Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.
IP is protected in law by, for example, patents, copyright and trademarks, which enable people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create. By striking the right balance between the interests of innovators and the wider public interest, the IP system aims to foster an environment in which creativity and innovation can flourish.
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.
What kind of protection does a patent offer?
In principle, the patent owner has the exclusive right to prevent or stop others from commercially exploiting the patented invention. In other words, patent protection means that the invention cannot be commercially made, used, distributed, imported or sold by others without the patent owner's consent.
Is a patent valid in every country?
Patents are territorial rights. In general, the exclusive rights are only applicable in the country or region in which a patent has been filed and granted, in accordance with the law of that country or region.
Copyright 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.
What is covered by copyright?
Works covered by copyright include, but are not limited to:
Literary works such as novels, poems, plays, reference works, newspapers and computer programs; databases;
Films, musical compositions, and choreography;
Artistic works such as paintings, drawings, photographs and sculpture;
Advertisements, maps and technical drawings.
Copyright protection extends only to expressions and not to ideas, procedures, and methods of operation or mathematical concepts as such. Copyright may or may not be available for titles, slogans, or logos, depending on whether they contain sufficient authorship.
In most circumstances copyright does not protect names.
What rights does copyright give me?
There are two types of rights under copyright: economic rights allow the rights owner to derive financial reward from the use of his works by others; and moral rights are the rights to claim authorship of a work, and the right to oppose changes to the work that could harm the creator's reputation.
Most copyright laws state that the author or rights owner has the right to authorize or prevent certain acts in relation to a work. The rights owner of a work can prohibit or authorize:
its reproduction in various forms, such as printed publication or sound recording;
its public performance, such as in a play or musical work;
its recording (“fixation”), for example, in the form of compact discs or DVDs;
its broadcasting, by radio, cable or satellite;
its translation into other languages; and
its adaptation, such as a novel into a film screenplay.
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.
How can I protect my trademark?
At the national/regional level, trademark protection can be obtained through registration, by filing an application for registration with the national/regional trademark office and paying the required fees. At the international level, you have two options: either you can file a trademark application with the trademark office of each country in which you are seeking protection, or you can use WIPO’s Madrid System.
What rights does trademark registration provide?
In principle, a trademark registration will confer an exclusive right to the use of the registered trademark. This implies that the trademark can be exclusively used by its owner, or licensed to another party for use in return for payment. Registration provides legal certainty and reinforces the position of the right holder, for example, in case of litigation.
How long does trademark protection last?
The term of trademark registration can vary, but is usually ten years. It can be renewed indefinitely on payment of additional fees. Trademark rights are private rights and protection is enforced through court orders.
What kinds of trademark can be registered?
A word or a combination of words, letters, and numerals can perfectly constitute a trademark. But trademarks may also consist of drawings, symbols, three-dimensional features such as the shape and packaging of goods, non-visible signs such as sounds or fragrances, or colour shades used as distinguishing features – the possibilities are almost limitless.
An industrial design constitutes the ornamental or aesthetic aspect of an article. A design may consist of three-dimensional features, such as the shape or surface of an article, or of two-dimensional features, such as patterns, lines or colour.
What kind of products can be protected as industrial designs?
Industrial designs are applied to a wide variety of products of industry and handicraft: from technical and medical instruments to watches, jewellery, and other luxury items; from house wares and electrical appliances to vehicles and architectural structures; and from textile to leisure goods.
Why protect industrial designs?
Industrial designs are what make a product attractive and appealing; hence, they add to the commercial value of a product and increase its marketability.
When an industrial design is protected, this helps to ensure a fair return on investment. An effective system of protection also benefits consumers and the public at large, by promoting fair competition and honest trade practices.
Protecting industrial designs also helps economic development, by encouraging creativity in the industrial and manufacturing sectors and contributes to the expansion of commercial activities and the export of national products.
How can industrial designs be protected?
In most countries, an industrial design must be registered in order to be protected under industrial design law. Depending on the particular national law and the kind of design, an industrial design may also be protected as an unregistered design or as a work of art under copyright law. In some countries, industrial design and copyright protection can exist concurrently. In other countries, they are mutually exclusive: meaning that once the owner chooses one kind of protection, he can no longer invoke the other.
Under certain circumstances an industrial design may also be eligible for protection under unfair competition law, although the conditions of protection and the rights and remedies ensured can be significantly different.
A geographical indication is a sign used on goods that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities, a reputation or characteristics that are essentially attributable to that place of origin.
Most commonly, a geographical indication includes the name of the place of origin of the goods. For example, agricultural products typically have qualities that derive from their place of production and are influenced by specific local factors, such as climate and soil.
Why protect a geographical indication?
Geographical indications are more than just a name or a symbol. They reflect a reputation strongly linked to geographical areas of varying sizes, thus giving them an emotional component. A geographical indication’s reputation is a collective, intangible asset. If not protected, it could be used without restriction and its value diminished and eventually lost.
What rights does a geographical indication provide?
A geographical indication right enables those who have the right to use the indication to prevent its use by a third party whose product does not conform to the applicable standards. For example, in the jurisdictions in which the
geographical indication is protected, producers of Darjeeling
tea can exclude use of the term “ ”
for tea not grown in their tea gardens or not produced according to the
standards set out in the code of practice for the geographical indication. Darjeeling
However, a protected geographical indication does not enable the holder to prevent someone from making a product using the same techniques as those set out in the standards for that indication. Protection for a geographical indication is usually obtained by acquiring a right over the sign that constitutes the indication.
What is the difference between a geographical indication and an appellation of origin?
Appellations of origin and GIs both require a qualitative link between the product to which they refer and its place of origin. Both inform consumers about a product’s geographical origin and a quality or characteristic of the product linked to its place of origin. The basic difference between the two terms is that the link with the place of origin must be stronger in the case of an appellation of origin.
The quality or characteristics of a product protected as an appellation of origin must result exclusively or essentially from its geographical origin. This generally means that the raw materials should be sourced in the place of origin and that the processing of the product should also happen there. In the case of GIs, a single criterion attributable to geographical origin is sufficient, be it a quality or other characteristic of the product, or only its reputation. Moreover, the production of the raw materials and the development or processing of a GI product does not necessarily take place entirely in the defined geographical area.
How can I obtain protection for a geographical indication?
There are three main ways to protect a geographical indication:
So-called sui generis systems (i.e. special regimes of protection);
Using collective or certification marks; and
methods focusing on business practices, including administrative product approval schemes.
These approaches involve differences with respect to important questions, such as the conditions for protection or the scope of protection. On the other hand, two of the modes of protection — namely sui generis systems and collective or certification mark systems — share some common features, such as the fact that they set up rights for collective use by those who comply with defined standards.
Broadly speaking geographical indications are protected in different countries and regional systems through a wide variety of approaches and often using a combination of two or more of the approaches outlined above.
These approaches have been developed in accordance with different legal traditions and within a framework of individual historical and economic conditions.