Introduction to this document

Intellectual property rights summary

IP refers to the ownership of ideas and their representation. It is often a company’s greatest asset and requires protection. Use our summary to identify what IP rights you have and how to protect them.


Representations of ideas can take many forms, from original written material, designs, logos, inventions and even database structures. Businesses need to protect their original work in order to exploit these ideas commercially. Our summary takes you through the principal intellectual property (IP) rights and how to protect them.


So that a company knows what IP rights it needs to protect, it is useful to keep an inventory of IP rights and have them valued. This will help the company formulate its policy, e.g. which rights are worth protecting and enforcing, and can provide evidence of the damage suffered if there is an infringement.

IP rights need to be protected in a number of ways:

  • in employment contracts: by ensuring that anyone who creates IP during the course of their work for the company assigns ownership of it to the company (if assignment is not possible, e.g. with an independent contractor, they need to grant the company a licence to use it). The contract should also restrict the person’s ability to use the IP after they leave the company and protect confidential information
  • from third parties: by registering those rights that can be registered. The company may also include clauses in its contracts with third parties where appropriate that impose penalties on those who infringe the company’s IP rights; and
  • by enforcing its IP rights when they are infringed.

Third parties’ IP

Companies should avoid breaching others’ IP rights, as infringement actions can be expensive, as well as damaging to their reputation. For example, do your research before naming a new product to make sure you can use the name.