What is Intellectual Property? (IP)

Intellectual Property is the collective term for the rights arising under the law relating to Copyright, Unregistered Design Rights, Registered Design Rights, Patents, Trade Marks, Passing Office, Utility Models and the Law of Confidence. Intellectual property represents original work that can be legally protected.

These rights give the owner the right to decide who can use their property. It is up to the owner of the property to make sure that their interests and rights are protected. ACID aims to assist its members in the protection of their intellectual property by providing simple explanations of what to many is a complex subject, together with practical tools of self help. If intellectual property rights are infringed the law provides access to a system for addressing rights theft either through the recently improved Patents County Court or the new Small Claims Track but it is the property owner’s responsibility to pursue infringement. Through its new legal Affiliates, ACID provides initial, free fast track advice on all related IP subjects. 

You pay for: 
Registered Rights – Patents, Trade Marks, Designs

You do not pay for: 
Unregistered Rights – Copyright, Designs, Trade Marks, Intellectual Capital, Know How, Ideas, Confidentiality

Do you know the differences of each?


ACID Marketplace

If you are relying on unregistered rights it is important that you have an audit trail - a line of evidence showing when you created your design and, preferably, supported by independent third party proof. This is why we have developed the ACID Design Databank through ACID Marketplace, so that members have the choice of storing or displaying their designs, safe in the knowledge that there is dated information attached to each submission of designs that they make through the ACID Marketplace.  Each year ACID receives up to 25,000 copies of designs. 

An additional benefit is provided by the ACID Marketplace whereby ACID members can choose whether they want their designs to remain private and confidential, whether they wish design buyers to view them by invitation or whether they wish them to be accessible to all design buyers. All design buyers will first register to view designs and will agree to the ACID Design Buyer’s Charter. This ensures that the ACID member is provided with an audit trail of who has viewed their designs which can also be used for their sales and marketing purposes. Would you like to have a permanent 24 hour exhibition zone of your designs and new product launches? Visit ACID Marketplace!


A UK Patent protects an invention and gives the proprietor the exclusive right to manufacture, use, import or sell in the UK a product embodying the invention covered by the Patent. It can be used to stop others from copying your invention, and deter them from doing so, without your consent

What criteria must my invention meet to be patentable?

To be patentable your invention must meet two criteria:

NOVELTY – which means that it must never have been publicly disclosed anywhere in the world prior to the date that you filed your patent application

INVENTIVE STEP – which means that it must be something more than just an obvious modification of something that has already been disclosed to the public

More information here


  1. Copyright will exist in 'artistic works', covering works such as paintings, drawings, fabrics, diagrams, and photographs. These are protected irrespective of the artistic quality. Surface decoration on 3-D designs can also be covered by copyright. (Note however that you cannot usually enforce copyright in a design drawing to prevent someone from making an article to the design shown).
  2. The work must be ORIGINAL. The author must use his own skill to create the work, so the design must not have been copied from an existing design.
  3. No formalities are required. The right is automatically created once the design is recorded in some permanent form.
  4. The ownership of copyright will rest initially with either the creator or their employer.
  5. Copyright lasts for the life of the creator plus 70 years following their death. However, if an artistic work is commercially exploited (e.g. a fabric design) this period is usually reduced to 25 years protection from the end of the first year of commercial exploitation. Copyight will be infringed if the design is copied and the copy features important parts taken from the design (the copy does not have to look similar to the design).

More information here

UK Artistic Copyright  - 3d Designs

  1. Artistic copyright will exist in sculptures, works of architecture and works of artistic craftsmanship (the definition of which is uncertain, but is probably limited to works of or similar to fine art, e.g. hand-blown vases).
  2. As before, the work must be original. No formalities are required and the ownership will rest initially with the creator or their employer.               
    Artistic copyright lasts for the life of the creator plus 70 years following death. However, if the esign is industrially exploited (e.g. where more than 50 items of the article are produced) this period is usually reduced to 25 years protection from the end of the year of commercial exploitation.

UK Unregistered Design Right - 3d Designs

  1. Design right will exist in most 3-D articles, including furniture, interior accessories, lighting designs etc. However, design right does not subsist in surface decoration (which is covered by copyright).
  2. Design right exists in all ORIGINAL designs (the design must not have been copied from an existing design or regarded as 'commonplace' in the design field in question at the time it was designed).
  3. No formalities are required. The right is automatically created once the design has been recorded or an article has been made to the design (e.g. a prototype).
  4. Certain design features are excluded from design right protection, including methods of construction and features which enable the design to be connected to or to match another article.
  5. Design right protection lasts for the shorter of either 10 years from the end of the first year the design is made available for sale or 15 years from the end of the year in which the design is created.
  6. In the last 5 years of the period of protection under 5. above, anyone can copy the design, subject to the payment of a royalty to the designer (the so-called "licence of right" period).
  7. Copies do not have to be exactly the same for your rights to be infringed and a copyist will not escape liability by making slight alterations, or by only copying part of a design.

UK Registered Design Right – 3d Designs

  1. Registered design protects the appearance of a product - this includes shape, contours, lines, colours, texture of the product or ornamentation. The definition of a 'product' includes parts, get-up, symbols and typefaces.
  2. To qualify for registration, a design need not have 'eye appeal' but it must be visible. 
  3. The design must not have been disclosed or marketed for more than one year before registration is applied for. 
  4. The design must differ from existing designs in the marketplace by more than just immaterial details and must create a different overall impression on someone who is familiar with the relevant design field.
  5. Protection does not cover features which are dictated solely by the function which the product has to perform.
  6. An infringement will occur where another design creates the same overall impression as the registered design.
  7. Once registered, the owner has a monopoly over the design. No evidence of copying is required to prove an infringement of a registered design, unlike copyright or design right.
  8. Registered design protection lasts for up to 25 years, renewable every five years after registration.

More information here

Unregistered Community Design 2D & 3-D Designs

  1. This is a relatively new right which applies automatically throughout the European Union. It will apply to exactly the same type of designs as can be protected by a Registered Design (see 1. above under UK Registered Design).
  2. As with copyright and design right, there is no need to file a registration in order to benefit from the right.
  3. The rules for qualification for protection and the test for infringement are also exactly the same as with Registered Design save that copying must be proved (see 4. 5. & 6. above under UK Registered Design).
  4. The right only lasts for three years from the date the design is first made available to the public

Registered Community Design (2-D & 3-D Designs

  1. It allows one registration to be filed which will be effective throughout the European Union, unlike a UK Registered Design, which only provides protection within the UK.
  2. All the other aspects are the same as for a UK Registered Design (see 1. to 8. above under UK Registered Design).

More information here

Trade Marks

  1. A trade mark provides the owner with an exclusive right to use the mark on the goods and services for which the trade mark has been registered. In limited cases, it can be used to protect the shape of a product.
  2. To qualify for registration, a trade mark must be capable of distinguishing goods or services of one business from that of another.
  3. Registration will be refused if a mark is devoid of distinctive character, (ie if it is descriptive), customary to the trade or exclusively consists of a sign used in the relevant trade to designate the product's features,

More information here

Community Trade Marks

  1. Offer protection in 28 member states and are available through The Office for Harmonisation in the Internal market www.oami.europe.eu


For Non-Members

Everybody can visit our public glossary section.


For Members

ACID Members can log into the dedicated Members Area through their profile for detailed descriptions.