The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) states that intellectual property refers to creations of the mind: inventions; literary and artistic works; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.
WIPO further notes that intellectual property is divided into two categories. The first category is industrial property, which includes patents for inventions, trademarks, industrial designs and geographical indications. The second is copyright, which covers literary works (such as novels, poems and plays), films, music, artistic works (e.g., drawings, paintings, photographs and sculptures) and architectural design. Rights related to copyright include those of performing artists in their performances, producers of phonograms in their recordings, and broadcasters in their radio and television programs.
Intellectual property rights are outlined in Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and allow creators or owners of patents, trademarks or copyrighted works to benefit from their own work or investment in a creation.
Intellectual property rights are generally covered by four main areas; copyright, trademarks, design rights and patents.
The UK Copyright Service (UKCS) states that copyright applies to work that is recorded in some way; this includes literary, artistic, musical and dramatic work as well as films, sound recordings and typographical arrangements. It gives the author specific rights in relation to the work, prohibits unauthorised actions, and allows the author to take legal action against instances of infringement or plagiarism.
Trademarks are distinctive signs that identify particular goods or services. A trademark can be a name, word, slogan, design, symbol or other unique device that identifies a product or organisation.
Designs may be subject to both copyright and design rights. They may also be registered in a similar way to patents.
Patent are exclusive rights granted for an invention which provide owners with protection and the exclusive right to use, sell or manufacture the invention for a limited period, typically 20 years.
The role of an IP lawyer includes a variety of activities, ranging from issuing notices to parties infringing on a client’s rights, to investigation patent registries in relation to a client’s new product, innovation or idea. As a result, AllAboutLaw.co.uk notes that IP lawyers need to be up-to-date with business and innovation trends and possess an understanding and appreciation of creativity.
Corporate INTL’s Annual Intellectual Property Practice Area Guide lists key professionals in this field from a variety of jurisdictions.