Introduction to intellectual property

Copyright, patents, trademarks, industrial design, geographical indications, trade secrets, there are so many things that fall under the category “intellectual property”.

But what in fact is intellectual property?

Generally speaking, intellectual property is characterized as a non-physical property being a product of the original thought, and the intellectual property rights surround the expression of that thought. Intellectual property law protects the idea holder by assigning legal rights to produce and control the physical expression of those ideas. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) intellectual property refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.[i]  

With the rapid development of the world, we have started hearing and using the term “intellectual property” more often, and the majority of the companies regardless of their size are now aware of the importance of protecting their intellectual property. Artists, scientists, investors and businesses put a lot of time, money, energy and thought into developing their innovations and creations. In order for them to continue doing so, as well as make a fair return on the investment, rights to their intellectual property are given to them.

Intellectual property is divided into two categories:

  • Intellectual property for protecting industrial rights such as, trademarks, utility models, geographical indications and industrial designs,


  • Intellectual property for protecting copyright in the form of literary works, films, music, art, and computer programs.

Types of intellectual Property


A patent is a right granted to an inventor related to the invention of a new, unique or useful product or a process that they have created. In addition to being novel, a patent must be “non-obvious” and industrially applicable. Patenting the invention provides a competitive advantage by preventing third parties from making, using or selling the invention without consent. A patent is granted for a fixed period of time, depending on the country and most commonly twenty years, and after the registration period elapses the patent is free to be used by the general public.


A trademark is a sign, image or expression helping with identifying and distinguishing a certain brand or a product. People associate products with the brand, and the trademarks help the companies build up their brands thus creating company loyalty. Trademarks are granted for an indefinite period of time (most commonly ten years), and the granted right can be renewed as long as the trademark holder wants to pay the renewal fees.

Industrial design

Industrial design refers to the aspects of a product (shape, color combination, patterns and etc.) that can not be protected by a patent. In order for an industrial design to be eligible for protection, it needs to be “new” i.e., no similar design is present on the market.

Geographical indications

A geographical indication is a name or sign used on products that correspond to a specific geographical location or origin with traits that can be found only in products that originate from that particular location. From France’s Champagne, Switzerland’s Gruyere cheese to Mexico’s Tequila, geographical indications has become a common feature of our daily lives and a way of companies to leverage the value of their unique products, as well as attract and inform the consumers.

Copyright and related rights

Copyright protects artistic or intellectual work and it is important to note that ideas themselves are not copyright protected, but only the specific manner in which they are expressed. Copyright also protects the rights originating from the creations and are known as related rights. Unlike other intellectual property, the copyright holders enjoy their rights during their lifetime, as well as fifty to seventy years after their death depending on the jurisdiction. The related rights on other hand do not enjoy such protection, and they are generally valid for fifty years. Copyright holders are not required by law to register their rights and protection is given automatically to their creations.


Intellectual property protection as critical to fostering innovation has been rapidly growing for quite some time now, and it will grow even more with the advance of time. Bearing this in mind it is more important than ever for an individual or a company to know and protect its intellectual property rights.


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