What is Intellectual Property(IP)

IP Assets cannot be seen or touched and it is sometimes hard to appreciate their true value. However a basic understanding of the law and its principles will help make sure that you make the most of the mechanisms designed to protect them.

Intellectual property rights are a form of protection that gives the owner the ability to take legal action under civil law to try and stop others from making using, importing or selling their creation.

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is the official UK government body responsible for intellectual property (IP) rights including patents, designs, trade marks and copyright.

IPO is an executive agency, sponsored by the Department for Business

There are different types of intellectual property rights:


Protect new inventions and cover how products work, what they do, how they do it, what they are made of and how they are made. There is extensive information on applying for patents, searching for existing patent, patent law, resolving disputes at the IPO Patent website.

The Patent timeline from the IPO

Patent timeline

Trade Marks

Protect brands, this could be for a business name, a product or a service. The trade mark could be made up of words, logos or combination of both and can even be sound or action based. You can find out how to apply for trade marks, search for existing trade marks, trade mark law, resolving disputes and much more at the IPO Trade Mark website.

The Trademark timeline from the IPO

Trademark timeline


Protect the overall visual appearance of a product. Discover how to register your designs, search for registered designs, how to manage your design , design law and much more at the IPO Design website.


Protects books, art, music, websites, photographs, software, databases, films and print, radio and television broadcast and promotional material. There is extensive information relating to protecting your copyright at the IPO Copyright web site.

You can find more information on the IP Law here.

For information relating to protecting your copyright overseas, see our exporting section.

IP in business planning

IP can be the foundation of any business and should be part of your business plan, including how you plan to manage and protect it.

Day to day, business sell goods or services, but overtime develop ideas build their brand, product and services adding value to the business. This value builds up overtime and is strongly linked to the businesses IP assets and is important to identify them in your plan.

The success of your business depends on the commitment to your IP assets, so when planning for growth what seems unimportant today might be worth millions of pounds in the future.

The free, fast and easy to use online IP health check tool can help you identify your IP assets and provide you with the next steps on how to protect them. The health check tool is available at www.ipo.gov.uk/iphealthcheck


IP Equip is a free online intellectual property (IP) course brought to you by the experts at the UK Intellectual Property Office.

This free online training will teach you about intellectual property rights such as trade marks, patents, copyright and designs.

Benefits of using IP Equip

  • It’s quick, free and easy!
  • Learn to identify and protect your IP
  • CPD accreditation & IPO certificate on completion

Visit the Equip web site

Learning Resources

Whatever you create or plan to create, learning about intellectual property will ensure you get the credit you deserve. Art or apps; technology that saves time or saves lives: this site shows you how to protect your cracking ideas.

Discover a broad range of teaching and learning materials related to intellectual property (IP) – plus projects and activities for all ages that will inspire innovation.

Training tools

These are designed to help you:

  • Understand how IP works and what can be protected using patents, copyright, trade marks and designs.
  • Understand how to manage and use IP
  • Consider IP within business planning
  • Best leverage IP to protect investments and products

Access the tools here.

IP and Brexit

This government guide offers information on the future of intellectual property (IP) laws following the decision that the UK will leave the European Union (EU).


Getting help

British Libraries have a number of Business and IP Centres across the country.

At a local level you can contact our partners at the Hull Business IP Centre

01482 223344

Email: reference.library@hcandl.co.uk

The national web site is www.bl.uk/business-and-ip-centre/national-network