One should start by firstly knowing the meaning of intellectual property rights (IPR) in order to be able to properly understand his or her rights in terms of trademarks, design, patents and copy rights. Intellectual property which is an intangible asset refers to the creations of the human minds for which exclusive rights are recognised. In this respect, innovators, artistes and business owners are granted certain exclusive rights to a variety of intangible assets for a specified duration.
There are 4 main types of IP as follows:
Patents are the broadest source of technical information which grant their owner a monopoly over an invention (a product or process that is new, involves an inventive step and is susceptible of industrial application) as defined by the “claims”. An invention shall be patentable if it is novel, involves an inventive step and is susceptible of industrial application. Biological inventions may also be patentable subject to certain ethical and moral exceptions.
Trademark means any sign capable of being represented graphically, and of distinguishing goods and services of one undertaking from those of another. A trademark may consist of words (including personal names), figurative elements, letters, numerals or the shape of goods or their packaging.
In terms of Maltese law, copyright covers a range of specifically defined exclusive rights that are owned by individuals or organisations in respect of original, creative work. For example, these rights include, among other things, the right to authorise or prevent third parties from reproducing a work or a substantial part of it, the right to alter it or to adapt it and the right to distribute or communicate it to the public.
It is pertinent to note that although there are a number of common or similar principles in copyright that are understood and treated in a like manner in various countries (in particular across the countries that are members of the European Union), there are, however, a number of differences. It is therefore always advisable to check the law properly (and to seek counsel where necessary) when trying to ascertain what type of protection you might have in law, in respect of any work which you might create or otherwise if you wish to use the works of others in any manner whatsoever.
Designs means the appearance of the whole or a part of a product resulting from the features of, in particular, the lines, contours, colours, shape, texture and/or materials of the product itself, and/or its ornamentation.
You may want to register your design outside of Malta, to obtain protection in the whole of the European Union (EU), as well as in other countries outside the EU or even beyond. The Hague System for the International Registration of Industrial Designs provides a centralised registration system where you can e-file up to 100 designs and target over 55 territories in one single application that you could use to claim priority in further filings.
Any individual or business in Malta can file an international application under the Hague System. For more information on Filing an International Application, geographical coverage and fees, and to get started, please go to www.wipo.int/hague/en
IPR in Malta:
- Malta is a member of WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation, UCC (Universal Copyright Convention), WTO (World Trade Organisation), the Paris Convention for the protection of Industrial Property and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. Upon accession to the European Union, Malta automatically became part of the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM), which is responsible for Community trademarks and designs.
- Maltese law (Chapter 414) relating to Intellectual property rights has been updated and brought in line with most EU legislation in the field. The Industrial Property Registrations Directorate (IPRD) within the Commerce Department is responsible for the registration of trademarks, certification marks, collective marks and designs; patenting of inventions; issuing of supplementary protection certificates in respect of pharmaceutical products and plant protection products as well as the recording of transfers, cancellations, amendments and renewals relating to the aforementioned IP rights.