What is IPR ?

Actually the word IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) is self-explaining: IPR are the rights on property, like the rights that are conferred by law for the car you own or the house you own. As you can touc your car or your house these property rights are rights on tangile objects. As a special type of property, Intellectual Property (IP) refers to the intangible. In contrast to real property and personal property, it refers to what the intellect of men and women have created.

However, to be accessible to other men and women not only verbally usually intellectual creations are expressed or translated into a tangible form. Apart from copyrights, that in some jurisdictions may even protect the dissemination of non-public speach, the intellectual property rights (IPR) protect the embodied version of what the creator conceived in his mind. Examples of IPR include musical, literary, and artistic works; inventions; software; and symbols, names, images, designs, business methods, and industrial processes used in commerce.
IPR include protectection by patents, copyrights, trademarks, design rights and trade secrets. Although IPR in few cases are known from the antique, IPR became generally reckongnized only 200 years ago. The American constitution for example opened the way for IPR laws:

The Congress shall have power . . . to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8

Within the IPR system Copyrights are taking a special position as the copy rights are very closly tied to its creator. Copyright laws generally protect creative and artistic works such as books, music, paintings, sculptures, architecture, photographs, movies, and software. Patents, trademarks and trade secret laws are mainly directed to protect industrial properties, as in general inventions, trademarks and industrial design are created and used for industrial or commercial purposes.

It may be left aside if it were moral motives or commercial interests that made IPR the object ofinternational treaties, such as the Paris Convention from 1883 for the protection of Intellectual Property, or the Berne Convention from 1886 for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, or the Madrid Agreement for the Repression of False or Deceptive Indications of Source on Goods from 1891, to name a few.

However, these treaties can be seen as the most successful treaties, as they were accpeted and executed by a large number of nations. The most important function of these treaties was and still is the harmonisation, e.g. the approximisation of national IPR laws to accept a minimum standard in every member state and the creation of the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) in Geneva. One of the latest international agreements is the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) administered by the World Trade Organization (WTO) that sets down minimum standards for many forms of IPR.