Fran Taylor, Creative Industries Marketing Manager at the British Library assists designer-makers to find helpful resources in the British Library’s Business and IP centre. Visit her in the library for help with market research and exploring intellectual property laws. Here she gives us an introduction to IP basics for creative businesses.
What happens if someone steals my creative idea?
Having your ideas stolen can be a big worry for designers and makers, particularly when your products are so visible online. Sometimes it can also be a sign that your work is getting out there – you know that you’re starting to get somewhere when people want to recreate your work! There are lots of high profile cases of designers who have had their ideas stolen. Remember Tatty Devine’s campaign against Claire’s Accessories: Can you spot the difference? So that you know your rights, it’s important that you understand how the Intellectual Property (IP) system works in the UK. IP covers four main areas:
- Patents – How something works
- Designs – What it looks like
- Trade marks – What you call it
- Copyright – Artistic or literary expression
At the British Library Business & IP Centre in London we offer lots of free workshops, advice sessions and resources to help you get to grips with them. There are also lots of tips on our website.
Patents, trade marks and designs should to be registered with the Intellectual Property Office for a fee. Copyright is the exception to this as it is owned automatically by the creator of a piece of work and you don’t need to register it, and therefore it’s free. But you do need to be able to prove when you created it, to show you were first. Whether or not you choose to register some of your IP rights depends on lots of factors – the costs, the amount of money you expect to make from a product range and its life span, etc.
So what do you do if someone has stolen your idea? As a first step, it’s worth speaking to a professional for advice, for example, either at Ideas21 or the Intellectual Property Office. It doesn’t have to cost much (or anything) as there are lots of free support services available out there.
Defending IP rights in a court of law can be very costly and time-consuming; there are other tactics you could consider before resorting legal proceedings. You can negotiate directly with the individual or company that has copied you. Or, in the case of Tatty Devine, you can use the story to create publicity for your brand. It might lead to an increase in sales for you (despite being copied) and significant embarrassment for the other party. Tatty Devine’s David-and-Goliath story was covered by national press such as the Guardian, Daily Mail, Telegraph, it trended on twitter (with over 2,500 tweets) and gained over 200 comments on their website.
This article was written by Fran Taylor from the British Library. Read her Inspired by blog on how creatives can use the Library’s collections and Business & IP Centre.