Intellectual Property (IP) is a product of mental effort and human creativity to which the rights are capable of being protected under national and international laws. Under these laws, the owners of the IP are granted exclusive rights over the property, usually for a specified period of time. These rights are known as intellectual property rights (IPRs).
Types of Intellectual Property
The most common types of IPRs are patents, trademarks, industrial design rights and copyright.
Patents – grant exclusive rights to make, use, license or sell an invention for a specific period of time. In order for a patent to be granted, the invention must be capable of industrial application.
The scope of inventions that can be patented is large but includes new products or improvements to existing products, new processes or improvements to existing processes in manufacturing, and improvements to computer technology.
Trademarks – are concerned with brand identity and may include a distinctive sign, design or expression which distinguishes a brand or product.
Industrial Design Rights – confer exclusive rights over the visual design or appearance of a product which may include the shape, configuration, contours, texture or combination and configuration of patterns and colours.
Copyright – is given to authors or creators of certain categories of expressive materials. These include literary, musical and artistic works, software, original databases, paintings, photographs and media broadcasts. The holder of the copyright may benefit from royalty payments through licensing agreements.
IP also includes other less common IPRs such as trade dress, trade secrets and protection of plant varieties.
Intellectual Property Protection
In the EU, the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) is responsible for the registration of Community trademarks and designs. European Patents are granted by the European Patent Office (EPO).
Alternatively, applicants may register their IP at the national offices in one or more countries. In Ireland for example, IPRs are granted by and monitored by the Irish Patents Office.
In most jurisdictions, there is no registration procedure for the owners of copyright work. Instead, copyright protection automatically exists from the time that the work is created. It is important however that the creator of the work makes it known that they have copyright over the work and the date that the copyright was created. For example, ‘© Pearse Trust, 2016.’
Benefits for Business
It is important that businesses protect, manage, and exploit their IP assets in the same way that they protect their physical assets. It is important to also understand the value of your intellectual property.
If managed correctly, IP protection may benefit business in the following ways:
- Preventing competitors from copying or closely imitating new products, processes and innovations;
- Creating a distinct corporate brand identity;
- Increasing the value of the business as IP can be a valuable asset of the business;
- Gaining a distinct competitive advantage in marketplace;
- Benefiting from profitable licensing agreements;
- Raising capital from investors attracted by the enhanced competitive edge or asset value;
- Business may invest in IP by purchasing the rights to innovations without the high cost of R&D;
- Avoiding conflicts over breach of rights.
Choosing A Jurisdiction For Your IP
International technology transfer markets continue to expand as a result of improved IP protection and safeguards. This is evidenced by greater cross-border flows of IP licenses and royalty payments, particularly between developed countries.
IPRs can be territorially limited. Transferring registration or re-registering IP in another jurisdiction can have a significant positive effect on the value of the IP. Many prudent investors seek to register their IP in jurisdictions that not only provide adequate incentive and protection, but also have a notable presence of multinational corporations exploiting IPRs. The governing law of the IP should also be considered.
Ireland is one such European country with favourable regimes for IP and as a result has attracted large tech companies such as Google, IBM and Facebook.
This blog post originally appeared on the Pearse Trust blog