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Intellectual Property Rights

General Introduction to Intellectual Property Rights

Intellectual property refers to the creations of the mind. Article 2(viii) of the Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) provides that “intellectual property shall include 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 artistic fields”

Broadly, intellectual property is divided into two categories: industrial property and copyright. Industrial property includes inventions, trademarks, industrial designs and geographic indications while copyright include creative works like novels, poems, plays, films, musical works, computer software and artistic works.

The majority of countries in the world have a system of intellectual property protection and enforcement because it encourages innovation and creativity, which in turn leads to economic prosperity of the nation. The first intellectual property law was passed in Venice in the year 1474. This law protected the investor’s interest against copying of their creation. England soon followed suit and in the year 1624 passed the Statute of Monopolies, which granted intellectual property rights to the inventor for a limited period. However, the intellectual property system as we know today commenced with the birth of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property in 1883. The Paris Convention made it easier for individuals in one nation to obtain protection globally. This convention was followed by the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.