What Are the Different Types of Intellectual Property?

As technology and innovation develop, intellectual property (IP) rights are becoming increasingly important in the European Union (EU). From the self-employed to large companies, everyone can benefit from a sound IP strategy.



The EU has four main categories of intellectual property rights: literary and artistic property law, which is further divided into copyright and related rights, trademark law, patent law and design law.


Copyright protection is the most well-known form of IP protection. It is the set of rights that an author has over their work. Copyright protection is acquired automatically, provided that the conditions of originality (understood as “the expression of the author’s personality”) and of form are met, with the work having to be tangible as an idea cannot be protected.


Copyrights apply not only to original works, such as literature, films, music and art, but also to more specific objects such as software, databases and other digital works. Copyright protection in the European Union is valid for the lifetime of the author and up to 70 years after his death. Additionally, trademarks are intellectual property rights that allow companies to distinguish their goods and services from those of their competitors. A trademark can be a word, a phrase, a logo, a sound or an image.


At the European Union level, trademarks must be registered with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). The protection is valid for a period of 10 years from the date of filing, indefinitely renewable.


Patents protect inventions, such as machines, processes or certain chemical compounds. For an invention to be patentable, it must be new, involve an inventive/innovative step and be susceptible to industrial application. A patent grants exclusive rights to the inventor to exploit or allow the exploitation of his invention. Patents are granted by the European Patent Office (EPO) and are valid throughout the EU for a maximum of 20 years.


Finally, designs protect the appearance of a product, such as its shape, decoration or pattern. A design can be registered with the EUIPO and is valid throughout the EU for 5 years, renewable every 5 years for a period of 25 years.



It is important for companies to understand the different types of IP protection in the EU and how best to use them to protect their assets. Having a solid IP strategy in place can help companies protect their work and maintain their competitive edge.




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We offer our clients a dedicated and unique experience of expertise that is necessary for the exploitation of intangible assets.  We will also endeavor to keep you informed and up-to-date about intellectual property and digital economic issues through our articles and newsletters written by the Dreyfus Legal Team.