Intellectual property

Intellectual Property (IP) is an umbrella term for rights to ideas and creative concepts that have been expressed in tangible form, such as designs, inventions, music, brands, software, games, texts and photos.

Are you an entrepreneur with an idea or concept that you have translated into something tangible that you want to market? If so, you can protect your creations by applying for intellectual property rights (IP rights). There are different types of intellectual property rights. You can use them separately or in combination. The choice you make will depend on various factors.

For example, suppose you have an idea for a cardholder. You cannot protect the idea itself because the idea could, in fact, be translated into various different tangible forms. The result could be various types of products.

Three different cardholders

Once you have given your idea a tangible form, you can look into which IP rights you can use to protect the product. In our example, a number of options might apply:

  • a registered design for the cardholder design;
  • a patent for the technique used to slide the cards in and out of the holder;
  • a trademark on the name and/or logo under which the product is marketed.

The original idea, a card holder, remains the same. You can choose to give it different tangible forms (see illustrations above). The fact is that various products can be created and each can be protected in its own way.

Identify and map your intellectual property (IP)

If you want to protect your innovations and claim the rights to them, the Intellectual Property (IP) Prediagnostic Check (in Dutch) is perhaps something for you. This free service from the Belgian Federal Economic Service will help you determine your IP strategy and strengthen your position on the market.

Did you know that?

  • Each intellectual property right (IP right) protects something different?
  • Certain IP rights arise automatically and you do not have to register them?
  • Information on registered IP rights can be found in various registers?
  • IP rights give you the time and opportunity to bring your creations to market?
  • When you register an IP right, you always do so for a particular territory?

Why is intellectual property important?

Knowing the basics about intellectual property can make the difference between a successful and a less successful company. That is why it is important to know:

  • Which IP rights are available
  • Which rights you have;
  • Which protection different IP rights afford;
  • Whether you need to register to enjoy the right or whether protection is automatic.

Before registering the name of your business, you probably checked the Business Register to make sure that no one else had previously registered it, but you may have neglected to check the official Trademarks Register. By not doing so, you run the risk that someone who has registered the name as a trademark will confront you at some point, leaving you unable to use the name any longer. If that did happen, you would be faced with the unexpected cost of changing your company name on your website, brochures, social media and stationery, for example.

Are you an entrepreneur in the Netherlands? 
If so, you can use the Name checker to search. This lets you check with a single search request whether your name is already registered in the Chamber of Commerce Business Register and/or the BOIP Trademarks Register. Search with the Name checker 

De Beeldmarketeers help customers with the perfect design for their website/webstore from day one. Our value is defined largely by our customer base, but also by our brand. That is why we made the decision to register our name and logo.
Marc Vreuls
Marc Vreuls: owner
De Beeldmarketeers
Your design reflects who you are. Others may not be able to do what you do, but they can always copy you. Therefore, protect your brand and register it!

Achraf Bahit
Achraf Bahit
'HYENAS' Art & Fashion

What are the various intellectual property rights?

There are different types of intellectual property rights, and other rights that are very similar, that can be harnessed to protect your tangible work. Some rights arise automatically. For other rights, you must first register to secure them. Different conditions apply to be eligible for different rights.


What is protected?

Which rights are conferred?


(arises automatically)

Original works

Right to publish
Right to reproduce
Personality rights

Book, software, painting, creative content website (articles,
animations, photographs)

Semi-conductor protection right
(arises automatically)

Topographies of semiconductor

Right to reproduce
Right to exploit


Database right
(arises automatically)

A collection of works or data

Right to take legal action against
extraction or re-use of contents
without the consent of the maker

Vacancy website

Trade name right 
established by being first to use)

Name under which a
company trades

Right of use in a specific area

Company name

Breeders' right
(established by registration)

Plant variety

Right to cultivate and trade
cultivated materials


Trademark right
(established by registration)

Distinctive sign Monopoly on use
Right to prohibit use by others
logo of coolblue

Design right
(established by registration)

Design of a product

Monopoly on use
Right to prohibit use by others


Patent right
(established by registration)

A technical product of
Right to exploit Paint brush clip, medicines

Domain name
(established by registration)

The unique address of a

Right of use of the domain name

Trade secret
(arises automatically)

Business secrets

Protection against third parties
who misappropriate your trade

Coca-Cola recipe

Designations of origin, geographical
indications and traditional

(established by registration)

Regional products Protection against unauthorised use and
practices that may mislead consumers.
Gorgonzola, Chickory heads,

Mapping your intellectual property

Do you have a new company, a new product or a new idea? If so, intellectual property is relevant for you. The downloadable checklist below provides you with information about the various types of intellectual property.

  • Answer the questions and see which rights apply to your situation.
  • The checklist is an interactive pdf. Click on the underlined words for extra information.

Download IP-checklist (PDF, 235 Kb)


Counterfeiting and piracy is illegal. It is widespread and costs the economy billions. Approximately 5% of imports into the European Union are counterfeit and illegal copies of products (piracy). It is a major threat to modern economies.

Manufacturers of counterfeit goods use complicated routes to ship their products and use many intermediaries. This makes it harder to crackdown on the trade in counterfeit goods. Combatting the infringement of intellectual property rights is not only important in the interests of employment, but also for the health and safety of consumers who buy and/or use counterfeit products.


Legal options

Counterfeiting and piracy is a form of crime that is punishable by law in most countries. Those who infringe the intellectual property rights of others risk facing criminal prosecution and imprisonment. If you own IP rights, you can initiate civil proceedings if you suspect that your goods have been counterfeited or pirated. That opens the way for the counterfeit products to be seized or damages awarded.

Owners of intellectual property rights can take various steps against infringers:

  • Contact the infringing party;
  • Send a cease and desist letter;
  • Hire a lawyer;
  • Go to court.

It is also possible to request the customs authorities to take action against products that are copies of yours or against products on which your trademark has been affixed without your permission.

Customs measures in the Netherlands
Customs measures in Belgium
Customs measures in Luxembourg

Enforcement Database

The Enforcement Database (EDB) contains information on products that are protected by intellectual property rights, such as a registered trademark or design. Police and customs officials from all EU member states have access to the database, which makes it easier for them to identify and take action against counterfeit goods. You need a valid trademark or design registration in the European Union (EU) in order to apply for an EDB account.

Are your rights being infringed and do you need advice? If so, contact an IP professional.

How to recognise counterfeit goods

By paying attention to certain details, you can reduce the risk of buying counterfeit goods yourself:

  1. Price
    If the products of a well-known, expensive brand are being sold on the cheap, there is generally something amiss. This is certainly the case if other sellers are charging a much higher price for the same product.
  2. Quality
    The finishing of counterfeit products is often sloppy. Pay attention to the details of the logo.
  3. Identity of the seller
    Check the identity of the online shop to ascertain whether it really exists.
  4. Quality marks for online web shops
    Verify whether any quality mark displayed by the online shop is genuine by checking the website of the organisation issuing the mark. Check whether the website looks professional: spelling and/or grammar errors and fuzzy images can be signs of a dubious website.
  5. Safe payment
    Always pay via a secure page. You should see the padlock or key logo and an URL that starts with https.

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