Concept, a limited protection?

One important means of securing a protection is intellectual property law. It confers exclusive rights for a certain period on an intellectual creation. This right concerns both creators in the artistic sense and industry.

Although ideas alone are not protectable, their materialisation may be: a software, a logo, a technical innovation, etc. Indeed, a concept often leads to a materialisation, such as a project, a product, or a service prototype. It is then possible to consider securing the tangible elements of this concept by examining each of its attributes to determine whether they are protectable by intellectual property law, for example:

  • The name of the concept may be protected by a registered trademark (see our articles on trademark law).
  • The technical and inventive innovation of the concept may qualify for patent protection (see our articles on Patent Protection).
  • New and unique aesthetic choices for products or layouts of the concept may be registered as designs (see our articles on General information on designs).
  • Original creations connected with the concept, such as logos, texts, software, and visuals, may be protected by copyright (see our articles on Copyright Protection and Types of Creations).
  • Specific know-how may be documented and kept secret to preserve competitive advantage.

The more the entrepreneur seeks to protect elements of his or her concept through intellectual property rights, the more secure his or her concept will be in what makes it memorable and identifiable by the consumer as a unique and innovative concept.

The advantage of holding proprietary rights over elements of the concept is that the owner will be able to sue for infringement if those elements are reused. Infringement is a violation of the right conferred by an intellectual property title.

This also implies that a non-negligible portion of the concept may be covered by contracts, licences, assignments or even franchises. This will allow the concept to be valued indirectly through its protected elements since intellectual property is an intangible property right. Also, the rights associated with these elements may enable the holder to prohibit third parties from using them without authorisation.

However, although this protection seems strong for each element taken separately, the concept itself remains unprotected as it is too abstract. Moreover, obtaining intellectual property rights may occur after the implementation of the project, or may be difficult or impossible to obtain if the relevant legal requirement cannot be met. A more comprehensive approach is needed.