The law offers many different forms of protection for inventions, products, and innovations. The patent procedure is useful for many people with a new and original invention to sell. There are other ways in which you can protect your product and your intellectual property. Here are some of the options you have for IP protection for your design.
1. Non-Disclosure Agreements
As you develop a product or invent something new you will have information related to the design and manufacture of the product that you do not want anyone else to use. Confidential information is not necessarily covered by patent protection but it is important since it forms part of your intellectual property. You can protect this information with a non-disclosure agreement. It is a good form of protection to put in place if you are working with someone else who is developing part of the product, or someone who will be promoting it. If that person passes on information or uses it for their purposes then they face legal action. Of course, in order for this agreement to be successful the other party needs to sign it, so there must be mutual agreement about the NDA.
Copyright may be a highly useful, and often the only way, to protect computer code and is a good option when you want to patent software, which is normally difficult to patent. Copyright protects written and drawn information and ideas – it doesn’t protect the idea, as such, but the written or drawn description or notes. Copyright is automatic but it can be very difficult to prove that someone has infringed your copyright, rather than come up with the idea on their own.
3. Unregistered Design Right
The unregistered design right (UDR) is used in Europe to protect the appearance of an invention. Appearance includes the pattern and shape of the product, the texture, the decorations, the finish, etc. As with copyright, this is free to register but it may not offer much practical protection as it can be very difficult to tell when someone has used features of your design in their own product. It is a good idea to consult a patent attorney when you are looking at ways of protecting the design of your product as it can be a difficult area to get right.
4. Design Registration
This is a formal process of registration for a design, and often more effective than an unregistered design right. The design and product must fulfil a number of criteria in order to be eligible for design registration, including being the result of design freedom, and possessing individual character.
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