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Business Opportunities from the Trenches

Intellectual Property, Patents and Copyright

What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property (sometimes referred to as 'IP') is the general term given to describe the results of creative and innovative ideas. It is the 'thinking' that goes into an idea. Patents and copyright are legal methods you can use after having an idea to ensure people don't copy or 'pinch' your ideas.

Detailed and labelled line drawing of dart flights and tip
1927 Patent for Darts made by George Edward Jones of Bow

What is a Patent?

A patent protects new inventions and covers how things work, what they do, how they do it, what they are made of and how they are made. If a patent is granted the owner can take legal action under civil law to try to stop others from using the invention without permission. The invention must be:

  • new
  • inventive - especially to someone with knowledge and experience in the subject
  • capable of being made or used in some kind of industry  

What a patent is not:

  • a scientific or mathematical discovery
  • a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work
  • a way of performing, playing a game or doing business
  • a computer programme
  • a method of medical treatment or diagnosis

If you look carefully at the patent drawings on this page and the PDFs of the patent they relate to, you can appreciate the detail that is involved is protecting an invention.

Labelled line drawing showing the shaft of the dart and a picture of the whole dart.
Patent for Darts 1927 Made by George Edward Jones of Bow

What is Copyright?

Copyright is different from a patent. It is about the rights of the creator of a work, for example of art, music, writing or drama. 

  • It gives the creator the rights to commercially benefit from the work, through performance or publication, unless they sell these rights on to someone else.
  • Copyrights usually lasts at least 70 years after the creator's death (in the UK)
  • Copyrights can be sold or passed on to others.
  • Using copyrighted material without permission is known as 'piracy'.

The majority of content on MyLearning uses a Creative Commons BY NC SA licence that allows people to remix, tweak, and build upon work (usually images and text) non-commercially, as long as they credit the copyright holder and license new creations under the identical terms.  This means that the images and other media can be used for educational purposes, but it is illegal to use them for profit.