Intellectual Property (I.P.) is a portmanteau term to used describe exclusive rights granted to creators and owners of works that are a result of human intellectual creativity. IP rights can take various forms such as an invention, a manuscript, software, or a business brand.
One of the main important objectives of the intellectual property system is to grant the creator of a work certain powers over the exploitation of their work. Among the main justification, being the fact that any unrestricted ability of third parties to make, copy or use a work or invention may deprive the creator of the reward for making the work and take away any incentive for encouraging future innovation.
For some types of intellectual property rights, the grant of the exclusive right is in return for the creator's 'enabling disclosure' so that the 'know-how' to make or perform the work is publicly available to the general public. For this to be possible, a balance is generally required so as to give reasonable certainty to the general public (for example, to make allowance for acts such as use in private study, research or parody) while awarding the IP creator with a reasonable amount of protection. Most IP rights are thus granted for a limited time, and after expiry, members of the general public are free to make, copy or use the IP.
Some IP rights require registration, for example in the case of an invention, an application for a patent must be filed. Other rights gain protection automatically once the work is created or "fixed" as is the case for copyright in the U.K., where no registration is required.
The importance of intellectual property rights has increased significantly in recent years mainly because of the effects of globalization and the rise of fast-growing Asian economies such that some western businesses have faced numerous problems in tackling cheap counterfeit imports which often undermine their sales and profitability.