What is Intellectual Property?


Intellectual property law covers a number of areas of vital concern to business. It includes such traditional matters is patents, trade-marks, copyrights, trade secrets and industrial designs.

These are intangible but fundamental business assets. As technology continually evolves, for example in the areas of computer hardware and software, the Internet and Electronic Commerce, the application of traditional legal concepts and new forms of protection present new challenges and opportunities to intellectual property owners.


A patent is granted for an invention that is a new and useful process, device or composition of matter. Examples include computer software and hardware. A patent confers a right to exclude others for a limited term from making, using and selling the patented invention.


A trade-mark distinguishes one trader’s products or services from another’s. A trade-mark may be a word or design, or a combination of the two, and may include the shape of a product or its packaging. The owner of a trade-mark may exclude others from using the same or a confusingly similar mark.


Copyright protects the way in which a dramatic, literary, artistic or musical work is expressed, but not the ideas underlying the work. Copyright is the right to exclude others from copying the protected work. Protected works are normally considered “artistic” in nature although works such as technical drawings and software can also be protected.

Trade Secrets

The law recognizes the right of the owner of a trade secret or other confidential information (for example, a food recipe, customer list or technical algorithm) to control the use and disclosure of such information, so long as it remains confidential.

Industrial Designs

Industrial design registration protects the decorative aspects of a manufactured article, including the shape, pattern or ornamentation of such article. Examples include the shape of a perfume bottle or a toaster.

Integrated Circuit Topographies

Integrated circuit topographies are better known as integrated circuits, “chips” or mask works. These are protectable if registration is properly obtained.