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Protecting your work

Intellectual property rights: Copyright, Design and Trademarks.

Protecting your work

As a craftsperson or designer engaged in creative work, there’s probably intellectual property inherent in almost everything you do. The Patents Office (based in Kilkenny) describes intellectual property as “the product of someone's mental efforts. Its value lies in its appeal to others who might wish to use it or the goods it describes”.

Craft and design work may be protectable under a number of different intellectual property rights (IPRs), including:

Copyright applies to anything that is written down, recorded or broadcast and exists from the moment the ‘work’ is created. No registration is required, although it is usual to display a copyright ‘notice’ – the familiar © followed by the date and name of the copyright owner: for example,
© 2016 Design & Crafts Council of Ireland.

According to the Patents Office, a design is “the outward appearance of a product or part of it, resulting from the lines, contours, colours, shape, texture, materials and/its ornamentation”, while a product can be any industrial or handicraft item including packaging, graphic symbols and typographic typefaces but excluding computer programs.

A design may be registered for a period of five years – renewable up to a maximum of 25 years. An initial fee, and renewal fees, apply. A design registered in Ireland only gives protection in Ireland. A Registered Community Design gives protection across the EU. Separate applications need to be made for other countries. Even if not registered, a design is protected from copying – provided that the creator can prove that the other person copied their work, as opposed to creating it independently.

According to the Patents Office, a trademark is “any distinctive sign which can distinguish the goods or services of one trader from those of another and which can be represented graphically”. Brands, logos and other graphic devices are all capable of being trademarked. Again, like designs, trademarks apply only to the territory they are registered for – for example, Ireland, or the EU under a Community Trade Mark, or other countries. An initial fee, and renewal fees every 10 years, apply. You can use the “™” symbol to indicate a unregistered trademark, while “®” is reserved for registered trademarks.

Creative Commons is a licensing system under which the creator of a work can share it freely with others, while preventing commercial use. Creative Commons licenses are not an alternative to copyright but work alongside copyright, enable creators to modify copyright terms to best suit their needs.


Next Steps

You should familiarise yourself with the basics of the different forms of protection offered by the various intellectual property rights – they are there for your benefit! Read the resource material and other material on the Patents Office website.

Then decide which elements of your work are worth protecting – recognising the time and money cost of doing so.

And, as always, take professional advice before committing to spending money.

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