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Patents :: Trade Marks :: Design Right :: Copyright :: Trade Secrets

Intellectual Property and Intellectual Asset Management

IP and IA are too often poorly managed. Whilst even good managers and business people are excellent managers of their team, of their physical assets and of the cash flow, the intellectual assets of a business (those less tangible elements that are so often tacitly responsible for the underlying value of a business) tend to be overlooked or managed on an ad-hoc basis. However a dynamic and hands-on approach to intellectual asset management can ensure that the value of the business is properly protected and exploited and that significant opportunities are not overlooked.

The Intellectual Assets Centre, based in Glasgow, exists to disseminate good IA management practices to Scottish organisations. Several case studies on how good IA management has had a positive impact on a business can be found on their website at www.ia-centre.org.uk.


Patents are an important form of intellectual property protection as they offer some of the strongest technology and invention-related protection. They are also the most expensive form of intellectual property protection. The lifetime cost obtaining and maintaining a patent (excluding enforcement) in the major commercial territories is said to be greater than $100,000.

They protect inventions or concepts. To be patentable, an invention has to be new, inventive and industrially applicable. To differentiate over other types of protection, it is useful to think of patents as protecting inventions that have a technical effect. There are certain exceptions to patentability and they include things like methods of treatment of the human body, mathematical theories (the industrial application of such theories may be patentable), the pure presentation of information, a pure computer programme (unless it represents a technical effect), a work of art. These exceptions tend to be interpreted very narrowly, which means that, for example, for all intents and purposes new and inventive computer programmes are patentable.


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Trade Marks

Trade Marks are associated with brand. Trade Marks enable a consumer to differentiate the goods of one company from those of another. These Trade Marks allow a TM owner to build a reputation (whether that is a good reputation or a bad reputation or a reputation for innovation, for cool or for design), so that a consumer can associate the reputation with the TM owner and know that when they see that mark applied to goods that they can expect a level of innovation, cool or design consistent with that TM owner's reputation.


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Design Right

Designs as a form of intellectual property refer to the shape, configuration and surface decoration of an article which have an aesthetic impact (as opposed to a technical effect).


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Copyright automatically arises when a copyright work is created. Copyright applies to literary, artistic and musical creations and the like. The term of copyright varies depending on the particular type, but for literary works is typically seventy years from the end of the year in which the originator dies.

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Trade Secrets

Know-how and trade secrets are important forms of intellectual property. They develop through time and effort in working in a particular area or in a particular way and awareness of what a company's intellectual assets are is important in properly managing them.


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