Introduction to IP

Introduction to IP

What is Intellectual Property (IP)?
This is the general term for intangible property rights which are a result of intellectual effort.

What are Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)?
Legal rights, regardless of whether they are based on registration, that aim to protect creations and inventions resulting from intellectual activity in the industrial, scientific, literary or artistic fields. An IPR is the right to possess or control the use of intellectual property, such as trademarks, copyrights, patents and trade secrets/know-how.

What is a patent?
A patent confers upon its holder, for a limited period, the right to exclude others from exploiting (making, using selling, importing) the patented invention, except with the consent of the owner of the patent. A patent is a monopoly right for which three basic criteria must be met. The Invention must be:

  • Novel (new)
  • Inventive (not obvious to others skilled in the art); and
  • Capable of Industrial Application.

A patent is a form of ‘industrial property’, which can be assigned, transferred, licensed or used by the owner.
Patents are territorial, in effect, e.g. an Irish patent is only valid in Ireland.

What is copyright?
Copyright is the legal term, which describes the rights given to authors/creators to protect certain categories of work such as literary and artistic works. Copyright is an automatic right in Ireland and there is no official registration system for copyright owners in Ireland, as in most other countries. Copyright takes effect as soon as the work is put on paper, film, or other fixed medium such as CD-ROM, DVD, etc.
Copyright does not protect “ideas”, copyright law protects the form of expression o ideas, not the ideas themselves.
The primary legislation governing copyright in Ireland is the Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000.
Copyright extends to the following types of work:

  • Original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works
  • Sound recordings, films, broadcasts, cable programmes
  • The typography arrangement of published editions and original databases.

Artistic works includes the following: photographs, paintings, drawings, maps, charts, plans, engravings, etchings, lithographs, woodcuts, prints or similar works, collages, or sculptures, including any cast or model made for the purpose of the sculpture, works of architecture.
Literary works include computer programmes; computer programmes which are given written expression in specialised languages are therefore capable of copyright protection as “literary works”

What is a trademark?
A trade mark is the means by which a business identifies its goods or services and distinguishes them from the goods and services supplied by other businesses.
The Trade Marks Act, 1996 defines a trade mark as "any sign capable of being represented graphically which is capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one undertaking from those of other undertakings".
A trade mark may consist of words, (including personal names), designs, logos, letters, numerals or the shape of goods or of their packaging, or of other signs or indications that are capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one undertaking from those of others.

What is a design?
"Design" means the appearance of the whole or a part of a product resulting from the features of, in particular, the lines, contours, colour, shape, texture or materials of the product itself or its ornamentation.

Summary of IPR

IPR Covers Need to Apply? Note Maximum Duration
Patent An invention which must be novel, inventive and capable of industrial application. Yes If you disclose your invention in public it will not be possible to file a patent appl’n (except in the United States & Canada). 20 years
Copyright Literary, musical, artistic works, & software, multimedia. No - automatic right Must be able to prove authorship. 70 years after death of author
Registered Design Image; look & feel. Yes   25 years
Registered Trademark Name, logo. Yes   Unlimited, provided renewals are paid
Confidential Information/ Trade Secret/Know-How  Unpublished secret information Yes Often more valuable than people realise, but only if confidentiality is maintained. Unlimited

Useful links to further information on Intellectual Property
The Irish Patent Office
The European Patent Office
World Intellectual Property Organisation
EU IPR Help Desk