• What is IP?

What is IP?

Intellectual Property (IP) refers to creations of the mind:

  • Inventions;
  • Literary and artistic works; and,
  • Symbols, names and images used in commerce.

Intellectual Property is divided into two categories:

  • Industrial Property includes patents for inventions, trademarks, industrial designs and geographical indications.
  • Copyright covers literary works (such as novels, poems and plays), films, music, artistic works (e.g., drawings, paintings, photographs and sculptures) and architectural design.

Rights related to copyright include those of performing artists in their performances, producers of phonograms in their recordings, and broadcasters in their radio and television programs.

Having the right type of intellectual property protection helps you to stop people stealing or copying:

  • The names of your products or brands
  • Your inventions
  • The design or look of your products
  • Things you write, make or produce.

Copyright, patents, designs and trademarks are all types of IP protection.  You get some types of protection automatically, others you have to apply for.

What counts as Intellectual Property?

Intellectual Property is something unique that you physically create. An idea alone is not Intellectual Property. For example, an idea for a book doesn’t count, but the words you’ve written do.

You own intellectual property if you:

  • Created it (and it meets the requirements for copyright, a patent or a design)
  • Bought IP  rights from the creator or a previous owner
  • Have a brand that could be a trademark such as a well-known product name

Intellectual Property can:

  • Have more than one owner
  • Belong to people or businesses
  • Be sold or transferred

Protecting your IP

The type of protection you can get depends on what you’ve created. You get some types of protection automatically, others you have to apply for.

Automatic protection:

  • Copyright: Writing and literary works, art, photography, films, TV, music, web content, sound recordings
  • Design Right: Shapes of objects

Protection you have to apply for:

  • Trademarks: Product names, logos, jingles – Can take up to 4 months
  • Registered Designs: Appearance of a product including, shape, packaging, patterns, colours, decoration – Can take up to 1 month
  • Patents: Inventions and products, eg machines and machine parts, tools, medicines – Can take around 5 years

Keep these types of IP secret until they’re registered. If you need to discuss your idea with someone, use a non-disclosure agreement.

Using more than one type of protection

More than one type of protection could be linked to a single product, eg you could:

  • Register the name and logo as a trademark
  • Protect a product’s unique shape as a registered design
  • Patent a completely new working part
  • Use copyright to protect drawings of the product

What are Intellectual Property rights?

Intellectual Property rights are like any other property right. They allow creators, or owners, of patents, trademarks or copyrighted works to benefit from their own work or investment in a creation.

These rights are outlined in Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which provides for the right to benefit from the protection of moral and material interests resulting from authorship of scientific, literary or artistic productions.

The importance of intellectual property was first recognized in the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (1883) and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (1886). Both treaties are administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Why promote and protect IP?

Firstly, the progress and wellbeing of humanity rest on its capacity to create and invent new works in the areas of technology and culture. Secondly, the legal protection of new creations encourages the commitment of additional resources for further innovation. Thirdly, the promotion and protection of IP spurs economic growth, creates new jobs and industries, and enhances the quality and enjoyment of life.

An efficient and equitable IP system can help all countries to realise Intellectual Property’s potential as a catalyst for economic development and social and cultural wellbeing. The IP system helps strike a balance between the interests of innovators and the public interest, providing an environment in which creativity and invention can flourish, for the benefit of all.

How does the average person benefit?

Intellectual Property rights reward creativity and human endeavour, which fuel the progress of humankind. Some examples: The multi-billion dollar film, recording, publishing and software industries – which bring pleasure to millions of people worldwide – would not exist without copyright protection. Without the rewards provided by the patent system, researchers and inventors would have little incentive to continue producing better and more efficient products for consumers. Consumers would have no means to confidently buy products or services without reliable, international trademark protection and enforcement mechanisms to discourage counterfeiting and piracy.