If you have a really good business idea, there are two ways you can protect it, via patent or copyright. It really depends on what sort of business idea you have. If your business centres around invention, then patent is the way to protect it. If your business is more 'intellectual' for example, selling photographs or producing literature, copyright is your protection.
This will not be cheap, however it is worth it. James Dyson famously spend thousands of pounds on patents long before any of his vacuums came to market, but had he not done so his unique cyclone technology could have been appropriated by rival manufacturers.
Firstly you must research to make sure your idea really is new, otherwise you will not be granted patent. Once this has been established you can then file for a patent application, this can be done either on the Patent Office Website (www.ipo.gov.uk) or at a library with a patent department. If your search brings up nothing then the best thing for you do to is approach a Patent Agent, they should be registered with the Chartered Institute of Patent Agents.
You should clearly write down what your invention is, how it works, how is can be made in bulk, the cost of production, what its advantages are, plus a simple drawing if it is mechanical or electrical. Then you are able to take out a patent either yourself (which is very difficult) or via an agent (which can be costly).
If you apply yourself it costs from £200 and can take up to 33 months to process. If you apply via an agent they can charge between £600 and £1,000.
Your application is protected for 1 year, this can be extended but once again this is costly. Try to find a company to buy or license your invention within the first year to save money.
As soon as you produce an 'intellectual' piece of work you automatically hold the copyright on them. This is valid for 70 years. Copyright also gives you the moral rights to your idea. This means you can object to infringements of your idea.
You can not copyright slogans, titles or names, though these can be trademarked.
Copyright is automatic in the UK so you do not have to apply for it. However it is worthwhile marking your work with the international copyright symbol followed by the year and your name.
This protection covers you internationally and allows you to control how your work is exploited for money, copied, adapted, pubished, performed or broadcast. It can be an important source of income for some businesses.
Just remember that if you use contractors, they hold the copyright unless you agree otherwise.