Formal IP is the most recognisable form of intellectual property, and is generally divided into two categories:

  • Industrial Property – which includes patents, trade marks, designs and geographic indications of source

  • Copyright – which covers literary and artistic works such as novels, poems, plays, films and drawings, among others.

Industrial property is comprised of IP requiring formal registration, whereas copyright is an “automatic right,” or one which arises once an original work is created and fixed.

Formally protected IP gives the IP owner exclusive rights to utilise and/or commercialise their innovation or brand, creating barriers to entry for potential competitors in the marketplace. It is essentially a legal monopoly, and one which can be enforced and defended in a court of law.

Formal IP includes:


A patent is a legal document that declares ownership of a unique technology or process. It protects new inventions and covers how things work, what they do, how they do it, what they are made of and how they are made. A patent gives you the ability to take legal action to try to stop others from copying, manufacturing, selling, and importing your invention without your permission.

Trade Marks

A trade mark (both registered and unregistered) is a symbol which can distinguish the goods and services of one trader from another, and this can take the form of words, logos, pictures or a combination of these. A trade mark and the associated goodwill accrued from use of the trade mark gives the trade mark owner legal rights to oppose similar imitations or copies which may be seen to be infringing on the trade mark or causing confusion within the marketplace.

Design Rights

A registered design applies to the appearance or part of a product and gives a legal right which protects it in the country or countries of registration. 


Copyright is a legal concept that gives the creator of an original work exclusive rights to its use and distribution, with the intention of enabling the creator of intellectual wealth to receive compensation for their work.

Formal IP is only one piece of the intellectual property pie. To learn more about the Informal IP Assets you may not even realise you have, click here.

If you’re already an expert on IP, but want to know how we can help you get the most value out of the IP Assets you own, click here.

Photo credit: