Types of Intellectual Property

Keen to find out whether you can protect prototype scribbles, business secrets, and other potentially valuable work created by either you or your company?

Fortunately, UK intellectual property rights cover an extensive range of intellectual property types. From registered designs to patents, it pays to understand what kind of intellectual property you possess and how and when you should protect it.

At Trademark Eagle, our team of experienced attorneys has provided countless clients with intellectual property advice and services, helping them obtain the right legal protection for their specific intellectual property types.

What are the different types of intellectual property?

To help you determine what the various types of intellectual property look like, we explore the five core types of intellectual property rights in the UK below.

Complete with a selection of intellectual property examples, we aim to make understanding intellectual property simple.

Registered designs

Regardless of whether you create a design as an individual or a business in the UK, you can seek to protect this asset by registering the design. With a registered design, you can prove both when the design was created and that you’re the legal owner of this work with exclusive rights to use the design as you wish.

As a result, if another individual or business intentionally tries to copy this design without your consent, you will have the legal ability to pursue the alleged offender. To register, however, you must have illustrations of the design.

Registered designs are often used to protect the appearance (not function) of product that may differ in shape, decoration, colour, configuration, or patten compared to existing registered designs or products already on the market.

An example of this type of intellectual property would be registering a design for a new mobile phone shape.


Patents are used to protect an inventor’s new product or process by giving them exclusive government-issued rights. These rights mean the investor can take legal action if another individual or business chooses to manufacture, sell, or import the patent-protected product or use the patent-protected process without the inventor’s permission.

While theories can’t be patented, technological inventions including methods can be.

With regards to patents, examples of intellectual property include Amazon’s 1-Click ordering patent that allowed them to have a distinct advantage over their competitors and provide exceptional service. It’s imperative that you have not disclosed details of your patent before applying to protect it.


If you want the legal right to dictate how your literary or artistic work is distributed, copied, adapted, or performed, then you should find out more about copyrighting your work. This will prevent both individuals and companies from using your work unless you’ve given them your permission.

This type of intellectual property protection is automatically applied when you create a literary or artistic piece of work – regardless of whether you mark the work with the well-known copyright symbol (©).

Common examples of intellectual property you can copyright include  paintings, plays, films, songs, and books.

Trade marks

Registering a trade mark can help you to protect a type of sign, expression, or design that’s used by customers to help them identify your business, products, or services in the marketplace. Intellectual property examples of work that can be trademarked includes everything from the company name and product names to logos, taglines, colour schemes, and even sounds.

If it can be used to distinguish your business from another, it can be trademarked.

Then, if a competitor attempts to use a similar sign or design to benefit from the success of your hard-earned brand without your permission, a trade mark allows you to take legal action against them. As a result, it’s crucial that you swiftly and correctly register every trade mark.

Trade secrets

A trade secret is a confidential and commercially-sensitive piece of information that supports the success of a particular business. Due to the fact that this secret isn’t generally known or available to individuals outside of the company, the business is able to stand out from the crowd of competitors with this USP (Unique Selling Point).

Trade secrets can be sold or licenced, but they are often kept secret or on a need-to-know basis thanks to their inherent value to the business. General trade secret examples include plans, formulas, recipes, and programs, with a more specific example being KFC’s famous blend of 11 herbs and spices which is used to coat their chicken.

Unlike other types of intellectual property, the owners of these trade secrets have no binding legal protection. Instead, they must rely on taking reasonable measures to protect this information, alongside common law, and contracts such as NDAs (Non-Disclosure Agreements) to help keep the trade secret confidential.

Once the trade secret has been released with permission, revealed, or leaked into the public domain, it can no longer be considered a trade secret.

If you’re still unsure whether you have intellectual property that can or should be protected by UK law, please feel free to get in touch with our friendly and helpful team.

Expert intellectual property advice

At Trademark Eagle, we can provide our clients with a global range of professional Intellectual Property Services. From trade mark registration and protection services, to copyright advice, and design protection and enforcement services, we’re on hand to defend your valuable business assets.

Our team of experienced attorneys can also offer expert support with cease and desist, as well as infringement and protection of IP rights (including online and social media).

To be swiftly notified of competing trade mark applications, we recommend signing up to our trade mark monitoring services. We help you to act fast, preventing damage to a brand that you’ve poured time, money, and effort into building.

To find out more about the various types of intellectual property and the intellectual property services available here at Trademark Eagle, please don’t hesitate to give our knowledgeable team a call today on 0122 3208 624.

All initial consultations are free.

Alternatively, we also welcome enquiries sent to our team using our convenient live chat feature, online contact form, or submitted via email to enquiries@trademark-eagle.com.

However, you decide to reach out, we look forward to hearing from you.

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