Understanding Intellectual Property

Intellectual property can be best described as mind creations such as literary & artistic works, inventions, names, symbols, images and designs used in commerce. The law protects intellectual property in a way that people receive recognition and financial benefits from their inventions and creations. The IP system is designed in a way that it seeks to balance public interest and the interests of creators/inventors. This, in turn, leads to an environment whereby innovation and creativity can flourish. Without this protection, individuals and companies would feel less inclined to research on new developments hence killing the spirit of innovation. Here are the various types of intellectual property:

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Copyright refers to the rights enjoyed by creators/inventors over their artistic and literary works. The different works covered by copyrights include music, books, sculpture, films, paintings, databases, computer programs, advertisements, technical drawings, and maps. Inventions protected by copyrights cannot be duplicated, photocopied or used otherwise without the consent of the creator.



Patents are exclusive rights granted for inventions. Ideally, patents provide the owner with the ultimate right of deciding how and whether other people can use the patented invention. The unique thing about patents is that they are not lifetime protection but rather are only used for a specific period. In exchange for this protection, the inventor publicly discloses technical information concerning the invention in a published patent document. Patents are used for preventing other people or companies from commercially producing, selling or distributing the invention without permission.




A trademark is simply a sign/symbol used for distinguishing the services or goods of a particular enterprise from those (services & goods) of other enterprises. The use of trademarks dates back to centuries ago when artisans used to mark their drawings/paintings as a way of putting their signature on their creations. For purposes of identity, trademarks are displayed on the products, packages, labels, vouchers or company buildings. Usually, the symbols used as trademarks are creatively designed to ensure that they do not replicate those of other products.


Geographical indications

Geographical appellations and indications of origin are simply signs/markings used on goods with a particular geographical origin. In addition to this, these goods bear characteristics and reputation that are attributable
to the place of origin. In most instances, a geographical indication features the location of the goods’ origin.


Trade secrets

A trade secret refers to the formula, device, process or other crucial business information kept private by a company/business to give the entity a business advantage over its competitors. Examples of trade secrets are such as customer lists, soda formulas, computer algorithms, and survey results. Unlike other IP types, there is usually no protection on trade secrets by registering them. Instead, it is the responsibility of the company/business to limit the disclosure of such information. To safeguard this information, companies use restricted access to the information, nondisclosure agreements, post-employment restrictive agreements and other covenants to safeguard the information.

When protecting intellectual property, it is necessary that you consider the nature of the sector/ industry you are in to assess the competition for your inventions and ideas. Additionally, it is also crucial for you to understand what is worth protecting and what does not need IP protection.