What are IP rights?

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Published by a LexisNexis IP expert
Last updated on 04/12/2013

The following IP Q&A provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • What are IP rights?
  • Basic concept
  • Patents
  • Trade secrets and confidentiality
  • Plant variety rights
  • Designs
  • Trade marks
  • Rights against 'passing off'
  • Semiconductor topography rights
  • Copyright
  • More...

What are IP rights?

Basic concept

Most people are familiar enough with the idea that owning tangible property, such as a car or some land, carries with it some rights, such as not to have it stolen or damaged.

So that people are incentivised to create things or new ways of doing something, the law provides rights to creators. These rights are to property, generated by someone's creativity, and they are similar to rights in property such as land—they can be sold, rented out or even mortgaged, and they cannot be trespassed on without the owner's consent. The owner has a right to keep other people away from exploiting this intellectual property (IP), for example stopping them selling the products containing the ideas protected by the IP. There are limits to that right to keep people away, because the intention is that the owner's exclusive rights should not extend so far that competition and free markets are stifled.

Creative output could be viewed as a spectrum of activities, with a single line on a piece of paper being an example at one end, and the invention of a complex new life-saving pharmaceutical compound at the other end; there is a great deal of output in between. The law protects different types of creativity in different ways. An introduction to those types of legal protection is provided here.

The different types

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