In addition to recognizing and rewarding inventors for their commercially successful technologies, patents also tell the world about inventions. In order to gain patent protection for their invention, the inventor must provide a detailed explanation of how it works. In fact, every time a patent is granted, the amount of technological information that is freely available to the general public expands (see Using and Exploiting Patent Information tutorial).
WIPO is making this and other IP-related information freely available to the public through its global databases. The largest of these – it is also one of the largest in the world – is PATENTSCOPE. It contains over 50 million patent applications that can be searched free of charge. The aim in making this information widely available is to spark new ideas and promote more innovation, and also to help narrow the knowledge gap which exists in developing and least developed countries.
Other intellectual property rights
Other IP rights can also be used to protect a new technology, product or service. For example:
Copyright protects artistic expressions like music, films, plays, photos, artwork, works of architecture and other creative works. The term “creative works” is defined very broadly for copyright purposes, such that copyright may be used to protect functional texts such as user guides and product packaging as well as works of art.
Design rights protect the shape and form of a product, i.e., what it looks like (whereas the functionality of a product – how it works – is protected by a patent). Companies invest a great deal of time and money in coming up with new and attractive designs that seduce consumers into buying their products. Design is now widely recognized as a key determinant of commercial success.
Trademarks are signs that are capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one enterprise from those of others. Trademarks are indispensable tools in today’s business world. They help companies expand their market share and they help consumers identify the products they want to buy in a crowded market place.
Trade secrets can be used to protect the “know-how” of a business. Essentially, laws relating to trade secrets mean that some people (e.g., a company’s employees) may have a legal duty to keep certain information confidential (see Eight steps to secure trade secrets).
An invention can be protected as a trade secret or through a patent. Many businesses use trade secrets to protect their know-how, but there are downsides in doing this. From the company’s point of view it may be risky because once information is disclosed legitimately (e.g., if someone else works out how an invention works), it will no longer be protected. And from a public interest viewpoint, trade secrets are less beneficial than patents because they do not involve any sharing of technical information.
All graphics and content were obtained from the WIPO website, link below: