World Intellectual Property Organization

What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.

IP is protected in law by, for example, patents, copyright and trademarks, which enable people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create. By striking the right balance between the interests of innovators and the wider public interest, the IP system aims to foster an environment in which creativity and innovation can flourish.

Publications

  • What is IP? PDF, What is intellectual property?
  • Understanding Copyright and Related Rights PDF, Understanding Copyright and Related Rights ǀ Understanding Industrial Property PDF, Understanding Industrial Property
  • WIPO Intellectual Property Handbook - a comprehensive guide to the policy, law and use of IP.
(Photo: istockphoto.com/andresr)

IP and sport

Find out how sport shows intellectual property in action.

Types of intellectual property

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Copyright

Copyright is a legal term used to describe the rights that creators have over their literary and artistic works. Works covered by copyright range from books, music, paintings, sculpture and films, to computer programs, databases, advertisements, maps and technical drawings.

(image: clipart.com)

Patents

A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention. Generally speaking, a patent provides the patent owner with the right to decide how - or whether - the invention can be used by others. In exchange for this right, the patent owner makes technical information about the invention publicly available in the published patent document.

(image: WIPO/Gen a)

Trademarks

A trademark is a sign capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one enterprise from those of other enterprises. Trademarks date back to ancient times when craftsmen used to put their signature or "mark" on their products.

(image: courtesy of mihail stamati)

Industrial designs

An industrial design constitutes the ornamental or aesthetic aspect of an article. A design may consist of three-dimensional features, such as the shape or surface of an article, or of two-dimensional features, such as patterns, lines or color.

(Photo: iStockphoto.com/mattjeacock)

Geographical indications

Geographical indications and appellations of origin are signs used on goods that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities, a reputation or characteristics that are essentially attributable to that place of origin. Most commonly, a geographical indication includes the name of the place of origin of the goods.

Training - From IP basics to specialist skills

WIPO runs workshops, seminars and training courses throughout the year, both in Geneva and worldwide.

Browse seminars and workshops

The WIPO Academy offers distance learning and face-to-face courses. Choose from a rich portfolio of general and specialized courses on IP to improve your skills, whatever your level of knowledge or interest.

Or explore the interactive IP PANORAMA e-tutorial.

Raising awareness of IP

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World IP Day

On April 26 every year we celebrate World Intellectual Property Day to promote discussion of the role of IP in encouraging innovation and creativity. Find out how you can take part.

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WIPO Magazine

Subscribe for free to read stories, articles and interviews showing IP, innovation and creativity at work across the world. (Available in English, French and Spanish).

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Tools for public outreach

Our outreach tools are free resources to assist IP offices and organizations in planning and implementing public campaigns to build better understanding and use of IP.

A WIPO award winner
(Photo: Conceptum)

WIPO awards

The awards program helps our member states foster a culture in which innovation and creativity are celebrated. All nominations are submitted through national IP offices.

Explore WIPO