What is intellectual property and what are the different types?

Intellectual Property (IP) refers to the creations of the human minds for which exclusive rights are recognised. Innovators, artistes and business owners are granted certain exclusive rights to a variety of intangible assets for a specified duration.

For example:

  • Business owners are granted exclusive rights on the use of their trade marks and geographical indications which were established by them;
  • Creative artistes are granted copyrights on musical, literary, dramatic and artistic works for their creations; while
  • Innovators are granted protection for their patents, industrial designs, trade secrets, confidential information, and layout-designs of integrated circuits for their innovations.

IP is an intangible asset to a company. It gives business partners and financial institutions the confidence to invest in or collaborate with the organisation.

In addition to protecting their creation, business owners can maximise the value of their IPs in many ways. They can franchise, license out or transact their IP.

1. copyright

Copyright (or author’s right) is a legal term used to describe the rights that creators have over their literary and artistic works. Works covered by copyright range from books, music, paintings, sculpture, and films, to computer programs, databases, advertisements, maps, and technical drawings.

2. Patent

A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention, which is a product or a process that provides, in general, a new way of doing something, or offers a new technical solution to a problem. To get a patent, technical information about the invention must be disclosed to the public in a patent application.

3. trademark

A trademark is a sign capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one enterprise from those of other enterprises. Trademarks are protected by intellectual property rights.

4. Industrial design?

In a legal sense, an industrial design constitutes the ornamental or aesthetic aspect of an article.

An industrial design may consist of three dimensional features, such as the shape of an article, or two dimensional features, such as patterns, lines or color.

5. Geographical indication

A geographical indication (GI) is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. In order to function as a GI, a sign must identify a product as originating in a given place. In addition, the qualities, characteristics or reputation of the product should be essentially due to the place of origin. Since the qualities depend on the geographical place of production, there is a clear link between the product and its original place of production.


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