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Intellectual Property applies to all products of the human mind with a commercial value. These can be protected.

IP Rights refer to all legal protection the might cover IP

WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) defines IP rights as rights covering: (1967)

  • literary, artistic and scientific works
  • performances of performing artists, phonograms and broadcasts
  • inventions in all fields of human endeavour
  • scientific discoveries
  • industrial designs
  • trademarks, service marks and commercial names and designations
  • protection against unfair competition
  • and all other rights resulting from intellectual activity in the industrial, scientific, literary or artistic fields

IP law consists of several areas:

  • Patent
    • For new inventions
    • Must apply at patent office
    • Is the exclusive right to make, use or sell an invention in a country for a specific period of time
  • Copyright
    • For original creative or artistic forms
    • Gives the creator of an original work exclusive rights to it
    • No need to apply, exists automagically
    • Usually for a set period of time
    • Almost everything published is copyrighted.
  • Trademark
    • Any mark, sign or indication that is used for indicating goods or services in commerce
    • Used for distinctive identification of goods and services
    • Given by use and/or registration
    • Usually needed to register with local trademark office before protected by law
  • Design
    • Protects the appearance of a product or part of product
  • Trade secret
    • A formula, practice, process, design, instrument, pattern or compilation of information used to obtain an advantage over competitors
    • Also referred to as confidential information
    • Protected if reasonable efforts to keep it a secret has been done

These areas overlap and products may be covered by different IP rights.


IPR gives companies another way to get ROI on their research. Skipping the development part of R&D and licensing their IP to producing companies. In the past, ROI usually came from actual products.

  • IPR makes knowledge a tradeable commodity
  • IP is an essential asset in a knowledge based economy
  • IPR protects small innovating companies
  • IPR can be used to release IP in to public domain in a controlled way

However,

  • There is a sentiment that all knowledge should be free
  • IPR prevents new actors emerging on the market
  • It's too easy the get a patent