What is Intellectual Property?

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Intellectual Property refers to original creations of the mind such as poetry, choreography, jewellery designs, business signs, and inventions.

These original expressions are recognised as items of value and worthy of protection through Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs’).

Similar to rights given to proprietors of traditional forms of tangible property (e.g. land, house), creators and innovators are owners of their creative works and have exclusive control over the exploitation of their works for the period of time prescribed by law.

There are different types of IP which apply based on the nature of the creative expression, however, it is possible for a single work to be protected concurrently by more than one type of IP.

Intellectual Property is divided into two main categories:

  • Industrial Property covering industrial designs, trademarks, geographical indications, and patents.
  • Copyright and Related Rights.

A third subject-area currently under discussion and development is the protection of Traditional Knowledge, Traditional Cultural Expressions and Genetic Resources.


The protection of Intellectual Property Rights is important to:

(i) acknowledge and appreciate the creative expression of the human imagination,

(ii) empower creative persons to earn an equitable remuneration from the use of their talents,

(iii) encourage investment in further innovation and new creations which in turn benefit the general society.

'An efficient and equitable intellectual property system can help all countries realise IP’s potential as a powerful tool for economic development and social and cultural well-being. The intellectual property system helps strike a balance between the interests of the innovator and the public interest, providing an environment in which creativity and invention can flourish, to the benefit of all.’

(Source: WIPO)