An Introduction to the UK Intellectual Property Office

An Introduction to the UK Intellectual Property Office

The UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is responsible for issuing rights to intellectual property, which includes patents, designs, trademarks and copyrights. As a business located or doing business in UK, it is important for you to understand what the IPO stands for and what it means for your business.

The existence of the IPO means innovation and the creation of ideas and knowledge can take place in a nurturing environment that is good for you and for the UK. While the regulations around these may vary from country to country (as can be seen here:, understanding how the law works where you operate is very important. With that in mind, here is some information about the history of the Intellectual Property Office, what constitutes “intellectual property” under UK law and the importance of IPO for your business.

The History of the Intellectual Property Office

The IPO began life under its current form in 2007 but is in fact more than 160 years old. Its roots are in the old Patent Office, which was first established in 1852 to issue patents in the UK. The more than 1,000 specialists and other professionals working for the IPO are split between offices that are located in Newport and London.


In 2013, nearly 15,000 patent applications were filed with IPO and nearly 20% of these submissions were approved, according to annual data filed by the department. Patents for electronic circuitry and telecommunications, electric elements and electric power represented the highest number of application submissions and approvals by IPO. The largest number of patent approvals were awarded to individuals and business located in the UK in 2013, followed by those persons and organisations from the United States of America.

Types of Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is an encompassing term that means a patent, design, trademark or copyright issued in the UK. Each of these types of intellectual property may seem similar to those on the outside of the process but are in fact distinct and separate. Patents are issued for ideas and inventions that are either newly conceived or based on an existing product or service. Copyrights are issued for literary and artistic works like plays, movies, and books. A trademark would be issued for a company’s brand, like a logo, symbol or mark that is closely associated with your business.


The Purpose of the IPO and its Importance to Your Business

The purposes of the IPO include the establishment of policy for intellectual property and management of the application process for copyrights, patents and trademarks. The department provides education to both consumers and businesses about rights and responsibilities (including your intellectual property rights) under the current patent and intellectual property laws in the UK.

If you have a business idea or invention that you are looking to bring to the market, it is important to understand how the UK Intellectual Property Office can assist you in protecting your idea and help you obtain the appropriate protection. A patent, trademark or copyright allows you to maintain exclusive use and distribution of your brand and those products of your company and prevent others from profiting directly from your creations.

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