What is IP?

Protect your ideasIntellectual Property (IP) is the umbrella term for rights such as patents, trade marks, design rights and registrations, copyright, passing off, and unfair competition. The existence and extent of these rights differs between countries, but there is a large measure of harmonisation between the laws of the world's major economies.

The obtaining and maintaining of Intellectual Property rights is very important for virtually all businesses, and for all individuals who are producing a creative output, whether inventors, designers, authors or artists. Some rights, such as copyright, come into existence automatically, whereas other rights, such as patents for inventions, need to be applied for at the relevant Patent Office to obtain protection.

Many contracts that are entered into also have IP components within them, even if they are not specifically stated. For example, employment contracts may refer to the ownership of inventions created by an employee, and statutory provisions will apply if nothing is stated. Likewise, if an individual or company is employed to carry out contract work, then the ownership of any Intellectual Property that arises from such a contract needs to be considered.

For many businesses, an IP review of their company to ascertain whether the company's IP is being protected properly is of great value. Similarly, an IP review of competitors' businesses can reveal much information of commercial value, such as the patents and trade marks owned by competitors and the territories and business areas in which such competitors are obtaining rights.