Understand different types of IP

1f. Copyright


Original literary, musical and artistic works.
Proof of copying is required to enforce this mark.

What is


  • Any and all written materials (provided they are not copied and satisfy a low originality threshold), e.g. reports, studies, lists, scientific papers

  • Software code, algorithms, DNA sequence code.


Generally life of the creator plus 70 years (e.g. for literary, musical and artistic works), but shorter period for other works (e.g. sound recordings).

Duration of Protection

None.  Arises automatically with no need for registration.

Application Costs


Copyright protects various types of creative works (as long as they have not been copied from elsewhere), such as literary and artistic works. It can provide valuable protection for marketing material such as your website and brochures, or for creative aspects of your product (please see (c) below). 

Copyright is usually owned by the author (i.e. creator) of the work, unless he/she created it in the course of employment.  In the case of contractors, the consultancy agreement should explicitly specify who is to own any copyright created.

How is it obtained?

Subsists automatically in certain categories of works (e.g. literary and artistic works, films and sound recordings), provided such works are "original" – this is a relatively low threshold.

Ensure copyright works are marked with the © symbol and that the copyright owner is named.

What does it protect?


  • The contents of a textbook on neuroscience

  • The sounds and graphics comprising the user-interface of an MRI scanner

  • The code which converts ultrasound waves into images in an ultrasound scanner

How long does it last for?

Usually 70 years from the death of the "author".

This project was joint-funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Brain Injury MedTech Co-operative based at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and University of Cambridge. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health.

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