Intellectual property rights are like any other property rights – they allow the creator, or owner, of a patent, trademark, or copyright to benefit from his or her own work or investment.

Intellectual property, very broadly, means the legal rights which result from intellectual activity in the industrial, scientific, literary and artistic fields. Countries have laws to protect intellectual property for two main reasons. One is to give statutory expression to the moral and economic rights of creators in their creations and the rights of the public in access to those creations. The second is to promote, as a deliberate act of Government policy, creativity and the dissemination and application of its results and to encourage fair trading which would contribute to economic and social development.

These rights are outlined in Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which sets forth the right to benefit from the protection of moral and material interests resulting from authorship of any scientific, literary, or artistic production.

The importance of intellectual property was first recognized in the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property in 1883 and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works in 1886. Both treaties are administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Generally speaking, intellectual property law aims at safeguarding creators and other producers of intellectual goods and services by granting them certain time-limited rights to control the use made of those productions. Those rights do not apply to the physical object in which the creation may be embodied but instead to the intellectual creation as such. Intellectual property is traditionally divided into two branches, “industrial property” and “copyright.”

Intellectual property includes rights relating to:

– literary, artistic and scientific works,

– performances of performing artists, phonograms and broadcasts,

– inventions in all fields of human endeavor,

– scientific discoveries,

– industrial designs,

– trademarks, service marks and commercial names and designations,

– protection against unfair competition, and all other rights resulting from intellectual activity in the industrial, scientific, literary or artisticfields.

The areas mentioned as literary, artistic and scientific works belong to the copyright branch of intellectual property. The areas mentioned as performances of performing artists, phonograms and broadcasts are usually called “related rights,” that is, rights related to copyright. The areas mentioned as inventions, industrial designs, trademarks, service marks and commercial names and designations constitute the industrial property branch of intellectual property. The area mentioned as protection against unfair competition may also be considered as belonging to that branch.

The expression “industrial property” covers inventions and industrial designs. Simply stated, inventions are new solutions to technical problems and industrial designs are aesthetic creations determining the appearance of industrial products. In addition, industrial property includes trademarks, service marks, commercial names and designations, including indications of source and appellations of origin, and protection against unfair competition. Here, the aspect of intellectual creations—although existent—is less prominent, but what counts here is that the object of industrial property typically consists of signs transmitting information to consumers, in particular as regards products and services offered on the market, and that the protection is directed against unauthorized use of such signs which is likely to mislead consumers, and misleading practices in general.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is one of the specialized agencies of the United Nations (UN) system of organizations. The “Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization” was signed at Stockholm in 1967 and entered into force in 1970. However, the origins of WIPO go back to 1883 and 1886, with the adoption of the Paris Convention and the Berne Convention respectively. Both of these conventions provided for the establishment of international secretariats, and both were placed under the supervision of the Swiss Federal Government. The few officials who were needed to carry out the administration of the two conventions were located in Berne, Switzerland.

The mission of WIPO is to promote through international cooperation the creation, dissemination, use and protection of works of the human mind for the economic, cultural and social progress of all mankind. Its effect is to contribute to a balance between the stimulation of creativity worldwide, by sufficiently protecting the moral and material interests of creators on the one hand, and providing access to the socio-economic and cultural benefits of such creativity worldwide on the other.