Protecting Your Designs (Intellectual Property)

I have been doing a lot of research lately into protecting your design work and have come across some sites which you may find useful. One of the frustrating things I have found is how much it can cost to try and protect your work, even if you manage to get official protection in your own country that often doesn’t cover other countries, which again will be an additional cost. For example to apply to register a trademark in several classes, in fees to the patent office alone (without solicitors fees if you choose to use one) can cost from several hundreds to over a thousand pounds and that is just for one country.

There are of course the government Intellectual property sites which have some information to help you:

The UK Intellectual Property Office
The US Patent and Trademark Office

There are many different ways you can protect your work – the simplest being copyright, which you automatically own on producing a work of art. In the US you can officially register copyright, but currently in the UK this option is not available, so if you want some way of proving the date of creation of a piece of work you can either get someone like a solicitor, or bank to stamp and date your work or use one of the unofficial copyright registers

You can also register designs (the look colour, design and shape) which again you can find out more about through your country’s intellectual property office but there are several other sites you may find useful –

“ACID (Anti Copying In Design) is a membership trade organisation, set up as a round table action group in 1996, by designers for designers – now a hard-hitting “not for profit” trade organisation created to combat the growing threats of plagiarism in the design and creative industries.”

I wish I had found this site a long time ago it has loads of useful information including podcasts giving you an overview of protecting your design work. Another great resource is the standard forms you can download such as non disclosure forms and copyright assignment. Well worth a look.

Design Protect
Another Site full of legal information on protecting your design work.

Charity at Design adaptations has further information for protecting your creative work

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  1. Posted November 12, 2007 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    I’ve a draft article about trademarks, yet to go live as I hadn’t finished it.

    I didn’t find it too easy finding the right info when searching online, so it’s no surprise to see you publish an article about this.

    Nice work Tara.

  2. Posted November 12, 2007 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    HI David

    Thanks, let me know when you publish it and I’ll add your link.

  3. Posted November 15, 2007 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Photographers seem to be on the ball when it comes to copyright. I designed a national newspaper advert for a client that sells cruise holidays and he asked me to include a photograph from one of the cruise lines brochures. Now we both were under the assumption that if the cruise line published an image they must hold the copyright and as we were selling their cruises we could use it in the advert.
    Lo and behold we had a phone call from a photographer the day after it was published claiming copyright in the image and demanding payment. After much discussion and research he proved that the image was his (even though it was cropped, reversed and in newsprint). We paid!
    You can always resort to a solicitors letter and take companies to court but from experience if your copyright has been infringed:
    1. Ask politely for payment with evidence that you were the creator of the original work.
    2. Try a solicitors letter.
    3. If you think its financially worth it take them to court.

    On a separate note beware of including maps in your artwork because Ordnance Survey are VERY hot on copyright – get specialist advice.

  4. sazzelli
    Posted November 15, 2007 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    his was quite useful, its a shame ive only just read it.
    It’s just happened to me today, some guy who’s client is eastpak, tricked me into making a font for him and now he is going to use it and there was no intentions of anything in return! and its going to be something thats used in europe so surely there would be enough money involved to give me a bit for my effort…. gez i hate some sneaky designers. but its my fault but i thought it was a friend

  5. Posted November 15, 2007 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    This is one of those things we wish we didn’t have to deal with! If everyone could just be honest… but that’s a fantasy world. Thanks for these useful links, Tara (and thanks for looking into US protections, too!)

  6. Posted November 15, 2007 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    HI Lauren

    I was saying exactly the same thing to my boyfriend the other day, the honest people have to spend loads of money to try and stop the dishonest riping them off :(

  7. Posted January 9, 2008 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    Intellectual property attorneys are normally very expensive. The best way for a small business to fight for their copyright infringements is to find a lawyer who is willing to take their case on a conditional fee basis also known as no win no fee claims.

  8. yves
    Posted April 8, 2011 at 2:44 am | Permalink

    hi – can someone please tell me where does being inspired by a design stop and where does plagiarising it start, in brochure work for example ?

    what is the actual part of the design that is protected ? is it the layout, the colour palette, the typeface combinations, or all of those put together ?

    and isn’t there a risk that if someone designs something from scratch, almost exactly the same design would have already been created, perhaps because they are not very creative, or perhaps because they are subconciously influenced by others ?

    are there specific examples where graphic design intellectual property rights have been defended in court ?

    thanks for your help.

  9. Posted April 8, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    Hi Yves, thanks for your comment, you might want to check out the intellectual property office (links in the post) or go over to (Anti Copying in Design) to find more info

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