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What is Intellectual Property and why is it important for me?

Intellectual property - also known as IP - is a genuine asset and it is estimated to represent 75% of the value of SME creative businesses. There are different types of intellectual property protection including copyright, trademarks, patents and registered design rights. These rights help to protect the financial and reputational elements of your work, to help you develop your creativity and make money from it.


I want to make sure I keep evidence of my work - how can I do this?

There are lots of simple ways to protect your work. Keeping records of your creation process, your sketches, designs, toiles, photos, models, renders and files is extremely important! You should date all of your files and make sure that they’re backed up too. I would suggest naming them so you’re really clear exactly what they all are. If you’re creating physical work as well as digital work take lots of photographs throughout the making process.


I’m applying for an internship - how do I make sure my work is protected when I share it?

Internships are a great opportunity to develop your creative practice and learn new skills. You might be asked to share a portfolio with the employer when applying to the internship. At the moment it’s highly likely they’ll ask you for a digital portfolio.  


When sending your portfolio to a potential employer make sure to follow these 5 steps:
  1. The Mark everything that you send them as confidential. You can do this in the file name or add ‘confidential’ to each page of the work.
  2. You can use the © to demonstrate that your work is protected by copyright. This is something that occurs automatically and is free so you don’t need to register anything to get copyright protection. You must be able to prove that your work is original so keep a good record of your creative development!
  3. Ask the employer to sign a non-disclosure or confidentiality agreement. You can find lots of free NDA or confidentiality agreement templates online so start there, adapt it for your purpose and ask the employer to sign it before you send across your work.
  4. You might want to password protect your online portfolio and only give the password out to people you trust. You can also look at adding additional analytics to your website or create logins for potential employers so you know exactly who’s looking at your work and when.
  5. Make sure to have a record of your work and the creative process for developing that work. This is important if you need to rely on this evidence to prove it’s original copyright or another type of automatic IP right.

Top 5 tips for protecting your portfolio:
    1. Mark as confidential
    2. Use the © symbol
    3. Ask them to sign an NDA
    4. Password protect your digital portfolio
    5. Keep a record of your work & creative process


I think someone has copied my work - what do I do?

First and foremost, don’t panic! Panic might cause you to make decisions that you might regret in the future. After this panic has subsided you need to think about what parts of your work have been copied.

The next step is communication. Think about how you want to communicate with the person/ brand who has copied your work. Now, we’re all fans of Diet Prada BUT it’s important that you think about how you might be perceived for calling out the copying on social media. Social media shaming might not always be the best option in the first instance! My suggestion would be that it might be worth considering getting in touch with the person/ brand who has copied your work and send a polite message explaining your concern to them. Make sure that you attach a copy of your work showing the date you created, published or shared it on social media.

If you’re not comfortable getting in touch with the person/ brand who have copied your work all social media platforms have a procedure in place for copying. There are Terms of Use and Community Guidelines plus tools to help you with reporting infringement. You can read more here: Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.

Then it depends on their response. If you’re happy with their response at this point you can move on and continue to create amazing work! But if you’re not happy with the situation you might consider getting advice from a professional. You can get in touch with a lawyer here. Before you get in touch with a lawyer make sure you’ve got your evidence with you. This might be emails showing you sharing your work with the person/ brand, a screenshot with the date that you shared the work on social media or something else proving that the work came from you!


The 5 steps to take if you think someone might have copied your work:
  1. Don’t panic
  2. Compare your work to the copied work
  3. Think about your next steps
  4. Action your communication
  5. Get in touch with a professional

Article by Eleanor Rockett — Intellectual Property Educator and Fashion Business Strategist.


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