How do I determine which intellectual property laws apply?

Last modified:

Friday 10 September 2021

Let's not waste any time in addressing the issue at hand: if you thought you could protect your idea or your stroke of genius, then you are wrong. An idea cannot be protected. The law requires you to present a concrete form or "externalization" of your idea: labels, visual signs, works of art, utilitarian creations, fashion creations, technical inventions, plants, websites ...

First, you must determine which intellectual property law applies to a particular object. For each of these laws, specific rules apply: for example, in terms of usage, you don't have to ask prior permission in all cases, the protection conditions for a patent are different from those for copyright; if the protection period is different, other procedural requirements apply, etc.

You should choose the correct form of protection(s), possibly combining them, depending on the object in question.

  • Patent rights for new technical materials or products, production processes, a computer program (if it is classified as a technical invention). Medicine, chemical molecules, biotechnological inventions are also protected by patents.

  • Trademarks for company logos, company names, names of products or services, the colour that identifies a product or service, etc.

  • Design rights for diagrams (3D) or drawings (2D) of your project, the form of products (industrial and artisanal), fashion, applied art, design objects, shape, or packaging of a product ...

  • Copyright for photos, architecture, books, essays, poems, theatre pieces, newspaper articles, blogs, guides, manuals, the title of a work of art, ..., drawings, paintings, sculptures, manuscripts, cartoons, video games, photos, buildings, illustrations, cartoons, videos, movies, television series, works of contemporary art, music, films, choreography, drama, circus and magic acts, informational databases, PowerPoint presentations, online courses etc. Copyrighting can protect computer programs, websites, Flash animations, ...

  • Trade secrets for recipes, manufacturing techniques, composition of fabrics, etc.

Finding your way through the maze of regulations and legislation is far from easy. In some cases, you can choose one or more categories. If you are unsure about the possibility of protecting a particular sign or invention, then it would be appropriate to consult an expert. This can safeguard you from disappointments, stolen ideas, or unrealistic projects.

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