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.


Test your knowledge of IP with our quiz

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IP and mobile applications

Find out how IP mechanisms help mobile application developers and publishers generate more income from their creations.

Types of intellectual property

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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.

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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.

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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 artisans used to put their signature or "mark" on their products.

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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.

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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.

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Trade secrets

Trade secrets are IP rights on confidential information which may be sold or licensed.  The unauthorized acquisition, use or disclosure of such secret information in a manner contrary to honest commercial practices by others is regarded as an unfair practice and a violation of the trade secret protection.

Training – from IP basics to specialist skills

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

Year-round roving seminars help businesses, researchers, lawyers and innovators stay on top of latest developments in global IP services.

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.

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WIPO Awards Program

WIPO's award programs recognize innovators and creators, big and small, companies and individuals. The WIPO Awards Program includes both global and national awards.

IP and...

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Frontier Technologies

Find out how frontier technologies, including AI, are changing how we do business, how we innovate and create.


Gender equality

Men and women are equally as creative and innovative. Yet, women remain under-represented in many areas. Find out how WIPO works to tackle this issue.

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Sustainable Development Goals

IP is a critical incentive for innovation and creativity, which in turn are key to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) success.

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Technology Transfer

Understanding how IP serves technology transfer is the first step towards managing your technology transfer processes effectively.

IP for...

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Learn how an understanding of IP can help businesses become more competitive and manage related risks.



Universities and public research institutions are the factories of the knowledge economy. Discover how IP policies and knowledge transfer are critical to their work.


Find out how WIPO is supporting judiciaries in dealing with the novel legal questions that often arise from IP disputes in a rapidly changing technological environment.