Most businesses rely on bright ideas. Whether it’s developing new products; having a great brand or creating eye-catching designs, your ideas are your passport to business success. But how do you protect your ideas from being exploited by others? That’s where Intellectual Property (or IP) law comes in. There are four main types of IP, each working in different way: trade marks; copyright; design rights and patents. Let’s start with trade marks. Trade marks are used by businesses to protect their brands. You can register a trade mark in the UK, across Europe or further afield to apply to a name, a logo or both. Trade marks can be a valuable long-term asset for your business – they only need renewing every ten years. Then there’s copyright. Copyright automatically exists in things like documents, photos, maps, plans and websites. If you create any of these in your business, they are already protected by copyright for free. It is good practice to use the copyright symbol on anything you have created and keep good records of when and how they were created. Your copyright will last for up to 70 years after your lifetime, so it’s another long-term asset. If you pay someone else to create something for you or your business, they will own the copyright unless it is explicitly transferred to you in writing. If people buy your products because of the way they look – for example furniture, jewellery or clothes – you need to think about design rights. Registered design rights needn’t be expensive and can cover the UK and abroad. Even if you don’t register your designs, you may have unregistered design rights that are free and automatic. So your business may already own rights you didn’t even know about. Finally, if you invent a new product (or a new process) you should think about patents. Patents can last for up to 20 years, and registering a patent can be a pretty complicated and expensive process. That said, they may be a really good investment for your business so it is worth seeking proper professional advice. We can guide you towards help on all these types of IP. Just have a look at the Business Wales website or phone 03000 6 03000 and ask for help. It may be the best bright idea you’ve ever had!