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Can Copyright Protect my Idea

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Lawdit Solicitors - Expert Author

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Released 16 October 2008

The simple answer is no, an idea in itself cannot be protected. The Chambers 21st Century Dictionary defines an idea "a thought, image, notion or concept formed by the mind" so by its very definition an idea is a totally intangible thing. In order for there to be any protection of an idea, it must first make the idea exist in some tangible way. In the case of copyright law, it is the work that realises the idea that is protected (i.e. a document), and it is the act of recording that work that fixes copyright in the item itself.

Generally there are 3 main types of work that interest people:

1) A treatment, format or synopsis for a TV show, book or film

Copyright will protect the actual treatment, format or synopsis (as well as any other documents that detail the idea). It does not directly protect the idea, though registering the work would at least establish evidence of the content of your idea at that time.

Any direct copying of your material by another writer would be copyright infringement.

2) Business ventures

In the case of business ideas, it is again the recorded work rather than an intangible idea that is protected. Copyright would apply to items such as written documents, artwork, etc. - i.e. a Business plan, promotional literature, website, logo, and such items could be protected by copyright.

If a competitor used your work, (i.e. copied or adapted your promotional literature or stole content from your website to promote their own product), you could take action, as this would be a breach of copyright.

You could also take action if a competitor tried to steal customers by using your name or branding (or something similar), this is known as ‘passing off’.

There is however little you can do to prevent someone else starting a business based on a similar idea.

3) Inventions or industrial processes

If the idea is an industrial process or invention, it may be possible to apply for a patent. Patents are grants that give an exclusive right to use, sell or manufacture the invention. Patents are registered at a national or territory level with an appointed government body. Patents typically take 2 to 3 years to be granted.

As the patent process is quite slow, if in the meantime you need to show your invention to others it is worth using a confidentiality agreement to ensure their silence.

Lawdit Copyright Bank Service

Copyright is an automatic right and as such there is no registration system. Although this makes copyright protection for a work easily available, the main problem is the ability to establish when a work was created should infringement action become necessary. Therefore in order to assist with this issue, Lawdit offers a copyright bank service whereby clients deposit a copy of their work with us and we then store this in a safety deposit facility which we have set up with our bank. We then provide you with a receipt giving details of the item deposited and the date on which it came into our possession. In this way you obtain a third party guarantee of date.

However you should note that as this is not an official procedure it does not provide any absolutes in relation to any action which may need to be taken should you work be infringed, its aim is simply to assist in providing part of the necessary evidence upon which such an action would need to be based. Our charges for this service are 75.00 per year.

Jane Coyle is a trainee solicitor at Lawdit and can be contacted at jane.coyle@lawdit.co.uk


About the Author

Lawdit Solicitors offer services and advice for litigation, commercial contracts, Intellectual Property and IT legal agreements. We are experts in commercial law with a heavy emphasis on Intellectual Property, Internet and e-commerce law. Lawdit is a member of the International Trademark Association, the Solicitors' Association of Higher Court Advocates and we are the appointed Solicitors to the largest webdesign association in the world, the United Kingdom Website Designers Association.



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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2008-10-26 18:09:05 in Legal Articles

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