Introduction to IP Law

Introduction to Intellectual Property Law

Enthusiastic and ambitious business entrepreneurs start their businesses with great products, technologies and business ideas. These key assets of their company are however, not given a sufficient degree of protection because of their apparent lack of legal knowledge. For instance, they might have substantively disclosed their business methods or products in their pitching presentations to potential investors and partners before acquiring adequate legal protection on these assets. All these potential rooms of infringement or misappropriation of their work, as well as potential legal actions in future, will significantly affect the operation and value of their businesses. On the other hand, use of social media has become inevitable nowadays, intellectual property issues and disputes may arise when business entrepreneurs create contents to promote their business in these websites. Therefore, this set of articles aim to provide basic knowledge of intellectual property law, so that business entrepreneurs can gain early-stage protection of their products and ideas.

According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), intellectual property (IP) protects creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce. Below are some common types of IP which may be used independently and collectively to protect one’s creations.

Type of IPWhat is it? What does it generally protect?Is registration required (HK)?
PatentAn innovative technological invention, which can be a product (e.g. a drug or a device), or a process (e.g. a method for producing a specific chemical compound) 
CopyrightLiterary, dramatic, musical or artistic work Only protects the expression of idea, not the idea itself ⨉
Registered DesignAppearance of a product, including the packaging and arrangement Only protects the article’s ornamental purposes 
Trade MarkA sign that is capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one enterprise from those of other enterprises (e.g. names and logo of the company, packages of the product), often represents the business and its goodwill 
Trade SecretConfidential business information (e.g. formulae, business methods, business plans and clients lists) ⨉

Importantly, there is no international IP protection. IP is territorial in nature meaning that IP rights can only be enforced in places where they are generated or registered according to the laws of the country in which you seek protection. For example, a U.S. patent could only confer protection on your invention in the U.S. but not in China. However, copyright is more akin to an “international protection” in the sense that many countries have agreed to give their nationals and foreign nationals the same protection for their works without requiring any formalities such as registration or use of a copyright notice.

Selected topics include:

  • Copyright and Protection against Infringement
  • Patent (1): Definition and Registration
  • Patent (2): Infringement and Protection
  • Trademarks: Registration and Infringement
  • Registered Design
  • Trade Secrets and Breach of Confidence
  • User-generated Social Media Content and Intellectual Property
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