What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.

IP is protected in law by, for example, patents, copyright and trademarks, which enable people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create. By striking the right balance between the interests of innovators and the wider public interest, the IP system aims to foster an environment in which creativity and innovation can flourish. It is divided into two categories:

• Industrial property includes patents for inventions, trademarks, industrial designs, integrated circuits and geographical indications.

• Copyright and related rights cover literary and artistic expressions (e.g. novels, poems, plays, films, music, artistic works and architecture), and the rights of performing artists in their performances, producers of phonograms in their recordings, and broadcasters in their radio and television broadcasts.

What are intellectual property rights?
Intellectual property rights allow the creators – or owners of patents, trademarks or copyrighted works – to benefit from their own work or investment in a creation. These rights are outlined in Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which provides for the right to benefit from the protection of moral and material interests resulting from authorship of any scientific, literary or artistic work.

Why does intellectual property need to be promoted and protected?
There are several compelling reasons. First, the progress and well-being of humanity rest on its capacity to create and invent new works in the areas of technology and culture. Second, the legal protection of these new creations encourages the expenditure of additional resources, leading to further innovation. Third, the promotion and protection of intellectual property spurs economic growth, creates new jobs and industries, and enhances the quality and enjoyment of life.

How does the average person benefit?
Intellectual property rights reward creativity and human endeavor, which fuel the progress of humankind. Some examples: the multibillion dollar film, recording, publishing and software industries – which bring pleasure to millions of people worldwide – would not exist without copyright protection; without the rewards provided by the patent system, researchers and inventors would have little incentive to continue producing better and more efficient products for consumers (for example, the development of vital new pharmaceutical products); and consumers would have no means to confidently buy products or services without reliable, International Trademark protection and enforcement mechanisms to discourage counterfeiting and piracy.

Directory Intellectual Property Associations

Europe’s competitiveness in a global economy is largely based on innovation and the value added of the goods it produces. Economic growth and jobs are undermined when European ideas, brands and products are pirated and counterfeited. Protection of their intellectual property rights (IPR) such as patents, trademarks, designs, copyright or geographical indications, is
increasingly important for European inventors, creators and businesses to prevent unscrupulous competitors from making illegal copies.

The EU protects IPR in different ways. Within the WTO, it was a major supporter of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. It also negotiates relevant provisions in bilateral trade
agreements and works closely with authorities in countries outside the EU to strengthen the system for protecting such rights.