The different types of intellectual property
Intellectual property is considered to be an important concept in modern law. The idea that the creators or owners of a particular discoveries, inventions, artistic works, designs, music and literature have certain exclusive rights over these assets first began to formalise in the 19th century.
Although the term ‘intellectual property’ was first used in the 19th century, many historians trace the birth of copyright and patent law to the British Statute of Anne 1710 and the Statue of Monopolies 1623.
The reasons for the widespread adoption of intellectual property rights are mainly economic rather than philosophical. If a person has exclusive rights over an asset that means that they can benefit from this in the market place, and this will provide over s with an incentive to innovate. Intellectual property is credited with helping economic growth, as the majority of the value of large value businesses comes from intangible assets. There is also a related argument that companies with intellectual property rights are more attractive to investors.
In the UK there are four main types of Intellectual property:
A patent provides the creator or the owner of a new invention the exclusive intellectual property rights over the product. This means that it is illegal for any other individual or company to construct, use and sell the product without the express permission of the patent holder.
To get a patent the invention must be new, have a new twist or inventive aspect that has not been done before and be of some industrial use. Patents do not apply to scientific theories, artistic or literary works, a mental act, business practices, animals or plants or a form of medical treatment.
The form of intellectual property known as a registered design means that the overall appearance of a product is protected. This stops others from using product designs that are extremely close to other designs and therefore allows healthier market competition. The design must be new on the market and have what is called an ‘individual character.’ Designs that are intentionally offensive contain flags or other protected emblems and completely dictated by the products function cannot become registered designs.
Every company needs to be able to distinguish themselves from their competitors. This can be specific words, phrases, logos or a combination of all three and is referred to as a trademark. Trademarks allow companies intellectual property rights over how they promote themselves in the market place. Trademarks must be distinctive, honest, and non-offensive or use protected embalms.
Copyright can be used to protect literary works, drama, music, art, recordings and broadcasts from being copied and distributed without the express permission of the owner or creator or a reference to the fact that it is their work. Copyright does not protect ideas unless they been formally created as an individual product that the protection comes into effect.
Intellectual property allows people to be innovative and creative with the knowledge that they will be in control of what happens to the fruits of their labour.