Learn about Intellectual property

What is Intellectual Property ?

Intellectual property (IP) refers to the protection of creations of the mind: inventions; literary and artistic works; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.

Intellectual property is divided into two categories:

  • Industrial property: patents, trademarks and industrial designs (including topographies of semi-conductors products).
  • Copyright: literary and artistic works including computer programs and architectural design, and related rights (granted to performing artists, producers of phonogrammes and broadcasting organisations)

What are intellectual property rights?

Intellectual property rights are like any other property right. They allow creators, or owners of patents, trademarks or copyrighted works to benefit from their own work or investment in a creation. These rights are outlined in Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which provides for the right to benefit from the protection of moral and material interests resulting from authorship of scientific, literary or artistic productions.

Industrial property can be divided into two main areas:

  • the protection of distinctive signs like trademarks and geographical indications
  • the protection of inventions (protected by patents for typically 20 years) and industrial design

Copyright and rights related to copyright:

  • the protection of rights of authors of literary and artistic works, including computer programs, are protected by copyrights for a minimum period of 50 years after the death of the author (some national authorities may establish longer terms of protection, like in Switzerland, where protection is granted for 70 years after the death of the author)
  • the protection of rights of performers, producers of sound recordings and broadcasting organisations for a period of 50 years after the performance
(from WIPO : World Intellectual Property Organisation www.wipo.int)