"Intellectual property" (IP) refers to all "products of the mind". It covers industrial property and literary and artistic property. 

Literary and artistic property consists of copyright, related rights and database rights. Among other things, it relates to literary and artistic works.

Industrial property, on the other hand, relates more specifically to the protection and valorisation of inventions, innovations and creations.

What are intellectual property rights?

Everyone has an idea about the concept of "property". Property confers certain rights on material things, such as the right to own a car and to decide on its use. Intellectual property also consists of a set of exclusive rights. These rights, however, do not relate to tangible things, such as a car, but to "products of the mind."

"Intellectual products" are creative and intangible services, such as a story, a musical composition, the shape of a piece of furniture, software or an invention. Certain distinctive signs such as trademarks and geographical indications are also intellectual property. Whoever owns the tangible property of a copy of a book, does not necessarily have the intellectual property to that book. As the owner of this book, you can read it, colour it, throw it away, etc., but you do not have the right to copy the story, reproduce it, put it on the Internet, make it into a film, and so on. The latter attributes are covered by intellectual property and for these acts, the consent of holder of these rights is required.

Intellectual property rights confer an exclusive right of temporary exploitation on their holder, for a given territory.

As such, for example, the owner of the copyright on a book (note: not on the physical copy, but on the intellectual, intangible content) is the only party who can reproduce or commercialise it. Likewise, the holder of a patent on an invention is the only party who can exploit that invention (for example, commercialise a drug protected by a patent). The owner of a trademark is the only person entitled to commercialise the products bearing this trademark.

Artistic and literary property

Industrial property


Patent rights

Related rights

Trademark rights

Database law

Design and model rights

Semiconductor product topographies

Breeder’s rights


Geographical indications

Last update
23 February 2024