Different Types of Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property can come in many forms for individuals and companies. However, you can categorise Intellectual Property or IP into FOUR different categories:

  1. Copyright
  2. Trademarks
  3. Patents
  4. Trade Secrets
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“Copyright (or author’s right) is a legal term used to describe the rights that creators have over their literary and artistic works.” – WIPO

What is protected by a Copyright ©?

Copyright covers many things from books, video games, films, advertisements and more. Below you can find some examples.

  • Literary works (such as novels, poems, plays, reference works, newspaper articles)
  • Computer programs
  • Databases
  • Films
  • Musical compositions
  • Choreography
  • Artistic works (such as paintings, drawings, photographs, and sculpture)
  • Architecture
  • Advertisements
  • Maps
  • Technical Drawings.

What rights do you have?

Economic rights give the holder of the Copyright the right to receive financial profits from the use of their work by a third party

Moral rights protect the holder of the Copyright against non-economic interests.


“Trademark means any sign capable of being represented graphically, and of distinguishing goods and services of one undertaking from those of another.” Commerce.gov.mt

What is protected by a Trademark ™?

A trademark may consist of:

  • Words, including personal names (such as a slogan or a brand)
  • Figurative Elements (such as a corporate logo)
  • Letters
  • Numerals
  • The shape of particular goods
  • Packaging of goods

However, it is crucial to note that you cannot apply for a trademark if it is likely to be confused with an existing one. For example, trying to mimic the Nike swoosh logo.


“A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention, which is a product or a process that provides, in general, a new way of doing something, or offers a new technical solution to a problem.” – WIPO

What is protected by a Patent?

There are three types of patents that you can claim: utility patents, plant patents, and design patents.

Utility Patent

Utility patents cover the creation of a new and improved product, process, machine or compound. Examples include:

  • Machinery
  • Process
  • Chemical Compound
  • Manufactured Product
  • Material Composition

Plant Patent

Plants manufactured or discovered in a cultivated area can be patented. But plants found in “the wild” cannot be patented because they occur freely in nature. Examples include:

  • A living plant organism that can you can make or manufacture
  • Cultivated sports, mutants, hybrids, or transformed plants
  • Algae and macro-fungi

Design Patent

A design patent protects the unique visual qualities of a manufactured item. Design patents are not to be confused with a utility patent as the utility patent relates to the funcionality, whereas design patents safeguard its looks. Examples include:

  • Jewellery 
  • Furniture
  • Emojis
  • Fonts
  • Automobiles

Trade Secrets

“Broadly speaking, any confidential business information which provides an enterprise with a competitive edge may be considered a trade secret. Trade secrets encompass manufacturing or industrial secrets and commercial secrets.” – WIPO

What Trade Secrets can be protected?

  • Formulas 
  • Patterns
  • Programmes
  • Devices
  • Methods
  • Techniques
  • Processes
  • Customer lists
  • Blueprints
  • Financial Projections
  • Sales Data
  • Pricing Information
  • Recipes
  • Bids
  • Meeting Minutes
  • Procedures

You may also be interested in:

IP Registration
Malta IP Legal Framework
IP Tax Benefits

International Intellectual Property Office – Contact Us

As globally recognised Malta tax advisors, we assist both individuals and companies with registering their intellectual property (IP) and advise on several international tax planning opportunities.

We offer international IP registration services that will protect your property alongside setting up advantageous international tax planning management solutions for commercial gain.

For more information, do not hesitate to contact us, and we will be more than happy to guide you throughout the IP registration process.

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