Protecting ideas or concepts - Knowledge Base

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Protecting ideas or concepts

Basic principles

Copyright does not protect ideas or concepts in their own right. Copyright applies to work that is fixed in a tangible form, (i.e. written documents, musical recordings, etc.). It does not directly apply to the idea of something.

You cannot ‘copyright an idea’, but copyright will apply to a recorded work that realises your ideas.

An example

To illustrate the point, both ‘Frost’ and ‘Morse’ are examples of TV shows that were based on similar ideas, but neither infringes the copyright of the other.

As illustrated in the example above, there nothing to stop a similar idea being developed, indeed TV is littered with examples of this, and it is simply fair competition provided they are not directly copying each other.

Inventions or industrial processes?

Patents may be applied to inventions or industrial processes, if this description applies to your work, then you may be able to apply for a patent. For information on this, you will need to speak to your national patent office.

So, what can be registered?

Any work that is fixed in a tangible form will be subject to copyright and can be registered. Carrying on the TV show analogy, a TV format, treatment or script, (i.e. the written document itself), would be subject to copyright, and as such can be registered with ourselves to ensure that you have proper evidence of the date and content of your work.

Further information

The following pages and links provide further information which you may find useful.

Copyright registration forms

Patent offices

Intellectual Property Office

Office of the European Union