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The Basics of Intellectual Property: Its Types and Why it Matters

Apr 11,2023

Humans have always been innovators and creators, from the earliest cave paintings to the latest software applications. 

And with every new creation comes the question of ownership and protection - how can we ensure that others do not steal or copy our ideas and inventions? 

This is where intellectual property comes in. In today's rapidly growing digital age, "intellectual property" has become a buzzword. 

In this article, we'll fall deeper into the details of intellectual property, its various types, its importance, and how it impacts businesses.

What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property (IP) directs to the intangible compositions of the human intellect, which are defended by ordinance. 

Intellectual property encompasses a wide range of creations and innovations, including but not limited to inventions, symbols, literary and artistic works, designs, and images utilised in commerce.

Intellectual property can be broadly divided into the industrial property and Copyright. 

What is Intellectual Property Law?

Intellectual Property Law is the lawful structure that handles intellectual property creation, use, and protection. It provides intellectual property owners exclusive rights to control the use of their designs for a certain period. 

This legal framework is necessary to ensure that intellectual property owners are rewarded for their work and innovation and that others cannot unfairly benefit from their creations.

Types of Intellectual Property

The four primary categories of intellectual property are patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets.

 Let's have a look at each of these and some other ones. 


Patents safeguard inventors by providing legal protection for their creations, such as machines, processes, and products. 

The inventor is granted exclusive rights to produce, utilise, and market the design for a set time, usually around 20 years from the filing date.


Trademarks protect logos, symbols, names, and other distinctive marks identifying goods or services. They help consumers distinguish between similar products and services of different companies.


Copyrights protect authentic creations of authorship, such as books, music, software, and movies. They provide exclusive rights to the author to duplicate, circulate, and portray their work. 

Copyright protection prevents others from copying, distributing, or displaying the same outcome without permission.

Trade secrets

Trade secrets, such as directions, formulae, or enterprise plans, are confidential data valuable to a business. 

Trade secrets provide a competitive edge to a company, and their protection stops others from using the same data to attain a benefit.

Industrial designs

Industrial designs cover the visual appearance of a product, such as its form, design, or colour. They are often used to protect consumer products such as furniture, toys, and electronics.

Geographical indications

Geographical indications safeguard products from a particular geographical area and possess distinctive qualities or characteristics that are inherently linked to that location. 

These protections ensure that consumers can identify and trust the product’s authenticity and quality while promoting the specific region’s cultural heritage and economic value.

Examples include Champagne, Roquefort cheese, and Darjeeling tea.

Plant varieties

Plant variety rights safeguard newly developed plant varieties that are consistent, distinctive, and durable. By obtaining these rights, breeders gain control over the propagation and commercialisation of their new plant varieties. 

It's worth noting that each intellectual property right has unique legal prerequisites and registration processes.

Types of Intellectual Property Laws in Other Countries 

There are a few other types of intellectual property rights that are recognised in some countries:

Integrated circuit layout designs

These rights protect the layout designs of integrated circuits used in electronic devices such as computers and mobile phones.

Utility models

Utility models are similar to patents and protect new and useful inventions, but they have shorter terms of protection and generally require less inventive steps than patents.

Database rights

Database rights protect databases that result from substantial investment, such as data collections or other materials that have been systematically arranged in a way that makes them accessible.

Mask works

Mask works to protect the designs of semiconductor chips.

Personality rights

Personality rights refer to the legal protection of an individual's ability to regulate the commercial exploitation of their attributes, including but not limited to their name, image, and likeness.

It is important to note that not all countries recognise these types of intellectual property rights, and the scope and duration of protection may vary between countries.

Importance of Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is crucial for innovation and creativity. With proper protection, individuals and businesses would be incentivised to invest time and resources into creating new inventions or works of art. 

IP protection encourages innovation by providing a financial reward to inventors and creators. This leads to increased economic development and employment output.

Intellectual property also plays a vital role in international trade. Countries with strong IP laws are more attractive to foreign investors and have a competitive advantage in global markets. 

Strong Intellectual property laws ensure that businesses can protect their inventions, products, and brands in international markets, which allows them to expand their business and increase profits.

What is Intellectual Property in Business?

Intellectual property is critical for companies in today's digital age. It can protect a business's brand, products, and inventions from competitors. IP can also generate revenue through licensing and selling patents, trademarks, and copyrights. 

Companies can monetise their intellectual property by licensing their innovations, products, or brands to other businesses or by selling their Intellectual property outright.

Should Intellectual Property Rights Be Abolished?

Some argue that intellectual property rights hinder progress and innovation by limiting access to information and stifling competition. They say that by granting exclusive rights to specific individuals or companies, intellectual property laws create monopolies and prevent others from building on or improving existing ideas.

On the other hand, proponents of intellectual property rights argue that with them, creators would have more incentive to invest time, money, and effort into developing new ideas and creations. 

They say that intellectual property rights protect the rights of creators and incentivize innovation by allowing them to profit from their work.

There are valid points on both sides of the debate, and ultimately the answer may depend on the specific circumstances and context. A compromise between the two positions may be the best solution, with intellectual property rights being granted for a limited period before becoming public domain.

Regardless of the resolution, it is clear that intellectual property rights are an essential consideration in modern society, with far-reaching implications for innovation, competition, and the economy as a whole.

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