The ABC of intellectual property

Intellectual property rights are acquired, owned, managed and protected under a special field of law known as intellectual property law, which is mainly governed by two acts the Industrial Property Act and the Copyright and Related Rights Act.

The industrial property law regulates the rights pertaining to patents, trademarks, designs, geographical indications, topography of integrated circuits, and plant varieties. These rights can be obtained by registering with the competent national (or international) office. In the Republic of Slovenia, this would be the Slovenian Intellectual Property Office. No registration procedure is necessary to hold copyright, as it is acquired upon the very creation of the original creative work.

There are some other forms of intellectual property which also constitute the result of innovative thinking and creation, but are not expressed in a form appropriate for protection by means of any of the above rights. These include trade secrets, know-how and recipes.

Review of intellectual property rights

Industrial property

Industrial property rights

Scope of protection

Duration of protection

A patent is a right granted for an invention in any technical field, which must be new, inventive and applicable in industry

Invention – a product, procedure, functionality, technology, which solves a certain technical problem

Up to 20 years
(subject to payment of fees for patent maintenance)

An industrial design is the right that protects the outward 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

Product outward appearance – it must be new and demonstrate individuality

5 years
protection may be extended by up to a maximum of 25 years

A trademark (goods or service)
is the right obtained by registering any sign, or any combination of signs,  that make it possible to differentiate the goods or services of one company from the goods or services of another company, and which may be illustrated graphically

A sign or a combination of signs composed mainly of words, including personal names, letters, numerals, figurative elements, three dimensional images, including the shape of goods or of their packaging, combination of colours as well as any combination of such signs

10 years
protection may be extended without limits (each time by 10 years)

Indications that designate goods as originating from a certain geographical area; the characteristics of the goods depend heavily on their geographical origin


Plant variety right

New plant varieties

20–25 years

A device that performs an electronic function, which in its final or interim form constitutes an indivisible whole made from one or several fused layers featuring integrated circuits, of which at least one element is active

10–15 years


Original creative works

Examples of creative work

Duration of protection

It is an individual intellectual creation from the field of literature, science and art, expressed in any way

Works that are written (including software), spoken, or expressed through the media of fine art, audio-visual works, works of art, databases, etc.

From creation of the creative work and for 70 years after the author’s death

Informal forms of intellectual property

Type of informal intellectual property

What can be protected?

Know-how – hidden (confidential), intangible, yet definite knowledge or technology, a set of information, experience and skills

A recipe, procedure, technology and other knowledge, which may not be disclosed to the public
Technical improvements – technical and other new features or improvements thereof, which help achieve better performance, higher quality of products or services, savings in terms of material or energy, better utilisation of machines and devices, better supervision of production, greater occupational safety, etc.

Trade secret – any information that results from the activity of its creator which, upon disclosure to the (general, research or corporate) public, would cause the author to suffer pecuniary damage

Data that must remain within an organisation are marked as a trade secret. This can include procedures, technologies, recipes and other knowledge that constitute a competitive advantage on the market. In addition to appropriate marking, keeping trade secrets requires appropriate handling of such information by anyone with knowledge of it.

Did you know…?

When we speak of intellectual property rights, we often mention moral or material rights.

Moral (or personal) rights always belong to the person who created the intellectual property; these rights cannot be transferred by means of a contract and they cannot be assigned in any other way as belonging to anyone else other than the person who created it.

Material (or property) rights can belong to a person who did not create the intellectual property, and which were transferred to this person under the law or a contract. The rights to service inventions created at the University of Ljubljana, for example, belong to the University as the employer by law, but they may also belong to some other person if they obtained material rights based on a contract on the transfer of rights.

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Guide to knowledge transfer at the University of Ljubljana.

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