mark as two words. Most non-lawyers use a single word, so we do the same online to make our websites easier to find.
Click on each of the terms below for an explanation. If you there are other legal terms you would like us to include, please don’t hesitate to let us know. Assignment
A transfer of ownership, e.g. of copyright or trademark rights. Under English law, an assignment must generally be confirmed in writing and signed by the person giving up the right. Community TradeMark (CTM)
A European trademark which gives you rights in all 28 EU countries including the UK. Contract
A legally binding agreement between two or more parties which is in writing, oral, or the terms of which are implied by law or custom. To breach a contract is to fail to perform the agreement in some way or at all. This might include not finishing a job, not paying in full or on time, supplying goods that were out of line with what was described, and so on. Cookie
If you author an original creative work, copyright generally gives you the exclusive right to make copies of it, to distribute it to the public and to exploit it in a variety of other ways. The owner of copyright controls who benefits from the work financially. Employers typically own copyright of work created by their employees, although in some cases authors have the right to be credited personally. Copyright ownership also means the right to grant permission to make adaptations, or to perform work in public. It applies to any expression of an idea or substantive information, and lasts for a certain period of time, which could be up to 70 years after the death of the author. Copyright protects many materials, including written, creative or artistic works such as brochures, films, music or paintings, logos, and even computer programs. Some jurisdictions require formalities of registration to establish copyright, but most, including the UK, recognise copyright in work as soon as it is created. Cybersquatting
Cybersquatters buy domain names which include words that someone else has better rights to, for instance because they own the trademark. If you are a celebrity, a cybersquatter might buy www.YourName.com and offer to sell you the domain at an inflated price, or try to profit by displaying adverts to visitors who expect to find you at that address. Find out more here: Cybersquatting
Data Protection Act
A claim for financial compensation from a third party whose wrongful conduct, such as breaching their contract with you, has caused you a loss. Find out more about Breach of Contract
Broadly speaking, the Act protects the way in which personal information is used, for example by websites that collect email addresses and marketing data. More information about the law in this area can be found here: Data Protection
Adaptations of copyright material, such as a translation or new edition of a book, or a film of a novel, or a performance of a song and so on are derivative works. They attract their own copyright if independent skill and labour are involved in producing them, but the permission of the owner of the original copyright work is necessary, otherwise the derivative work will infringe copyright. Design registration
If a design is novel and registration is sought in the first year after it is created, it is possible to protect the visual appearance of products and logos through registration. This gives additional protection over copyright because once registered, it is not necessary to prove copying to establish infringement. Find out more about Designs
An exclusive licence means the exclusive licensee is the only one with rights to exploit the IP within the scope and territory covered by the licence. Not even the owner of the right may exploit intellectual property that is subject to an exclusive licence. So it’s important to ensure the licence safeguards the owner’s position in case the licensee does not live up to expectations. Find out more about Licensing
This is a defence to copyright infringement in the UK, on the grounds that the use made of a copyright work was for the purposes of private study or research for non-commercial purposes, or that it was for the purpose of criticism, review or news reporting. More recently, fair dealing defences have been introduced for the purpose of parody or pastiche. Fair dealing in the UK is much narrower than “fair use” in the USA, so it’s important not to rely on these exceptions without specialist advice. Infringement
Infringement of intellectual property occurs when someone encroaches on your exclusive rights under your trademark, patent, design or copyright. Read more about IP Infringement
Intellectual property refers to a range of rights that the law grants over ‘intangible’ property, i.e. property that you cannot see, touch or feel. For example, copyright, trademark, patent, design, trade secrets and other related rights are intellectual property rights that can be owned and transacted just like land. This is a huge subject, and there is a wealth of information available in the Intellectual Property
section of our website.
