Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Creative Copyright- Facts, thoughts and opinions

Copyright envelopeSo, you have an amazing logo / jingle / piece of art, or anything you've created really, and you want to use it, but you're scared people are going to copy it, what do you do? Having worked with a number of past and current clients, regarding their Intellectual Property, Trade mark and registered status, it got us thinking that people should know more. We've also seen several articles lately that highlight the dangers of not protecting your work and IP. It's a hot topic in the media and it's definitely worth you considering your options about building equity in your business.

Taking the confusion out of copyright

However, what you need to do to protect your work can be somewhat confusing. After quick glance at the IPO, (Intellectual Property Office), website it became clear that it's not a simple case of 'copyright':

- Copyright: protects arts including music, literary works, dance, artworks, layouts for books etc and recordings or broadcasts of any work (music etc.). A copyright protects any medium of a piece of work, meaning that it cannot be copied in any form. Although there is no official system for copyright, the IPO suggest either sending yourself a special delivery letter with the work inside, and leave it unopened, or lodging your work with a bank, (this is not legally binding, but would provide evidence in court). Note that copyrights only protect the actually work, not the thoughts or ideas behind it. You can display that you wish to copyright your work by adding the © symbol. It is also advised to include your name and the year from which you wish to protect your work. A piece of work may have more than one copyright attached to it. A great, yet complicated example of this can be found here, regarding the highly irritating, but super catchy 'Friday' by Rebecca Black.

- Trade marks: otherwise known as your brand. The IPO define a trade mark as "a sign which can distinguish your goods and services from those of your competitors...It can be for example words, logos or a combination of both." The only way to register a trade mark is with the IPO. Although you may have registered your company name with Companies House, you may not be able to use this in your trade mark, the IPO provide a lot more information on this issue here.

- Registered Design: according to the IPO, the legal definition of a design is "the appearance of the whole or part of a product resulting from the features of, in particular, the lines, contours, colours, shape, texture or materials of the product or ornamentation." In the graphic design and branding world, this type of protection is suitable for packaging, graphic symbols, and typefaces. Designs can only be registered with the IPO, in the same way trade marks can.

- Design Right: just like copyrights do not need to be registered, neither do design rights. However design rights only protect the 3D shape and configuration of a product, not the surface patterns or other 2-dimensional aspects of the product. The IPO recommends taking similar precautions to that when protecting your copyright, e.g. mailing yourself a copy of your design and leaving it sealed.

- Patent: a patent is specifically for new inventions and protects "how things work, what they do, how they do it, what they are made of and how they are made." Patents are granted under strict guidelines, information on which can be found on the IPO website here.

The IPO also provide information on other rights regarding intellectual property, these can be found here.

Lessons learned from Leather Bags

Whether its logos, patterns or actual products, copyright infringement is serious, and can be seriously damaging to the owner of a copyright. Take, for example, the case of The Cambridge Satchel Company. It would seem obvious to assume that the brand would face problems with counterfeit products coming from overseas, however it might surprise you to hear that the company's own suppliers were using Cambridge Satchel leather and putting their own labels on the bags under a different brand name! Furthermore, it was discovered that fake social network sites had been created for the company, causing confusion for customers; a deception technique known as 'cybersquatting'.

Cultivating, or capping, creativity?

In the UK, copyright protection can last upwards of 50 years, depending on the type of material being protected. There are arguments for and against this length of time. Some claim that long copyrights increase creativity by providing protection to the creator, which is becoming more of an issue with the ease of sharing in the current digital climate. However, the point has been raised that these extended periods of protection make it difficult to revive or protect older material, as it can be difficult to find the original copyright holder in order to gain permission to use the work. Others claim that nowadays copyright is only used to protect publishing companies / record labels, not the content creators themselves.
These arguments raise interesting points. However, we believe, especially in the case of the individual or the independent business, copyright is essential, and trademarking must be seriously considered. Both provide protection for you and your brand from your reputation being damaged by cybersquatting or other fraudulent activities. Protecting yourself now is a lot cheaper than a legal battle later!

So how safe are you?

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