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Basic Intellectual Property Definitions

Patent: A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention, which is a product or a process that provides a new way of doing something, or offers a new technical solution to a problem. A patent provides protection for the invention to the owner of the patent for a limited period, generally 20 years.

Trademark: A trademark or brand-name is a distinctive sign which identifies certain goods or services as those produces or provided by a specified person or enterprise. The period of protection for a trademark varies, but can generally be renewed indefinitely.

Industrial design: An industrial design – or simply a design – is the ornamental or aesthetic aspect of an article produced by industry or handicraft; registration and renewals provide protection for, in most cases, up to 15 years.

Copyright and Related Rights: Copyright is a legal term describing rights given to creators for their literary works (including computer software). Related rights are granted to performing artists, producers of sound recordings and broadcasting organisations in their radio and television programmes.

Geographical indication: A geographical indication is a sign used on goods that have a specific geographical origin and often possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that place of origin.

Trade Secrets / Undisclosed information: is protected information which is not generally known among, or readily accessible to, persons that normally deal with the kind of information in question, has commercial value because it is secret, and has been subject to reasonable steps to keep it secret by the person lawfully in control of the information.

Intellectual Property and Small & Medium-Sized Enterprises

Enhancing Competitiveness through IP Protection: Many new products or services embody different types of intellectual property. Forward-looking enterprises face the challenge of extracting the latent value of their IP and using it effectively in their business strategy. Company that dedicate time and resources to protecting their intellectual property assets can increase their competitiveness in a variety of ways.

Intellectual property helps in:

  1. Preventing competitors from copying or closely imitating a company’s products or services;

  2. Avoiding wasteful investment in research and development (R&D) and marketing;

  3. Creating a corporate identity through a trademark and branding strategy;

  4. Negotiating licensing, franchising or other IP-based contractual agreements;

  5. Increasing the market value of the company;

  6. Acquiring venture capital and enhancing access to finance;

  7. Obtaining access to new markets.

In addition, enterprises, which search systematically for conflicting IP rights of others prior to seeking IP protection, are able to avoid unnecessary litigation, thereby saving time and resources.

Effective IP Management

Acquiring IP protection is a crucial initial step, but effective IP management means more than just protecting an enterprise’s inventions, trademarks, designs, or copyright. It also involves a company’s ability to commercialise such inventions, market its brands, license its know-how, conclude joint ventures and other contractual agreements involving IP, and effectively monitor and enforce its intellectual property rights. Indeed, a company’s portfolio of IP must be viewed as a collection of key assets that add significantly value to the enterprise.

SMEs can also benefit from the wealth of technological and commercial information available in patent and trademark database to learn about recent technological breakthroughs, identify future partners, and find out about the innovative activities of competitors. Managing IP effectively and using it to devise business strategies is an increasingly critical task for entrepreneurs worldwide.

For more information, consult
Director: Guriqbal Singh Jaiya, World Intellectual Property Organisation

This Business article was written by the World Intellectual Property Organisation, Geneva, Switzerland on 2/11/2005