What is IP?

The type of property that is familiar to most people comprises physical objects. People own clothes, cars, houses and land. Intellectual Property (IP), on the other hand, is the product of someone's mental efforts. Thus an individual's creativity and innovation can be owned in much the same way that they can own physical property.  National and International laws and conventions recognise the product of a person's mental efforts as an Intellectual Property right (IPR) 

IP is all around us. Every product or service that we use in our daily lives is usually the result of a long chain of big or small innovations, such as changes in designs, or improvements that make a product look or function the way it does today. Regardless of what product an enterprise makes or what services it provides, it is likely that it already has or is regularly using and creating a great deal of IP. For example, almost every business enterprise has a trade name and may have one or more brands and should consider protecting them as trade marks. Many will develop creative original designs. Many will have produced, or assisted in the publication, dissemination or retailing of a copyrighted work. Some may have invented or improved a product or service. 

Some forms of IP require formal application and examination before you can claim a right to ownership. Others, such as copyright, do not.

So applying for an IP right to protect your idea can be critical if you want to build a business and establish your presence in a market. It is also important to understand the different types of IP and the advantages of each. 

The main intellectual property rights cover a number of areas, including Patents for Inventions, Trade Marks, Industrial Designs and Copyright.

  • Patents are concerned with inventions producing a technical result - of new and improved products, processes and uses that are capable of industrial application.

  • Trade Marks are concerned with brand identity - principally of goods and services. They can be distinctive words, marks or other features, the purpose of which is to make a distinction in the mind of a customer between different traders, products and services. 

  • Designs are concerned with the appearance of a product - of the whole or a part of a product - features of, in particular, shape, configuration, contours, texture or materials of the product itself not dictated by functional considerations. 

  • Copyright is concerned with original literary works such as novels, poems and plays, musical and artistic works such as musical compositions, sound recordings and TV and radio broadcasts, software, multimedia films, drawings, maps, charts, plans, paintings, photographs and sculptures and works of architecture. Rights related to copyright include those of performing artists in their performances, producers of phonograms in their recordings, and those of broadcasters in their radio and television programs.

It should also be noted that intellectual property also encompasses such areas as know- how, trade secrets, protection of plant varieties etc.  It is often the case that more than one type of intellectual property right can be applied to the same creation.