Intellectual Property: Divided Into Two Categories

Intellectual Property (IP) is a legal framework that recognizes and protects the products of human creativity and intellect. From the logo on your favorite pair of sneakers to the code that powers your smartphone, intellectual property is all around us. Broadly speaking, intellectual property is divided into two main categories: Industrial Property and Copyright. Understanding these categories is crucial for anyone involved in creating, developing, or managing IP assets.

Intellectual Property: Divided into Two Categories

Intellectual property is commonly divided into two main categories: Industrial Property and Copyright. Industrial Property includes patents for inventions, trademarks for branding assets, industrial designs, and trade secrets. These forms of protection are often aimed at safeguarding innovations in technology, designs, and corporate identity. On the other hand, Copyright is geared towards the protection of artistic and literary creations such as books, music, paintings, photographs, and films. This category aims to safeguard the original expression of ideas and can also extend to software and code, which are considered literary works. Both categories serve the purpose of granting creators certain exclusive rights to their intellectual assets, providing opportunities for commercialization and legal protection against infringement.

Industrial Property: Protecting Innovation and Identity


Trademarks protect symbols, names, and slogans used to identify a brand or a company. For instance, the Coca-Cola logo is a registered trademark that distinguishes the beverage from other soda brands. In South Africa, the registration of a trademark provides its owner exclusive rights for 10 years, renewable indefinitely for further 10-year periods.


A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention, usually for a period of 20 years. This allows the inventor to prevent others from making, selling, or using the invention without permission. For example, a South African company that develops a new kind of solar panel can apply for a patent to protect this invention for a certain period.


Industrial designs refer to the visual design elements that make a product attractive or unique. Think about the design of a chair, a table, or even a mobile phone interface; these can be protected under industrial design law.

Trade Secrets

Trade secrets are practices, designs, formulas, processes, or any kind of information that provides a business advantage over competitors who do not know or use it. Unlike other forms of IP, trade secrets are protected without any procedural formalities; that is, there is no need to register a trade secret to enjoy its protection.

Copyright: Safeguarding Artistic and Literary Creations

Literary and Artistic Works

Copyright protects the original expression of ideas, not the ideas themselves. This includes literary works like books, poems, and plays, as well as music, art, photography, and film. In South Africa, the Copyright Act 1978 is the legislation that protects the rights of the creators of copyrighted works.

Software and Code

In the modern era, code has also become a subject of copyright law. The code that forms the basis of software applications is considered a literary work and is thus protected under copyright law.

Broadcast Rights

These refer to the rights that a broadcaster has in relation to programs they have aired. This includes the right to object to certain uses of those programs by others, like re-broadcasting, public performance, or distribution.

Moral Rights

This subset of copyright law is concerned with protecting the personal and reputational, rather than purely monetary, value of a work to its creator. Moral rights can prevent or allow certain changes to the work or how the work is attributed to the author.


Whether you’re an inventor working on the next groundbreaking technology or an artist focusing on your next masterpiece, understanding the two primary categories of intellectual property can be a pivotal aspect of protecting your work. By delving into industrial property and copyright, you gain the knowledge needed to safeguard your creations and to navigate the complexities of intellectual property rights effectively.

Looking for something specific?


Related Posts