Have you ever come up with what you believed to be a great idea? Have you researched that idea and realised that there is actually a hole in the market that doesn't cover your idea? One day, you are going to put that idea into practice properly and become a millionaire from it - just as soon as you get time.
But you don't get time. Then, before you know it, there it is! In the shops! But that's your idea, you thought of it first and now this other person has had the same idea, taken the action that you were so slacking in and turned it into a money spinner so they can live it up on the Costa Del Easymoney.
If only you had looked into protecting your intellectual property. But would it really be possible to protect an 'idea'? Well, yes it is. Intellectual property rights are a legally binding way of protecting your idea that would prevent other people from using it. They may think their idea is original as nothing else like it is available on the open market and you may not have got round to actually producing the product but you would be protected and they would not be able to make their millions with it.
Intellectual property is defined as expressions and creative ideas formed by the human mind. This means, quite simply, your idea can stay that way until you are ready to use it without worrying that someone else will beat you to it.
There are ways of doing this. You can apply for a patent, design registration, trademark or copyright depending on your idea and the stage at which it is at.
A patent protects the way a new invention works, the way it works and the way it is made as well as what it is made from. This allows you to prevent others from importing, buying, selling or making your invention in any way, shape or form.
Once your idea is under way, a design registration will protect the physical appearance of your product from the shape, contours, patter, material and decoration as well as the texture. The reason you will need a patent as well is because the design registration does not cover how a product works. So, someone else could come along with an entirely different looking product that works in exactly the same way and if you only have design registration and not patent, then you cannot prevent them from making it.
Once your idea is underway, you will more than likely come up with a catchy signature phrase or recognisable logo that makes your individual product immediately recognisable. This will need to be covered by a trademark to stop other inventors using the same symbol or phrase.
Copyright is slightly different in that it applies to the more artistic market. Literature and music are the most commonly known works that are covered by a trademark. Also under the protection of this particular umbrella comes art, drama, layout, broadcasts and recordings. A copyright is an automatic right and does not need to be applied for. It will last for the author's lifetime plus seventy years. However, you cannot copyright an idea so when it comes to intellectual property, it needs to be written, you cannot say "I was going to write a book about that" and claim it as your own.
The thing to remember is that, if you have that idea and don't have the time, it takes a limited amount of time to get intellectual property rights to it. That way, you can sit it on the back burner until you do have the time.
Expert inventor Catherine Harvey looks at how to protect your intellectual property to prevent anyone else stealing your ideas.