Introduction to Intellectual Property

Q: What is IP all about?

Intellectual property (IP) is commonly understood as legal rights such as:

  1. patents for inventions, the light bulb for example
  2. trade marks for business recognition, for example, brand names like Sony
  3. registered designs, an example of which would be the Coca Cola bottle
  4. copyright for “art” – like John Grisham’s “The Jury” for instance, and other books, music, plays or films, or drawings or paintings or sculpture – and even computer programs etc.

These are well known IP rights because special government agencies or registries are set up to handle the claims and disputes over such IP rights.

There are less well-known IP rights such as trade secrets, business plans, the outline of a play or a movie, “inside” knowledge or skills or know-how for some processes, all of which are generally called “confidential information”. They are less well-known because they do not have special government agencies dealing with them. They do not have a special law passed by Parliament to deal with them.

In this Information Age, IP knowledge is regarded as being among the “hottest” growth areas, especially the life sciences (bio-technology such as the Human Genome Project).