Primer to IP

Intellectual Property Rights

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) are the legal rights governing the use of creations of the human minds like inventions, designs, or other intangibles in their expressed form. These are statutory rights governed in accordance with the provisions of corresponding legislations. The term intellectual property refers to creation of mind or the intellect, and that IP rights may be protected at law in the same way as any other form of property. They usually give the creator an exclusive right over the use of his/her creations for a certain period of time.

Intellectual property rights are traditionally divided into two main categories:

  • Copyright and rights related to copyright: i.e. rights granted to authors of literary and artistic works, and the rights of performers, producers of phonograms and broadcasting organizations. The main purpose of protection of copyright and related rights is to encourage and reward creative work.
  • Industrial property: This includes (1) the protection of distinctive signs such as trademarks and geographical indications, and (2) industrial property protected primarily to stimulate innovation, design and the creation of technology. This category includes inventions (protected by patents), industrial designs and trade secrets.

Patents, industrial designs, integrated circuit designs, geographical indications and trademarks have to be registered in order to receive protection. The registration includes a description of what is being protected – the invention, design, brand name, logo, etc – and this description is public information.

Copyright and trade secrets are protected automatically according to specified conditions. They do not have to be registered, and therefore there is no need to disclose, for example, how copyrighted computer software is constructed.

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)and the World Trade Organization (WTO)are the two main international bodies that administer and oversee international intellectual property obligations.