Frequently Asked Questions: Intellectual Property

What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property, often known as IP, allows people to own their creativity and innovation in the same way that they can own physical property. The owner of IP can control and be rewarded for its use, and this encourages further innovation and creativity to the benefit of us all.

In some cases IP gives rise to protection for ideas but in other areas there will have to be more elaboration of an idea before protection can arise. It will often not be possible to protect IP and gain IP rights (or IPRs) unless they have been applied for and granted, but some IP protection such as copyright arises automatically, without any registration, as soon as there is a record in some form of what has been created.

The four main types of IP are:

  • Patents for inventions - new and improved products and processes that are capable of industrial application
  • Trade marks for brand identity - of goods and services allowing distinctions to be made between different traders
  • Designs for product appearance - of the whole or a part of a product resulting from the features of, in particular, the lines, contours, colors, shape, texture or materials of the product itself or its ornamentation;
  • Copyright for material - literary and artistic material, music, films, sound recordings and broadcasts, including software and multimedia

However, IP is much broader than this extending to trade secrets, plant varieties, geographical indications, performers rights and so on. To understand exactly what can be protected by IP, you will need to check the four main areas of copyright, designs, patents and trade marks as well as other IP. Often, more than one type of IP may apply to the same creation.