This blog begins a new discussion involving international IP topics. The areas to be reviewed are the same as we have discussed for the U.S., but it might help to be reminded of the different topics as follows:
  • Patents, Utility Models and Industrial Designs
  • Copyrights
  • Trade Secrets
  • Trademarks and Unfair Competition Law
As you can see from this list, the basic forms of intellectual property are similar throughout the world. This is due, in part, to a harmonization trend that began in 1884 when the Paris Convention came into effect. This harmonization trend has accelerated in recent years.

Patents, utility model protection and industrial-design protection is provided through documents that are issued by a governmental office. The documents cover useful or ornamental inventions and can be enforced in courts or in administrative proceedings.

Copyrights cover the expression of ideas within the literary, artistic or scientific domain. Most original works that include such expressions are eligible for copyright protection.

Trade secrets protect information that provides the owner of the trade secret with an economic advantage. Trade-secret protection is the least harmonized form of intellectual property of the above-identified list of major forms of intellectual property.

Trademarks, along with other similar forms of unfair competition such as service marks, trade names, certification marks, collective marks and trade dress, serve as source identifiers. They protect consumers from deception and confusion with respect to the source of goods or services. They allow their owners to protect their brand.

The terms “unfair competition” or “unfair-competition law” may refer to trademark law, copyright law, trade-secret law or other forms of unfair competition, such as “passing off” or false advertising.