Protecting your ideas – use intellectual property rights to protect your creativity and make money while you sleep.
Creativity is all about ideas and creative enterprise is about making money from those ideas. The main assets of most creative businesses are intangible – ideas and know-how in the form of intellectual property (IP).
So creative entrepreneurs need to know how to protect their IP and use it to generate income streams.
How to protect an 'idea'
Intellectual property is at the heart of the creative industries. It needs to be an important part of any successful business strategy.
Ideas themselves cannot be protected legally, only the expression of those ideas in some recorded form.
Intellectual property can be defined as “the product of creative ideas expressed in works”.
Intellectual property rights (IPR) can be described as “the legal powers associated with the ownership, protection and commercial exploitation of creative ideas expressed in works”.
Most intellectual property rights are protected through copyright, designs, trade marks or patents.
Copyright automatically arises as soon as an original work is created. It does not need to be registered. Copyright applies to writing, music, films, artwork, designs, photos, computer programs, broadcasts, etc.
Normally, the first owner of a copyright work is its creator, the main exception being an employee creating something in the course of their employment. Of course copyright can be sold or given away, by agreement in writing. It is important to note, though, that until there is an agreement in writing to the contrary, copyright remains with the creator.
This has implications for terms of trade with clients. Although registration of copyright is not necessary to achieve legal rights, it is nevertheless useful to keep records in case of any disputes in the future. For example, copies signed and dated by an independent person should be kept, along with notebooks, sketches, drafts and other evidence.
Designs and patents
Designs are protected automatically by copyright, but designs can also be registered, giving stronger legal protection in the event of a dispute over ownership. A design could be a logo, illustration, vase, book cover, wallpaper or other form of design.
Trade marks distinguish the goods and services of one trader as distinct from another and so can be described as a ‘badge of origin’ to inform customers about the source of those goods or services. Trade marks are usually words or symbols, but can also be jingles, smells or colours.
Having invested creativity, time energy and money in making your goods and services, and having built a reputation for your work, you should consider protecting your brand through a trade mark, either registered or unregistered.
An unregistered trade mark can be denoted using the ‘TM’ symbol, whereas registered trade marks are denoted by the ® symbol
Make money from your intellectual property
The first concern of most creative entrepreneurs is how to use intellectual property rights defensively to avoid being ‘ripped off’ by others, but there are also more positive aspects to intellectual property rights.
‘Renting’ intellectual property through licensing can generate ongoing income streams. It’s important to be clear about the position of intellectual property when charging customers and clients for goods and services. Who ends up owning the IP? What are the permitted uses of the IP?
This approach to using IP to develop a creative enterprise offers you a model of business which is not solely based on your ability to continue working.
This model is also scalable in that further income can be generated without being limited by your personal capacity and availability. For example, a musician or performer can only work in one place at a time, but through recordings or videos they can entertain many audiences simultaneously and generate multiple income streams.
In this way, intellectual property rights can be used to generate income ‘while you sleep’, to transform you from being a ‘creative labourer’ to a ‘creative entrepreneur’.
Resources for intellectual property rights
Creativity is all about ideas and creative enterprise is about making money from those ideas.
Creating works protected by intellectual property rights can allow creative businesses to grow their income without necessarily having to grow in terms of employees, premises or other overheads.
Registration of Designs, Trade Marks and Patents in the UK takes place at the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO) – formerly known as the Patent Office – which publishes helpful information online.
Various licensing arrangements are available by using Creative Commons licences to permit limited use, perhaps for publicity purposes, and organisations such as ‘Own It’ can give advice on commercial licensing for creative enterprises.
Intellectual property is at the heart of the creative industries. As such, it needs to be an important part of any successful business strategy in the creative sector.
Copyright © David Parrish