Intellectual Property - Copyright & Intellectual Property Services
Intellectual property refers to creations of the mind and covers intellectual activities in the industrial, scientific, literary and artistic fields. Intellectual property rights provided by legislation protect the moral and economic interests of creators by giving them certain rights to use and exploit their intellectual property for a certain period of time. Intellectual Property is divided into two branches - .industrial property. and .copyright.
Industrial property covers patents and industrial designs, trademarks, geographical indications, trade secrets and integrated circuits. Copyright covers literary and dramatic works, artistic works, musical works, films, sound recordings and broadcasts or works communicated online.
Patent legislation provides protection for new and useful inventions that have an industrial application (e.g. pharmaceuticals made from traditional medicines, innovative furniture or equipment like mobile phones). To obtain protection, the invention must be registered in the countries in which protection is required. Registration will give the inventor the exclusive rights to control the exploitation of the invention for a period of 20 years in exchange for the disclosure of the invention to the public.
Registration of any new and original industrial design provides a 10 year monopoly right over the visual appearance of a product - the shape of a perfume bottle, the pattern on the material to be used to create fashion garments, or the packaging of a product. It might also be protected as a work of art under copyright law. It does not protect the functional aspects of a product or what a product is made from.
Trademarks and Geographical Indications
Trademarks and Geographical Indications are used to brand a product or distinguish the goods or services of one company from others. Trademarks are created by the use of distinctive letters, numbers, words, phrases, sounds, logos, pictures, colours or even smells. Trademark protection can be obtained through registration and renewal or, in some countries, through use. Geographical indications are used to identify products that possess qualities or reputations that are ascribed to their geographical origin. The products identified by GIs are generally agricultural products such as wine (Champagne, Barossa Valley) or cheese (Parmigiana, Roquefort).
No registration is required to protect a trade secret which might take the form of a formula, practice, design, pattern or compilation of information not generally known - for example the recipes for Kentucky Fried Chicken or CocaCola. However, for such information to be protected as a trade secret the owner must take reasonable steps to mantain secrecy through the use of confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements and restraints of trade with staff. Common law provides support in protecting confidential information. Most employment agreements today will have a confidentiality clause.
Integrated Circuits protect the layout design of an integrated circuit which is intended to perform an electronic function - ie a computer chip. No registration is required and protection lasts 10 years from when the layout design is commercially exploited. Protection as an artistic work is generally expressly excluded under copyright law.