Types of Intellectual Property Rights

There are a number of types of Intellectual Property (IP) summarised below. In the context of research and teaching, copyright and patents are more usually encountered.


Copyright is an unregistered automatic right that protects the physical expression of an idea, but not the idea itself.

It grants the creator of an original work (e.g. piece of writing, music or photograph) exclusive right for a certain time period in relation to that work, including its publication, though it does not offer any protection against independently created works.Information on copyright from the UK IPO

Know How

Know How (commonly known as expertise) is associated with information, ideas and results that can be kept secret by inserting a clause on confidentiality in a contract.

For advice on confidentiality agreements please contact the Research Contracts Office.


Patents protect inventions and therefore usually protect products or processes that contain new functional or technical features.

For a patent to be granted for an invention by a national Patent Office, the subject matter of the invention must have the following properties:

  • It must be new (i.e. never previously disclosed in a public medium).
  • It must involve an inventive step.
  • It must be capable of industrial application.
  • It must lie outside a list of excluded material (which varies depending on state).

Information on patents from the UK IPO

For advice in seeking patent protection please contact the Intellectual Property Team.

It takes significant time (and money) to achieve an internationally granted patent.

Patent applications


In the IP context the term "design" means the shape or appearance of a part or whole article.

There are two types of protection for a design:

1. Design Right - this right is similar to copyright and occurs automatically. It protects internal and external features but only against the deliberate copying of the shape and configuration (e.g. physical design of computer chips and architectural drawings). It will last for 10 years following the time the article was first marketed.

2. Registered Design – this right must be formally applied for at a national registration office (UKIPO in the case of the UK) or the Community Designs Office in the case of a Registered Community Design. To obtain a valid registration the article must have the following properties:

  • It must be new (i.e. no identical design ever been made available to the public).
  • It must have ‘individual character’ (i.e. give an appearance of originality).
  • It must not be offensive.
  • It must not make unpermitted use of certain protected flags and international emblems (e.g. the Olympic symbol).

Information on design rights from the UK IPO

Trade marks

A trade mark is any sign that is capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one business from other businesses. A registered trade mark (symbol®) gives stronger protection that an unregistered one (symbolTM).

Information on trademarks from the UK IPO

For advice in seeking trade mark protection please contact the Intellectual Property Team.

Lancaster University owns some registered trademarks.

Registered namespaces

Of increasing value in the digital world are names that can be registered and used by only one user.

These range from valuable namespaces such as company names, domain names and hashtags, to the trivial (but sometimes valuable) such as vehicle registrations. Each namespace usually has a dedicated registration authority.

Contact Us

Please contact:

Jessica Wenmouth

Commercialisation Impact Manager

T: +44 (0)1524 593609E: j.wenmouth@lancaster.ac.uk

Maire Nolan

Head of Research and Enterprise Contracts

T: +44 (0) 1524 592164E: m.nolan@lancaster.ac.uk