What is Intellectual Property?

The term Intellectual Property (shortly known as “IP”) refers to the creation of the spirit or the human mind: the intellect. Intellectual property is intangible property obtained as result of creativity. IP can be in the commercial or artistic fields. For example, inventions and ideas, literary and artistic work, symbols, names, images and designs.

 

Intellectual property should not be confused with the tangible property related thereto.

 

For example, suppose that instant coffee powder is sold today in bulk only, while jam is sold in glass jars. John Doe finds out that it is possible to pack the powder in moisture-proof jars, simplifying the marketing thereof. In addition, he realized that instant coffee powder has longer shelf life when packed in moister-proof jars. Prima facie, the powder can be packed in the glass jars used for selling jam, however, the jam jars are not sealed enough. Therefore, John invented a special jar with a sealing mechanism that allows packing the coffee therein. Hence, John Doe invented two things: one is the use of moister-proof jars for packing and marketing instant coffee powder, while the second invention is the sealing mechanism which allows sealing the jars, thus making it possible to use them for storing coffee. Further to inventing the jars and their usage, John Doe turns to the glass factory near his house,  where he produces 1000 jars, which he intends to market to the national coffee company. The jars manufactured for John Doe are tangible property since you can see and hold them. However, the idea to produce jars for the packaging of coffee and the sealing mechanism are John’s IP, these are his inventions.

 

As is known, it’s often possible to protect the physical property we own. For example, ownership of real estate assets is protected by registration. Likewise, there are ways to protect various intellectual properties. For example:

  • Patents protect innovations and ideas: Alexander Bell invented the phone and obtained a patent therefore.
  • Trademarks protect reputation: when a buyer sees on the shelf a bottle of “Coca-Cola” and next to it a bottle of “anonymous cola”, in most cases the buyer will prefer to buy Coca-Cola since the company is well known. Coca-Cola is a trademark, relating to its owners’ reputation.
  • Designs, shapes and ornaments are protected by industrial design rights.

In addition, it is possible to protect know-how as an industrial secret, which does not require registration.