Lesson 1: Is IP Defined in the Same Way Around the World?


Often, in North America, the term “IP” is used synonymously with patents, but this is inaccurate as patents are simply one form of IP.

In some jurisdictions, especially in Continental Europe, IP is sometimes used to refer solely to copyright and its related aspects while the term “industrial property” is used to refer to patents, industrial designs and trademarks.

However, the European Commission refers to IP as consisting of industrial property (meaning patents, industrial designs and trademarks) and copyright, which is similar to the North American usage.

In this course, we will use the term “IP” in the broadest sense to include all forms of IP rights, including patents, confidential information/trade secrets, industrial designs, copyright and trademarks, and we will not make a distinction between IP and industrial property.

Using the correct IP terminology matters, especially in a cross-jurisdictional context.

Finally, in the United States, industrial designs are often referred to as patents because US patent law includes design patents as well as utility patents.

In order to avoid confusion, we will use the more universal term “industrial designs” when referring to the protection of aesthetic elements of functional articles and will restrict the meaning of the term “patent” to signify utility patents or the legal protection of inventions.

In all discussions and negotiations, make sure you use the precise term or terms with their intended meaning. Be specific in identifying each separate form of IP within your overall IP portfolio.

Last modified: Tuesday, 20 October 2020, 10:33 AM