Protecting your IP – simple tips

Written by William Miles | July 29, 2016

Intellectual Property

That looks familiar? Simple advice on how to protect what’s yours

The recent case of Tuesday Bassen (an illustrator and designer) against Zara (a multi-national fashion designer) reported reecently by the Guardian  is an all too common tail of David vs Goliath in the intellectual property world.

The independent designer on the one hand, claiming that her original work has been copied, and the large retailer on the other, using its sheer size and reputation to stifle any legal claims, often leads to a “win” for Goliath and a crippling legal bill for David. How then, can this be avoided and what should designers, illustrators and creatives do to stop it happening to them?

Protect your work legally

The first step is to decide which elements or your work are (a) original and (b) protectable. It’s important to remember that there are no intellectual property rights in an idea, only the expression of the idea. When deciding how best to protect that original expression you should consider the following:


Protects illustrations, text, music and film. Doesn’t need to be registered in most countries, although the USA is a big exception. Gives you the right to stop copying (admittedly an unimaginative name).

Trade Marks

Protects brand names and signifiers of business origin. These are mainly logos or words and they can be registered for periods of 10 years at a time with an indefinite option to renew (as long as they’re in use).


3D shapes and some 2D designs. Normally used to protect the overall appearance/design of a product. Provides both unregistered (short term) and registered (long term) rights.


The registered right that everyone wants but very few get. New and unique inventions only, think Dyson vacuum.

Confidential information

Trade secrets and undisclosed intel, one of the most famous being the recipe of Coca Cola. Confidential Information isn’t registered but it can be protected with a Non Disclosure Agreement “NDA”.

Take swift action

If you do discover that someone has copied your work, whoever they are, you need to do something about it as quickly as possible. Be fast and firm as it is much harder to stop copying if it has been going on for a long time or if you’re not shouting loud enough.

Consider asking Briffa to review your claim and prepare the first letter (we can provide a fixed fee for this work in advance). The letter can then be used as a benchmark in any settlement discussions and should mean that you are negotiating from a position of strength. If you would like to talk to us about any of the issues raised above, please just email us and arrange a free 30 minute consultation.

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