What is Intellectual Property?
The inventor of a machine, the author of a book, or the writer of music somehow usually ‘own’ their work. From this ownership, certain consequences flow and you probably have been made aware of the fact that we cannot just copy or buy a copy of their works without consideration of their rights. Equally, original industrial designs of furniture, wallpaper and the like seem naturally to be owned by someone or some organization.
Each time we buy such ‘protected’ items, a part of what we pay goes back to the owner as recompense for the time, money, effort and thought they put into the creation of the work. This has resulted over the years in the development of industries such as the music industry growing worldwide and encouraging new talent to produce more and more original ideas and articles.
The following suggests some of the things that are entitled to protection as intellectual property under national intellectual property laws and / or various international treaties:
- Computer games
- Computer programs
Designs for objects
- Integrated circuits
Geographical indications of origin for certain types of products
- Chemical formulas
- Companies’ names
- Industrial processes
The outstanding features that most types of property share are that the owner of the property is free to use it as she/he wishes, provided the use is not against the law, and to exclude others from so using that owned item of property. Now the term “intellectual property” is reserved for types of property that result from creations of the human mind, the intellect. Interestingly, the term intellectual property in the Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization, or “WIPO”, does not have a more formal definition.
The States that drafted the Convention chose to offer an inclusive list of the rights as relating to:
“Literary artistic and scientific works; performances of performing artists, phonograms, and broadcasts; inventions in
all fields of human endeavor; 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.”
Intellectual property is usually deals with the following:
1) Literary, artistic and scientific works
Protection of this property is governed by laws concerning Copyright.
2) Performances, broadcasts e.g. concerts.
Protection of this property is governed by laws concerning Copyright’s Related Rights.
e.g. a new form of jet engine. Protection of inventions is covered by laws concerning Patents.
4) Industrial designs
e.g. the shape of a soft drinks bottle.
Industrial Designs may be protected by its own specialized laws, or those of Industrial Property or Copyright.
5) Trademarks, service marks and commercial names and designations e.g. logos or names for a product with unique geographical origin, such as Champagne.
Protection is normally available under various laws. In this course the laws are covered within the Trademark module.
6) Protection against unfair competition.
e.g. false claims against a competitor or imitating a competitor with a view
to deceive the customer. This is a theme that occurs in many of the modules in this course and is in fact the subject of a separate module.
Common to all of the areas are two principles:
• The creators of intellectual property can acquire rights as a result of their work.
• The rights to that work may be assigned or licensed to others.
Intellectual Property Rights really matter. Do you know why?The first reason is that it is both just and appropriate that the person putting in the work and effort into an intellectual creation has some benefit as a result of this endeavor. The second reason is that by giving protection to intellectual property many such endeavors are encouraged and industries based on such work can grow, as people see that such work brings financial return. Intellectual property rights may also help to extend protection to such things as the unwritten and unrecorded cultural expression of many developing countries, generally known as folklore. With such protection they may be exploited to the benefit of the country and cultures of origin.
The reason for States to enact national legislation, and to join as signatories to either (or both) regional or international treaties governing intellectual property rights include:
• to provide incentive towards various creative endeavors of the mind by offering protections;
• to give such creators official recognition;
• to create repositories of vital information;
• to facilitate the growth of both domestic industry or culture, and international trade, through the treaties offering multi-lateral protection.
Source: World Intellectual Property Organization, or “WIPO“4