The main types of Intellectual Property Rights

Trade Marks:

  • A distinctive mark, often a brand name which represents trade origin. Examples include Coca- Cola for soft drinks, BMW for cars and motor bikes and Addidas for sportswear
  • Trade Marks may be protected by registration which gives the owner of the mark statutory rights under the Trade Marks Act of 1994, and allows the owner to defend their mark against anyone using the same one or similar.
  • Trade marks may also be protected by the law of passing off if they are not registered


  • Copyright is designed to prevent the copying of creative expression. Expressions such as art, music, architecture and film
  • There must be some form of actual ‘copying’, copyright will not prevent you from writing about the same subject as somebody else, for example wizards and JK Rowling, but it would prevent you from copying her works and any of her plots.
  • Copyright also covers the creation of pictures and photographs, industrial plans and recorded music and films.


  • Designs are commercial rights and can be protected by registration.
  • Designs that relate to the appearance of the object can be registered but designs that relate solely to it’s technical function cannot. If registered, statutory protection is given for up to twenty five years.
  • Statute also provides an unregistered design right, which protects features of shape which are to be made commercially available.


  • A patent is protection for an invention and is also a commercial right.
  • A patent is a registered right which can be administered by the Patents Office and gives the holder the right to a monopoly over the technology revealed within the patent for up to twenty years. Beyond this twenty years, the invention becomes public property and is available to the use of anyone.

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