Intellectual property law protects the rights of those who have manifested their ideas in the form of an invention, a book, a piece of art or music, or even a business name. There are four kinds of intellectual property: copyright, designs, patents and trademarks. Although such laws are largely beneficial, they can also be difficult to enforce.
Copyright is automatic
Intellectual Property law effectively allows people to 'own' their own idea in the form of its design or invention, and disallows other people from taking advantage of the creation without proper accreditation or remuneration. Intellectual Property law does not protect ideas as such, but only the form in which ideas are expressed.Copyright and design rights apply automatically to any piece of work, even when no steps have been taken to secure intellectual property rights. Patents and trademarks however must be registered with the Intellectual Property Office.
Plagiarism and duplication
Copyright only applies if a second party has deliberately attempted to exploit someone else's intellectual property; it does not apply to mere duplication, which may be coincidental. In general copyright does not apply to names and titles, including most business names, since titles or names may be the same coincidentally and not be the result of copyright infringement. Although business names are not automatically copyright-protected, it is possible to apply for a trademark. However, such applications will not necessarily be accepted.
Infringement of copyright
In the case of infringement it is up to the individual to seek redress if they can prove their copyright has been infringed. However, proving originality can be difficult or even impossible if intellectual property rights are not secured through a registration process such as a patent or trademark. Even securing a patent or design rights does not protect against someone else using your design or invention but with superficial modifications. Furthermore, UK automatic design rights only apply within the UK and must be re-applied for elsewhere.
Copyright prevents us making free use of other peoples' creativity, which may be felt by some to be a disadvantage. However, copyright can also be owned by a business that has obtained contractual economic rights over a piece of intellectual property, which occurs for instance in the music industry and in academic publishing. In such instances, use and reproduction of the work is controlled and managed for the financial benefit of a third party and not necessarily the original creator. Whether this is an advantage or disadvantage will always be a matter of debate.