Intellectual property and the external environment
An Intellectual Property Office case study

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Page 1: Introduction

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is the official UK government body responsible for granting intellectual property (IP) rights. It is an executive agency of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. The IPO is divided into seven directorates. Each directorate looks after a different area of the IPO's work.

The role of the IPO is to help manage intellectual property rights to encourage innovation and creativity. This needs to balance the needs of consumers and owners of intellectual property as well as promoting strong and competitive markets. This supports a knowledge-based economy. The IPO operates both in the UK and abroad. It advises businesses on how best to protect their intellectual property and to make sure that they receive the rewards of their creativity.


Innovation is based around creativity and ideas. It is defined as the act of introducing something new, such as a new way of doing something or a new device. To protect their innovations, creators have various IP rights. These rights apply both to businesses as well as to individual innovators/inventors. They are recognised in UK law and in agreements signed by the UK with other nations.

There are four main categories of intellectual property.

  • Patents - these protect the methods and processes that make things work
  • Design rights - these protect the look/appearance of a product
  • Trade Marks - these may be logos, brand names or symbols
  • Copyright - this protects written work or recorded material such as film or music from being copied without permission.

Benefits of IP protection

The services of the IPO benefit businesses that invest in innovation and development. They help to ensure that businesses can take advantage of and gain reward from their ideas and creativity. Providing protection for IP encourages businesses to carry out research and development. For example, businesses would not find it attractive to invest large sums in developing new technology if competitors could just copy their ideas and inventions. The UK's IP rights encourage entrepreneurs to start businesses in the UK.

Intellectual Property Office | Intellectual property and the external environment