What is Intellectual Property (IP)?
IP is a group of tangible or intangible creations of the mind. These include:
- Literary and artistic works
- Symbols, names, images
- Designs used in commerce
A series of legal tools are at an inventor’s disposal, including the use of copyright, patents, and trademarks to protect their creation and prevent illegal use or breach of their IP.
A patent protects a new invention. It is a written, legal document that explains what the invention is and must be registered. A patent can cover how the invention works, what it does, how it does it, what it is made of and how it is made. The owner of the patent is given a total monopoly over what is described in the patent and is given the right to stop others from making or exploiting the invention without permission.
Copyright protects creative and aesthetic works such as books, songs and artistic works. Software is also primarily protected by copyright. Copyright arises automatically as soon as something is fixed or recorded and therefore there is no need to register copyright. Copyright stops a third party from copying what has been fixed or recorded. A copyright protected work must not be reproduced in any other medium so, for example, the copyright owner can stop a third party turning a book into a film or a CD to an online file.
Trademarks protect the brand and reputation of their owner. It is a sign which distinguishes one’s goods and services from its competitors. A trademark can be registered or unregistered. It is harder to enforce unregistered rights against third parties as the scope of the right is less certain.
Design rights protect the overall visual appearance of a product or a part of a product. Design rights can be registered or unregistered but are not recognized in every country. The same problems apply for unregistered design rights as for unregistered trademark rights.
How does the law protect IP?
All IP rights are territorial i.e. the laws of each country are only effective in that country. Countries around the world have their own intellectual property laws. However, the importance of intellectual property rights has prompted many countries to ratify international treaties in an attempt to harmonize the scope of such rights.
How do I apply for a patent?
The process of obtaining a patent can take a long time. Initially, a patent attorney who is skilled in writing patents will ask you to explain all of the new features of your invention that solve a particular problem. The patent attorney will then draft the patent application for you. The key skill of the patent attorney is to draft the claims that form the essential part of the patent application. The claims specify exactly what your patent application is intended to protect. Once the patent is drafted, it will be submitted to the patent office of the country where you wish to obtain patent protection. The patent office will examine your application and may ask you to amend your patent application and hopefully, the patent will be granted. On average, this could take anything from 2 to 8 years depending on which country you are trying to obtain protection in.
Once your patent is granted, your 20 year period of protection is deemed to start from the date of filing. Therefore, if you make your patent application, third parties will be aware that you intend to obtain protection (which you can enforce in the future). You may choose to submit the application to many countries and obtain protection all over the world. This can be expensive but for inventions that are particularly ground breaking, this may be essential to stop them from being copied.
Additional useful information can be found on the following websites:
The World Intellectual Property Office:
The US Patent Office:
The European Patent Office:
UAE patent laws:
About the Patent Treaty Cooperation: