Intellectual Property is one of those things that we mightn’t think about too often, but which effects what we do in our everyday lives.

Intellectual property is ideas, information and knowledge, and businesses can have the same ownership of these ideas as the would have ownership of buildings or land. This ownership is achieved, in part, through patents, copyright, registered designs and trademarks, and is an important part of any enterprise, be it huge cooperation’s or local business. Ultimately, successfully protecting your intellectual property is the only way to ensure your creative output isn't imitated by your competitors.

We don’t have to look too far for examples, because many of the products and gadgets we use every day depend on intellectual property rules to remain unique. The computers and phones we use every day are all full of software and features which belong to the designer; the TV we watch and the music we listen to is based on ideas which belong to their creator; and the cars we drive have designs which the manufacturer can prevent their competitors from imitating.

Intellectual property pops up everywhere. In the last few years Tinder has tried, with varying degrees of success, to hold back competition from other apps such as Bumble by claiming Intellectual ownership of concepts and designs such as swiping left or right. Apple is a huge purveyor of intellectual property. For years Steve Jobs had final say on countless Apple designs, and took copyright ownership very seriously, be it over something as significant as one of their latest computers or iPod's, or something as seemingly inconsequential as the design of the new staircase at their headquarters.

It’s no surprise then that major companies have often clashed over the ownership of certain designs. Apple’s designs and claims of ownership have taken them to court with Microsoft and Google; Dyson have had to compete legally with Hoover; and Star Wars took serious exception with Battlestar Galactica, who they claimed ‘borrowed’ a little to much form them.

If we look to history, these companies have reason to be protective of their ideas. Alexander Graham Bell is known by most of us to be the inventor of the telephone, but in fact the creation was the culmination of work carried out by many people, and Bell’s success and legacy with it was thanks in no small part to the fact that he was the one who patented it.

Impact on small businesses

If this all sounds like a complicated issue, that’s probably because it is. The main purpose of intellectual property law is to encourage the creation of a wide variety of intellectual goods for customers, but the application of it can become complicated when issues such as finance, economic growth and even morality become part of it. it’s no wonder then that huge companies often become entangled in tricky situations with it, and even small businesses have to be very aware of it in order to safely protect their ideas and their business opportunities.

The Introduction to IP Seminar – ‘Intellectual Property: What’s it all about?’ – at South West College, Thursday 27th June, will give attendees the chance to hear from industry experts and local entrepreneurs navigating the IP process, helping ensure you know everything about how Intellectual Property affects you.