How to determine which intellectual property right is applicable

Intellectual property covers a wide number of areas. Intellectual property rights may cover names, visual signs, works of fine art, useful creations, fashion creations, technical inventions, plants, internet sites etc.

The first step is to determine which intellectual property right is likely to be applicable to a particular object. Each of these rights corresponds to a different set of rules: those cases which require authorisation are different; the conditions for obtaining a patent are not the same when it comes to copyrights. The same goes for duration of protection, administrative formalities, etc.

The goal of this page is to help you determine which rights apply to what: Copyright or patent? Trademark law or design protection?

Note: these are only examples. In case of doubt regarding the protection of a particular sign or creation, it is recommended that you contact a specialist in intellectual property law.

Written works, literature

Novels, essays, poems, plays, newspaper articles, blog entries, travel guides, instruction manuals and all other types of written works can be protected by copyright.

Visual and audiovisual works

Drawings, paintings, sculptures, graphics, comic books, video games, photographs, architectural works, illustrations, cartoons, videos, fiction or documentary films, television series and contemporary works of art can be protected by copyright.

Logos or designs can be protected by copyright and/or by a trademark and/or by a design right.

Music

Musical pieces (classical or popular), operas, songs, lyrics or musical texts, jingles, mobile phone ringtones, MP3 music files and other digital formats can be protected by copyright and by related rights.

Interpretations by musicians or singers can by protected by related rights.

Performances

Choreographies, plays, circus acts, magic acts or music hall performances may be protected by copyright.

Performances by dancers, actors, circus artists or other performers may be protected by copyright.

Designs

Fashion creations, applied art creations and design objects may be protected by copyright and/or by design rights.

The shape of products (industrial, artisanal, etc.) can be protected by copyright, by design rights, and/or by trademark.

Information

Newspaper articles, televised reports, radio or television broadcasts, internet sites and geography maps may be protected by copyright and/or by related rights.

Informational databases may be protected by sui generis rights for databases and/or copyright.

Scientific fields and education

Scientific publications, essays, statistical tables, syllabi, educational material, PowerPoint presentations and online courses may be protected by copyright.

IT and digital works

Computer programs, websites and Flash animations can be protected by copyright.

Databases may be protected by sui generis rights for databases  and/or copyright.

Electronic chips can be protected by rights of creators of semiconductor topographies.

Technology

Computer programs may be protected by copyright, and in certain cases (when using a technical invention) by patent rights.

Technological inventions such as a new material or product, a more efficient machine or an improved manufacturing process may be protected by a patent.

Chemical and pharmaceutical industry

Medicines, chemical molecules, medicine manufacturing processes and combinations of medicines may be protected by a patent  and a supplementary protection certificate (SPC).

Biological and plant industries

New varieties of plants may be protected by a plant variety right.

Particular plant properties such as those resulting from a genetic modification may be protected by a patent.

Bacteria or other genetically modified micro-organisms may be protected by a patent.

The particular function of genetic sequences (human, animal or plant) may be protected by a patent.

Biotechnology inventions can be protected by a patent.

Commercial industry

The names of products or services can be protected by trademark.

Company logos or those which appear on products may be protected by copyright or by trademark.

The shape or packaging of products can be protected by a trademark or by design rights.

The colour used to identify products or services can be protected by trademark.

Jingles or musical compositions used to identify products or services may be protected by trademark and/or by copyright.

Advertising slogans and other promotional materials may be protected by copyright and/or by trademark.

Products with certain characteristics or from a specific region may be protected by protected designations of origin and geographical indications.

Quality labels can be protected by a collective trademark.

Company names may be protected as a trade name and/or as a legal name. (Signs which technically do not fall under the umbrella of intellectual property).

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