This term has nothing to do with the mental capabilities of those practising in the profession. It is a generic expression and usually covers the following main subjects:
- Patents - with the first syllable pronounced either as in 'pat' or as in 'pay' (but normally 'pat')
- Trade Marks - spelt 'Trademarks' in the USA and other countries using American English
- Designs - called 'Registered Designs' in the UK and 'Design Patents' in the USA.
- Copyright & Design Right - including unregistered Design Right available in the UK and in the EU
- Domain Names
There are substantial differences between these several subjects and they are therefore dealt with separately in the ensuing links/pages.
However, it should be noted that the equivalence of Intellectual Property with many aspects of physical property is most striking. Theft of any physical property is usually deemed injurious to the initial owner of the property, and is also considered a social wrong. Therefore a nation state makes theft of physical property a criminal offence. In general, stealing someone's original idea is not injurious to the public at large but is merely injurious to the initial creator of the idea or its current owner. That is why, for the most part, theft of intellectual property is deemed a civil offence. There are exceptions such as modern-day piracy and counterfeiting but, in the main, actions to enforce intellectual property rights are by way of civil proceedings. For the UK this is usually in the High Court, Chancery Division and recently also in the Patents County Court in certain circumstances.
All the various property rights mentioned above have the following one main feature in common. Each provides a property right which is the right to sue for infringement. It is this entitlement to sue that provides its owner with commercial power, and entitles the owner to sell that right, to license it to others, or to raise money from lenders against its security.
These several property rights are dealt with in separate sections in this website although, in each section, some comparisons will be necessary to emphasise the differences between them.
The comments above should not be regarded as a definitive statement of the law and are provided for general information purposes only. For further details, advice, and an indication of likely costs, please contact us.