Intellectual property is the intangible property that is the result of creativity.Generally, it is more than ideas. It refers to creations of the mind, literary,inventions, artistic works and symbols, names and images that are used in business.

Intellectual property can be divided into two categories namely:

  1. Industrial property which includes: patents, trademarks and industrial designs
  2. Copyright which is for literary works.

Protection and promotion of intellectual property is important because the development and progress of humanity is based on one’s capacity to create and invent new works in the areas of technology and culture. This will encourage new innovations and improvement of old inventions. The legal protection of new creations encourages the commitment of additional resources for further innovation. The promotion and protection of intellectual property has a lot of advantages such as spurs economic growth, creates new jobs and emergence of industries, and enhances the quality and enjoyment of life.

An efficient and equitable intellectual property system can help all countries to realize intellectual property’s potential as a catalyst for economic development and social and cultural well-being. The intellectual property system helps strike a balance between the interests of innovators and the public interest. This in turn provides an environment in which creativity and invention can flourish, for the benefit of all.

Intellectual property will bring pleasure to millions of people through film, publishing and software. It will incentivize people to produce better and efficient products. It will in turn build confidence in the product consumers.

There are the different types of intellectual property;


A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention. A patent provides patent owners with protection for their inventions. Protection is granted for a limited period which is generally 20 years. Patents provide incentives to individuals by recognizing their creativity and offering the possibility of material reward for their marketable inventions. These incentives encourage innovation. This will in turn enhance the quality of human life.

Protection of Patents

Patent protection means an invention cannot be commercially made, used, distributed or sold without the patent owner’s consent.  Patent rights are usually enforced in courts that, in most systems, hold the authority to stop patent infringement. A court can also declare a patent invalid upon a successful challenge by a third party.


A trade mark is a distinctive sign that identifies certain goods or services produced or provided by an individual or a company. Trademark protection ensures that the owners of marks have the exclusive right to use them to identify goods or services, or to authorize others to use them in return for payment.

Its origin dates back to ancient times when craftsmen reproduced their signatures, or marks, on their artistic works or products of a functional or practical nature.Over the years, these marks have evolved into today’s system of trademark registration and protection. The system helps consumers to identify and purchase a product or service based on whether its specific characteristics and quality as indicated by its unique trademark.

The period of protection varies, but a trademark can be renewed indefinitely upon payment of the fees required. Trademark protection is legally enforced by courts which have the authority to stop trademark infringement. In a larger sense,trademarks promote initiative and enterprise worldwide by rewarding their owners with recognition and financial profit. Trademark protection also hinders the efforts of unfair competitors, such as counterfeiters, to use similar distinctive signs to market inferior or different products or services. The system enables people with skill and enterprise to produce and market goods and services in the fairest possible conditions, thereby facilitating international trade.

Types of Trademarks

Trademarks may be one or a combination of words, letters and numerals. They may consist of drawings, symbols or three dimensional signs, such as the shape and packaging of goods. In some countries, non-traditional marks may be registered for distinguishing features such as holograms, motion, color and non-visible signs(sound, smell or taste).

Trademark Protection

Almost all countries in the world register and protect trademarks. Each national or regional office maintains a Register of Trademarks containing full application information on all registrations and renewals. It facilitates examination,search and potential opposition by third parties. The effects of the registration are, limited to the countries concerned. To avoid the need to register separate applications with each national or regional office, WIPO administers an international registration system for trademarks.

Industrial Design

An industrial design refers to the ornamental or aesthetic aspects of an article.  A design may consist of three – dimensional features, such as the shape or surface of an article, or two – dimensional features, such as patterns, lines or color.

Industrial designs are applied to a wide variety of industrial products and handicrafts: from technical and medical instruments to watches, jewelry and other luxury items; from housewares and electrical appliances to vehicles and architectural structures; from textile designs to  leisure goods. To be protected under the law, an industrial design must be new or original and non – functional. This means  that an industrial design is primarily of an aesthetic nature, and any technical features of the article to which it is applied are not protected by the design registration. However,those features could be protected by a patent.

Protection of Industrial Design

Protection ensures a fair return on investment. An effective system of protection also benefits consumers and the public at large This is by promoting fair competition and honest trade practices, encouraging creativity and promoting more aesthetically pleasing products. Designs contribute to the expansion of commercial activity and the export of national products. Industrial designs can be relatively simple and inexpensive to develop and protect. They are reasonably accessible to small and medium-sized enterprises as well as to individual artists, in both developed and developing countries.


Copyright laws grant authors, artists and other creators’ protection for their literary and artistic creations, generally referred to as “works”. The beneficiaries of related rights are: performers (such as actors and musicians) in their performances; producers of phonograph (for example, compact discs) in their sound recordings; and broadcasting organizations in their radio and television programs.

Works covered by copyright include, but are not limited to: novels, poems, plays,reference works, newspapers, advertisements, computer programs, databases,films, musical compositions, choreography, paintings, drawings, photographs,sculpture, architecture, maps and technical drawings.

Benefits of Copyright Protection

1. Fostering human creativity and creation.

2. Giving other artists and creators incentives in the form of recognition and rewards.

3. Companies investing in the creation development and global dissemination of their works.


  • IP is more than ideas, is it commercializing the work of the mind.

Compiled by June Wachira and Purity Muthua

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