Introduction of intellectual property rights is a basic guide to the legal rights of individuals or organizations that own intellectual property (IP). Intellectual property refers to intangible property that results from creative mental work, such as an invention, design, idea, method, name, or symbol. The creators of such property can prevent their creations from being infringed by applying for IP rights. There are many different kinds of IP rights, each of which is granted for a certain type of creation.

What Is Intellectual Property?

Broadly, IP refers to legal rights to property that is produced through intellectual activity in the scientific, industrial, artistic, and literary fields. There are basically two reasons why countries have laws protecting IP rights. The first is to give creators legal rights to their creations and the public the right to access the creations. Secondly, the laws serve as an intentional act of government policy to promote creativity and the distribution and implementation of its results, as well as encourage fair trading to facilitate economic and social development.

IP law seeks to protect creators of intellectual products or services by giving them time-limited rights to decide how their creations should be used. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, intellectual property includes rights pertaining to:

  • Scientific works.
  • Artistic works.
  • Literary works.
  • Broadcasts.
  • Performances by performance artists.
  • Phonograms.
  • Scientific discoveries.
  • Industrial designs.
  • Inventions in any field of human endeavor.
  • Protection against unfair competition.
  • Commercial names.
  • Trademarks.
  • Service marks.
  • All other rights that come from intellectual activity in the literary, artistic, or scientific fields.

Different Types of Intellectual Property Rights

IP rights come in many different forms, with the most common ones being:

  • Patent rights – Patents protect new inventions and how they work. There are three types of patents: utility, design, and plant patents.
  • Copyrights – Copyrights protect musical works, literary works, dramatic works, broadcasts, cable programs, films, sound recordings, and published editions.
  • Trademarks and brands – Trademarks and brands enable businesses to protect their corporate image so that they can create a unique identity to distinguish themselves from their competitors.
  • Protection of trade secrets – Trade secrets are formulas, devices, processes, or other information that businesses keep confidential to maintain a competitive edge.
  • Design rights – Design rights allow inventors and businesses to protect the appearance, shape, and form of a product. Examples of trade secrets include customer lists, soda formulas, computer algorithms, and survey results.

Owning and Sharing of Intellectual Property Rights

The purpose of sharing IP rights is to ensure that a public authority is able to use the IP while allowing the developing company to maintain its IP rights and opportunities to commercialize the IP. The IP rights protect the public authority from a vendor lock-in and create a strong incentive for innovation in the market.

There are two approaches to sharing IP rights are licenses and royalties. A license refers to an agreement between the owner of IP rights and another party. The former is called the licensor and the latter the licensee. Licensing allows the developer of the innovation to keep IP rights and the public authority to avoid vendor lock-in and the resulting high costs in the event that vendors exploit their monopoly power. There are several different kinds of licenses, including:

  • Exclusive licenses.
  • Cross-licenses.
  • Open licenses.
  • Open source software licenses.

Royalties, on the other hand, refer to payments from a licensee to a licensor for the use of IP.

Understanding Intellectual Property Law

IP laws are established for the purpose of protecting business assets. The kind of IP laws applicable to a business depends on the type of asset the business has. Business brands, books, computer software, and photographs are some of the types of assets that usually require the protection of IP laws.

Unlawful use or copying of an asset protected by IP rights, without the owner's permission, is called infringement. An owner of IP rights has to enforce his or her rights and bring infringement proceedings before a civil court against another party for unlawful use. Types of infringement that are regarded as criminal offenses include copyright piracy and trademark counterfeiting.

If you need more than an introduction of intellectual property rights, you can post your legal need in UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.