Lesson 1: Is the term 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 - ‘intellectual property’ 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 ‘intellectual property’ 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’ in addition to ‘utility patents’.

In order to avoid confusion, we will use the more universal term ‘industrial designs’ for 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: Thursday, 14 September 2017, 9:38 AM