The scope of intellectual property rights is quite broad, consisting of many aspects. Defining intellectual property rights is difficult because globalization, technology, and IP laws are constantly changing. In general, intellectual property is a concept that consists of a grouping of rights designed to protect the ownership of patents, trademarks, inventions, and works of art and literature.

An Overview of Intellectual Property

The division of tangible property categorized as either movable or immovable dates back to Roman times. Now part of modern civic codes, intellectual property resulted from rapid development during the Industrial Revolution, which drastically advanced the fields of technology, science, culture, and property rights such as copyrights, patents, and industrial designs.

Legally, intellectual property is a type of law meant to protect one's “creations of the mind.” IP laws protect the invention, the form of said invention, and the relationship between a business and a symbol. As technology progresses at a rapid pace, we can expect IP laws to become stricter in the future.

To summarize, intellectual property is a concept characterized by pieces of information that may be incorporated into tangible objects anywhere in the world. The scope of intellectual property rights covers:

  • Trademarks
  • Patents
  • Literary works
  • Artistic works
  • Trade names
  • Designs
  • Models
  • Neighboring rights
  • Typographies
  • Plant production rights
  • Semi-conductor products
  • Databases
  • Trade secrets
  • Unfair competition
  • Industrial designs
  • Scientific discoveries
  • Performances

It's important to note that scientific discoveries are not considered inventions. There are specific definitions for scientific discoveries that recognize them as universal laws. Inventions, by contrast, are innovative solutions to actual problems. These solutions must rely on universal laws in order to be technically or materially applied.

Thanks to the internet and fast travel, world commerce has become more interdependent than ever. This fact has resulted in a need for international cooperation in terms of IP rights. Many countries are broadening their international agreements pertaining to intellectual properties.

Understanding the Concept of Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is usually divided into two categories:

  • Copyright
  • Industrial property

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is a global leader in promoting IP protections and creative activity. WIPO was signed into law in 1967 in Stockholm, although its origins date back to the 1880s. Both the 1883 Paris Convention and the 1886 Berne Convention addressed copyright and industrial property, placing them under Swiss supervision.

Laws are in place to protect intellectual property for the following reasons:

  • To give creators economic and moral rights to their own creations as well as the rights of the public to access these creations
  • To promote creativity and encourage fair trading, contributing to overall social and economic development

Essentially, intellectual property laws protect creators and anyone else involved in the creative process associated with intellectual services and goods. These creators can take advantage of time-limited rights, allowing them to decide how to use their productions without worrying about competition or theft.

IP laws also provide a competitive edge because they prevent others from using trade secrets and other protected information, retaining an idea's commercial value.

The Scope of Intellectual Property Rights

While the scope of IP rights is broad, two classification modes are used to determine if IP is a copyright or industrial property.

Industrial properties refer to patents or inventions, trademarks, trade names, biodiversity, plant breeder rights, and other commercial interests. A patent gives its holder exclusive use of the intellectual property for the purposes of making money off the invention. An invention itself is a new manufacture, process, machine, or composition.

Holding a copyright doesn't necessarily give you exclusive rights to an idea, but it does protect the expression of ideas, which is different from a patent. Copyrights have covered numerous fields from art and literature to scientific works and software. Even musical and audio-visual works are covered by copyright laws.

In addition to copyright protections, neighboring rights exist that protect the expression of ideas. Neighboring rights are enjoyed by:

  • Theater performers
  • Broadcasters
  • Actors
  • Dancers
  • Producers

Copyright protections last for the duration of the originator's lifetime plus 50 years. In other words, an author's book is copyrighted for her entire life and then an additional 50 years after her death. Unlike patent laws, copyright laws do not require an administrative process.

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