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Patents: Other types of protection

Please note:

This guide has been written to help students at Heriot-Watt University find patents that are relevant to their coursework.  It does not cover checking if your idea or invention is already patented, and does not give legal advice.

Other types of protection

Registered designs – a manufacturer can register the design of a product; ornamentation; materials (if they affect the design); texture.  The design can be be 2D (e.g. fabric print) or 3D (e.g. shape of object).  However, if the design is essential to the function of the product (e.g. brake pads), it cannot be registered.

In the UK, there is an automatic design right of 15 years, and a design can be registered to give protection for 25 years.  More information is available on the British Library website.  You can search for registered designs on the UK Government website.

In the US registered designs are called “design patents”.  These are not traditional patents but are in the US patent databases so might show up in patent searches – design patent numbers typically start with USD or Des.


Detail from US design patent 253,711 showing a Lego figure

Detail from US Design Patent 253,711.  

Christiansen, G.K. (1979) Toy figure. United States Patent and Trademark Office Patent no. Des. 253,711. Available at: (Accessed: 22 June 2018).

Words and/or logos can be registered as trademarks to indicate the origin of goods or service.  Registering a trademark prevents others using the same name/logo for similar activities.

UK trademarks can be found on the UK Government Intellectual Property Office website.

Trademark registration for "Heriot-Watt University"

Copyright gives protection to artistic and written works, e.g., novels, textbooks, paintings, etc.  This protection is automatic and applies even if there is no copyright statement or © logo on the item.  In the UK copyright may last for 25-70 years.

More information about using material covered by copyright for teaching can be found on the Information Services website.

A trade secret is something that gives a company a competitive advantage, and is not widely known, e.g. processes, formulations, recipes, etc.  There is no registration system for trade secrets, but they can be protected by employment contracts.


Illustrative examples of protection types

Patent e.g. equipment used to manufacture bottle; design of threaded cap
Registered Design Irn Bru logo
Copyright Artistic work on packaging automatically covered by copyright?  (Also protected by being part of registered design.)
Trademark The words "Irn Bru"
Trade Secret Recipe