Intellectual Property: understanding the law that stops people stealing your ideas

Intellectual Property: understanding the law that stops people stealing your ideas

When you have an idea and don't want others to be able to steal it and call it theirs, intellectual property law can help

Plagiarism at university is punished and can have legal consequences - not to mention that it will get you banned from continuing your studies.

But what do you do when you discover someone using your work without your permission? This issue lies at the heart of the intellectual property debate.

Intellectual property, or IP, refers to someone legally owning an idea or other non-physical thing they've created. This includes trademarks, patents, copyright, designs, plant varieties, or the layout design of microchip circuits.

So why does intellectual property matter? Simple: it protects creativity. IP exists to promote and protect the work of creators, and creates a culture in which creativity is valued and rewarded.

As a student, you may think IP is none of your business. As long as you are not downloading anything from the internet without permission, why should you care about IP? Well, this is what you should know:

First of all, IP gives recognition to your work. As the name suggests, intellectual property refers to anything that belongs to you, even if it's an idea.

In other words, you own your creative work, and are the only one who is allowed to use it.

Knowing what you can do with your own property is important. Imagine that you've written a song that you've uploaded to the internet. One day you see that someone has posted your song on another media sharing platform.

If you do not know much about IP, you might feel powerless about this kind of plagiarism. But if you understand about the rights of usage and ownership under IP law, you would know you could take legal action.

Understanding IP can help you prepare for your future career. Unlike in the 1960s and '70s, when Hong Kong relied heavily on manufacturing, the city has switched to a knowledge-based economy in which information services now dominate. IP is vital in the business world, and multinational corporations seek experts in the field. The Hong Kong government regards IP as an important part of society, and has been working hard to promote the city as a hub for IP trading.

Knowing about IP will not only protect you and your work, but will also make you stand out when it comes to applying for jobs.

Many students aren't aware of IP and how it works. That's why CityU has been focusing efforts on boosting its students' knowledge.

The university has created an Innovation Commons, a centre that offers guidance to entrepreneurs and protection for their ideas. It also organises class visits, talks and seminars to keep students informed about IP, and help them apply for patents to protect their creations.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
The law that keeps your ideas safe

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