What is Intellectual Property?

Intellect: human mind

Intellectual Property is an area of law which protects the intangible property resultant from the creativity of the human mind.

Why should this be of interest you ask? Well, it will guide you not to break the shambles out of someone else’s creative expression and prevent others from the equivalence of robbery with violence on your art.

The protected areas include:


An exclusive right given to an author of an original work. Copyright protects the expression of an idea and not the idea itself. Hence, you and your friend have an idea for an invisible ring which glows in the dark! You will both likely express this differently i.e. colour, material, drawings e.t.c. Thus the way you express it is what copyright protects and limits anyone else from copying your work. The public will also need your express permission before copying, sharing/distributing publicly, performing/ displaying publicly or using your work online.

It covers literary work (your romance novel), dramatic work (the script you used in your high school play), artistic work (the pot you messed up in pottery class), musical work (the form sheet that looks like Greek algorithm), sound recording( the illegal copy you downloaded online), Cinematographic films & TV broadcasts (the blockbuster movie you shouldn’t have bought for 50 bob ). Copyright is automatic on completion of the work by the author so don’t try and protect your half-baked sculpture! Most importantly you can only protect independently created works which have attained the minimal degree of creativity threshold. If these two conditions are not met, forget about copyright until the near future. Copyright lasts 50 years from the creation of the work or 50 yrs from the death of the author for literal, musical and artistic works.


A trademark is a word, logo, symbol which identifies the origin of a product and distinguishes it from your competitors.  A service mark does the same but from a service industry perspective. So if your logo/brand is ‘Mamanani’ and ‘MamaNyani’ down the road trades in the same class of business, that be an infringement! You need to register your trademark before you can battle it with MamaNyani… You can register and renew every 10 years. However if your trademark is offensive, illegal or deceptive, it ain’t happening!



These protect the functional elements of works i.e. the features and processes that make an invention work. The invention must new, have an inventive step and should be industrially applicable. Sure there will be prior art that may be similar to yours, but if you can show that you improved the prior art then you are on your way. It is a real bugger to get Patent protection, it can take up to 2 years from the time you file it and can be quite costly. But the sweet juice of sweet success means that you can lock anyone in the region you registered it from making anything like it. Yes, you do have to register it in the countries you want to claim exclusivity. Your patent is you bragging right to your genius mind and protection lasts for up to 20 years.

Registered Designs:

Protection of the right to the visual appearance of a product in the country of registry. i.e colours, shapes, textures, contours, lines etc. In short the look and feel of the creation. The design must be new and have an individual character. So if you develop a board game, the way it is packaged, the dice pieces, the reading material etc will be subject to the design right. They can be protected for up to 25 years.

Other Protection:

Trade secrets: for keeping certain elements of an invention secret as long as it is not in the public domain.

Plant Breeders Rights: for the protection of new varieties of plant or seed.

Database Right:  for the protection of the investment into the arrangement of a database.

Publication Right: to publish the work for the first time where the copyright has expired.



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