Intellectual and Industrial Property


Intellectual and Industrial Property, better known as IP, refer to creations of the mind: inventions; literary and artistic works; and symbols, names and images used in commerce. Intellectual property is divided into two categories:

Industrial Property includes patents for inventions, trademarks, industrial designs and geographical indications.

Intellectual Property is about copyright and covers literary works (such as novels, poems and plays), films, music, artistic works (e.g., drawings, paintings, photographs and sculptures) and architectural design. Rights related to copyright include those of performing artists in their performances, producers of phonograms in their recordings, and broadcasters in their radio and television programs.


A Trademark is a sign (logo) that serves to distinguish the goods or services of one organisation or individual from those of another. A trademark is a distinctive sign that identifies certain goods or services produced or provided by an individual or a company. The sign may consist of:

  • Words (including personal names)
    • Figurative elements
    • Letters
    • Numerals, shapes, signs, slogans or logos of the good or its packaging

For a trademark to be accepted, it has to be:

  • Original
    • Distinctive
    • Non-descriptive

Exclusive right over a trademark is valid for 10 years, however it is possible to renew the trademark indefinitely.

The origin of trademarks dates back to ancient times when craftsmen reproduced their signatures, or “marks”, on their artistic works or products of a functional or practical nature.

Over the years, these marks have evolved into today’s system of trademark registration and protection. The system helps consumers to identify and purchase a product or service based on whether its specific characteristics and quality – as indicated by its unique trademark – meet their needs.

A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention, a product or process that provides a new way of doing something, or that offers a new technical solution to a problem.  For an invesntion to be patentable it has to be:

  • Novel - it does not form part of the prior art
    • Involves and Inventive Step - it is not obvious to a skilled person in the art
    • Has an Industrial Application - it can be used in any kind of industry

A patent provides patent owners with protection for their inventions. Protection is granted for a limited period, generally 20 years if maintenance fees are paid.

An industrial design refers to the ornamental or aesthetic aspects of an article. A design may consist of three-dimensional features, such as the shape or surface of an article, or two-dimensional features, such as patterns, lines or colour. Industrial designs are applied to a wide variety of industrial products and handicrafts: from technical and medical instruments to watches, jewellery and other luxury items; from house wares and electrical appliances to vehicles and architectural structures; from textile designs to leisure goods.

To be protected under most national laws, an industrial design must be new or original and non-functional. This means that an industrial design is primarily of an aesthetic nature, and any technical features of the article to which it is applied are not protected by the design registration. However, those features could be protected by a patent.

Copyright laws grant authors, artists and other creators protection for their literary and artistic creations, generally referred to as “works”. A closely associated field is “related rights” or rights related to copyright that encompass rights similar or identical to those of copyright, although sometimes more limited and of shorter duration. The beneficiaries of related rights are:

  • performers (such as actors and musicians) in their performances;
    • producers of phonograms (for example, compact discs) in their sound recordings;
    • broadcasting organizations in their radio and television programs.

Works covered by copyright include, but are not limited to: novels, poems, plays, reference works, newspapers, advertisements, computer programs, databases, films, musical compositions, choreography, paintings, drawings, photographs, sculpture, architecture, maps and technical drawings.

There is no formal registration at the Industrial Property Registration Directorate and thus there is no fee.  Despite this, although not formally registered, copyrights still receive stator protection once they are placed in the public domain.

When you are starting a new business you may be:

  • carrying out research
    • planning to manufacture and commercialise your new product
    • providing innovative services to your customers
    • launching a new brand name

Whatever the case, it is essential that you protect your inventions and ideas as well as any trade names that you plan to use as part of your business and to obtain exclusive rights over them to prevent others from infringing over them.

The Industrial Property Registration Directorate office receives and processes applications for the registration of Trademarks, Industrial Designs and Patents in-line with local and international legislation and regulations. All applications are to be filed on the relevant application form. Power of Attorney and Priority Documents must accompany each application where applicable together with the respective registration fees.

Legal Text
Trademarks Act (Cap 597)​
Copyright Act (Cap. 415)
Patent and Designs Act (Cap 417)

Industrial Property Registration Directorate (within Commerce Department)
Commerce Department website
Commerce Department contact details

last updated Jan 2023

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