Trademarks are territorial, so a UK trademark gives you rights in the UK. While there is no such thing as a global trademark, there are mechanisms in place under international laws that enable you to register a trademark internationally, for example by using the Madrid Protocol system to file for trademark protection in countries that are party to that system. Find out more here: Trademarks
This is where more than one person is author of a copyright work. The problem with owning copyright jointly is that, unless you can separate your contribution from that of the other party – for instance if one of you has written two chapters of a book, and the other ten chapters – it would be impossible for either of you to exploit the work without the other’s agreement. Know-how
Knowledge that is gleaned by a business through experience of a particular system or process. Know-how gives you a commercial advantage, e.g. due to your particular approach to manufacturing something, or a finely tuned business process you have developed. Your know-how is a trade secret if it is protected by obligations of confidentiality or restrictions on access to the know-how. Find out more about Confidentiality
A licence is the means of granting another party permission to use your copyright or other IP. As owner of the IP you have exclusive rights to exploit it, so without transferring ownership you may carve out rights for others to use it. For example, you might grant a foreign business a licence to use your technology or brand name in their country. There is more information on our website here: Licensing
The Madrid system provides a simple way to register a trademark in countries which are members of an international system known as the Madrid Protocol. Many countries are party to Madrid. There are several advantages of registering a trademark through the Madrid system, such as ease of administration, cost savings and flexibility. Moral rights
Moral rights protect an author’s non-economic interests. One of the most important moral rights is the right to be identified as the author of a work. Another is the right not to have a work falsely attributed to an author and to object to derogatory treatment of a work which might prejudice the reputation of an author. In the UK, moral rights, unlike economic rights, cannot be sold, but they may be waived. Open Source Software (OSS)
Open source software is software for which the source code – something you might equate to a blueprint – is freely available under licence. It‘s important to understand your rights before using it, as many licences will permit you to modify software only if the resulting product is distributed under the same terms, while others will allow you to make any non-commercial use of the software. Passing off
The law of passing off protects the goodwill and reputation of a business against unfair exploitation by others. It is a right that protects your business despite the fact that you don’t have a registered trademark. It is necessary to establish that you have rights in the name, or other brand symbols, and that the other party’s actions confused (or are likely to confuse) your customers into believing their goods or services were offered by you, or associated with you. Patent
Only a patent can give you a monopoly over ideas (assuming those ideas take the form of a product or system that is capable of being patented). If you are granted a patent, you can prevent others from working your invention, even if they have developed it independently. To obtain a patent the application must include one or more claims defining the invention, and these must meet the requirements for patentability, such as novelty and non-obviousness. As with trademarks, patents are territorial and protect you in the countries in which you register your right, although there are ways to apply for protection more than one country at the same time. Find out more here: Patents
to comply with your obligations under data protection law, and to reassure visitors to your website.
is a distinctive sign used by an individual or an organisation to indicate that their goods or services originate from them. Trademark registration gives you exclusive rights to use your sign with the types of goods or services you offer, and is essential to creating and protecting a sustainable brand. Typically, a sign would be a name, word, logo, or strapline, or a combination of these elements.
This is knowledge that you keep secret within your business. Sometimes, keeping an invention secret can be better than patenting it as you are still able to exploit its value without incurring the costs of patenting, and without disclosing it to the public. You could even license use of the invention to others under strict confidentiality obligations. However, if the details of your invention become public the information loses its value, nor do trade secrets stop others from inventing the same process or product independently and patenting it. Typosquatting
Typosquatting is a type of cybersquatting which relies on registering domain names commonly mistyped by Internet users. For example if your website resides at YourBrand.com, a typosquatter might catch the unwary by registering YourBramd.com. Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP)
United States Patent and Trademark office (UPSTO)
The UDRP applies to top level domain names, and is a way to resolve certain disputes. In the UK the system that applies is the Dispute Resolution Service run by Nominet. If you have rights to a domain name, but it is registered by someone who is cybersquatting or typosquatting, you may want to try to recover the domains by initiating a UDRP
The agency responsible for the administration of patent and trademark registration in the United States. Unjustified threats
If someone else is using your trademark, design or patent, in an infringing way, in some circumstances you could be deemed to be making unjustified threats by objecting to the infringement, such as if your objection hints at threatened legal action. So, even though you may be the wronged party, by making an unjustified threat (as the law defines the term), you put the other party in a position to be able to sue you for damages.