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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, patent, 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.

Tangible and intangible Intellectual Property

Property is an external thing that can be owned or possessed. Property can be divided into two categories: tangible and intangible. The word tangible refers to something that has a definable physical form that can be felt or touched. The word intangible refers to something that cannot be perceived by the senses.

Tangible Intellectual Property

Tangible property consists of real property and personal property. Real property is property that does not move, such as land and the things that are attached to or built on that land.

Personal property is property that can be moved or any other tangible property that can be owned. Personal property is also called chattels. Chattels that are attached to the land and that cannot be removed without damaging the land are called fixtures. Examples of fixtures are built-in bookcases and ceiling fans.

Intangible Intellectual Property

Intangible property consists of property that lacks a physical existence. Examples of intangible property include checking and savings accounts, options to buy or sell shares of stock, the goodwill of a business, a patent and spousal love and affection.

Types of Intellectual Property rights relevant to software and the information system industry

(ii) Industrial property. 

 Industrial property can usefully be divided into two main areas:

One area can be characterized as the protection of distinctive signs, in particular trademarks (which distinguish the goods or services of one undertaking from those of other undertakings) and geographical indications (which identify a good as originating in a place where a given characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographical origin).

The protection of such distinctive signs aims to stimulate and ensure fair competition and to protect consumers, by enabling them to make informed choices between various goods and services. The protection may last indefinitely, provided the sign in question continues to be distinctive.

Other types of industrial property are protected primarily to stimulate innovation, design and the creation of technology. In this category fall inventions (protected by patents), industrial designs and trade secrets.

The social purpose is to provide protection for the results of investment in the development of new technology, thus giving the incentive and means to finance research and development activities.

A functioning intellectual property regime should also facilitate the transfer of technology in the form of foreign direct investment, joint ventures and licensing.

The protection is usually given for a finite term (typically 20 years in the case of patents).

While the basic social objectives of intellectual property protection are as outlined above, it should also be noted that the exclusive rights given are generally subject to a number of limitations and exceptions, aimed at fine-tuning the balance that has to be found between the legitimate interests of right holders and of users.



Copyright is a legal term used to describe the rights that creators have over their literary and artistic works. Works covered by copyright range from books, music, paintings, sculpture and films, to computer programs, databases, advertisements, maps and technical drawings

The rights of authors of literary and artistic works (such as books and other writings, musical compositions, paintings, sculpture, computer programs and films) are protected by copyright, for a minimum period of 50 years after the death of the author.

Also protected through copyright and related (sometimes referred to as “neighboring”) rights are the rights of performers (e.g. actors, singers and musicians), producers of phonograms (sound recordings) and broadcasting organizations. The main social purpose of protection of copyright and related rights is to encourage and reward creative work.


A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention. Generally speaking, a patent provides the patent owner with the right to decide how – or whether – the invention can be used by others. In exchange for this right, the patent owner makes technical information about the invention publicly available in the published patent document.

Confidential Information (trade secrets)

Privileged communication shared with only a few people for furthering certain purposes, such as with an attorney for a legal matter, or with a doctor for treatment of a disease. Receiver of confidential information is generally prohibited from using it to take advantage of the giver, also called privileged information.

Confidential information can be referred to as trade secrets, or know how, and can include items such as a client list, manufacturing specifications, business and marketing plans.

  • Its any formula, pattern, compound, device, process, tool, or mechanism that is not generally known or discoverable by others, is maintained in secrecy by its owner, and gives its owner a competitive advantage because it is kept secret.
  • The classic example of a trade secret is the formula to Coca-Cola
  • A trade secret can theoretically last forever — for as long as its owner uses reasonable efforts to keep it secret and someone else doesn’t independently create or “discover” it
IT/Computer Science Professional bodies & their main functions
IT/Computer Science Professional bodies & their main functions
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