User Generated IP Myths

Below are IP Myths and answers which have been sent to us. Each myth has been divided into relevant categories - trade marks & passing off, copyright & design and patents. Please click on the text under the relevant heading to see if it is true or false. Click here to send us IP myths that you have heard.

Trade Mark & Passing Off

Misspelling a generic word (e.g. by substituting K for C) magically transforms it into something distinctive and registrable as a trade mark

In order for a word to be accepted as a trade mark, it must be sufficiently distinctive to be registrable. This will be a matter of judgment in each case. Misspelling a generic word may not create a mark that is distinctive enough, especially if the existing word is particularly commonplace and/or is descriptive of the goods or services.

Copyright & Design

You only get copyright protection if you put the © on the work and/or the phrase "All rights reserved"

An original work is protected by copyright regardless of whether it carries any kind of copyright notice. The © symbol, the word 'copyright', the date of creation and/or a reservation of rights may serve as practical deterrents to copying. None is required for the work to be protected but it is a good ideas to use them.

"I paid for this pdf journal article, now I can do what I like with it"

When you buy mass-produced content such as a book, article or MP3 file, you usually only buy the right to use it yourself. Any further acts, such as copying, broadcasting or distributing that work, would be likely to infringe copyright (subject to the licence terms).

You can register copyright by posting a copy of the work to yourself. The postmark date is the registration date and you keep the unopened letter as proof of that

There is no registration system for copyright in the UK. Lodging a copy of the work with a solicitor, or posting a copy to yourself, may be useful in proving that the work was in your possession at a particular date. However, envelopes can be tampered with and mere possession would not prove to a court that you were the work's creator. Neither method creates any registered right.

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Having a patent gives the right to exclude everyone, everywhere, from using the invention

This is false. A patent only gives a territorial right to exclude others from using the invention. A UK patent only gives the patentee rights in the UK.

You can't patent a medicine made from natural ingredients

Medicines made from natural ingredients are treated like any other medicines when it comes to patent rights. In general, if the medicine is new and inventive, there is a case for the grant of a patent. The likely hurdle to patenting such medicines is probably whether the medicine is in fact "new". The "Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database" lists over one thousand natural medicines and there are likely to be many more in use, but not documented. Such medicines are not new and so are not patentable.

The patent office tests whether inventions work or not

The patent application must be "sufficient", that is it must describe the invention clearly and completely enough so it can be carried out by a person skilled in the art. However, patent applications are not checked to see if the claimed invention works or not. There are no labs in the Patent Office!

A patent on a drug allows you to put the drug on the market

A patent only gives the owner a monopoly right to exclude others from exploiting the invention. Moreover, any use by the patentee must comply with the law. In the case of medicines, the law requires the drug to be shown to be safe and effective before marketing. This medicine "authorisation" procedure is independent of patent rights.

Vague terms in a patent claim make it harder to perform a search for earlier inventions

No, if a term is vague it can be interpreted in the broadest possible way, so it's usually easier to find prior art.

"I can't find anyone selling it on the internet, so we don't need to do a patent search"

There can be many reasons why a patent owner has not commercialised its invention. For example, the product may still be in development or the patent owner has simply chosen not to bring the product to market for commercial reasons. In the UK, there is no requirement for a patentee to actually use or commercialise their patented invention.

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