Protection of intellectual property and technological innovation. Interview with Professor Davide Russo - Second Part

What is the difference between industrial law and copyright?

It is not difficult to get confused when it comes to intellectual property law, since there are many forms of protection. Some tools are designed to protect the technical-functional aspect of the invention, while others serve to protect its most artistic expression. All together they contribute directly to the protection of the product in its entirety, and indirectly to the company's better economic performance, to its prosperity. 

Let's make a general overview of these intangible assets. 

An innovative idea, which solves a technical problem in an unprecedented way and which can be expressed in the form of a product, process or service, can be protected by a patent as long as the main content is purely functional. The patent for an invention gives rise to a monopoly on that idea, lasting 20 years, in the specific geographical area in which it was filed. 

Utility models , very similar to patents as regards the writing and the filing process, last 10 years and mainly protect the aspects that give the product particular effectiveness, greater ease of application or use. Both patents and utility models are not renewable. 

Another form of protection are ornamental or industrial designs, which protect innovation from an exquisitely aesthetic point of view. The deposit in this case follows a simpler procedure, has 5 years of renewable coverage up to a maximum of 25 years. 

So, summing up, the artistic expression of a product falls within the scope of copyright, in copyright, while the technical-functional aspects fall within the patents for invention, utility models, ornamental designs and the trademark. 

By brand we mean a distinctive sign, which can be a graphic, a word, a drawing, a sound, in addition to the combination of these elements developed together in all possible chromatic scales. The trademark registration lasts 10 years from the filing date, renewable an infinite number of times, always for ten-year periods. 

As mentioned, if we talk about copyright, copyright, we protect the artistic component of the idea or the entire work if it is a work of art, a musical or literary composition, an architectural project, a film cinematographic, a photograph. But software also falls under this form of protection, or a computer code, a scientific publication, and even a database. 

Also worth mentioning is the category of trade secrets, which are all those secrets that the company does not wish to disclose in any way and in any form.

If we want to better understand how the different forms of protection can be combined together in order to protect a product, let's think about the mobile phone. The manufacturer's name, logo and model name are registered trademarks. The software with which the applications, icons and peculiar tones are managed are protected by copyright. Specific technical aspects, such as, for example, some functions of the user interface, could be protected by a patent or a utility model. The aesthetic aspect, the shape of the object, the materials and textures used fall within the category of ornamental designs (design). Therefore, all forms of protection combine to protect a product in its entirety. 

What does intellectual property infringement mean? 

For example, let's talk about the patent that we remember being the possibility of having a temporary monopoly on an idea, in the country where it was filed. If the patent application is accepted, it becomes a legal title. Who owns it is the only one who has the right to produce, market and, in general, exclusively exploit the object of the patent. 

Those who, otherwise, even if they are not owners of the legal title, try to counterfeit or copy that product, will be liable to prison and monetary penalties. The counterfeiter's production is suspended, the goods can be confiscated and direct and indirect damages are requested.

For whom is the protection of intellectual property important? 

All those involved in innovation must have an adequate patent culture. To be able to promote your business today it is essential to have the maximum number of intellectual property titles, both because they contribute to protecting the business itself, especially in a phase of technology transfer, and because they increase the value of the company. 

Firms that protect their intangible assets statistically have better growth, because they run less risk of finding a future paved with other people's patents, which would mean a strong impediment in terms of research and development possibilities. 

The patent gives the advantage of being able to plan investments and activities in all serenity during its entire duration: once the idea is patented, you have total freedom on the management of the business plan - based on the resources and know-how that company owns - for 20 years. Therefore, the protection of intellectual property is an indispensable tool for making technological innovation. 

There was a way of thinking, in the past, and that is that he was never the first to get what he earned the most on an invention, but rather the second, since this did not have to support all the investments in research that he had instead supported. the first. The second to commercialize the invention there was a market ready to receive that product, the possibility of not repeating the mistakes made previously, and even come out with a better product. The tools of intellectual property, utility models, trademarks and patents, prevent precisely this mechanism of unfair competition, that is, they ensure that it is not others who benefit from the investments of the inventor, but that it is himself who has the possibility to develop that good innovative idea and make it come true, serenely, 


Having an adequate knowledge of intellectual property rights is now a necessity that does not only concern the legal professions. 

Patent culture must be considered as an essential value within the company, and it is advisable to provide basic, widespread and transversal training to all departments that take part in innovation processes. 

The future of innovative and creative activities is based on the ability to foresee today the development possibilities of tomorrow: the protection of intellectual property contributes to the guarantee of being able to develop and realize those prospects.