Intellectual property (IP) is the name given to the fruits of intellectual labour, whether it is laboratory research, a novel, the logo of a business, or the knowledge associated with a product or process.
Intellectual property rights (IPR) are legal rights that can be used commercially to protect assets that would otherwise rapidly lose their value. Types of intellectual property right include patents, trade marks, copyright and know-how. When granted, an intellectual property right will give you the right to prevent others from using your property. This can give you a monopoly in the market, lasting from 15 years in design rights, to potentially indefinite rights in the case of trade marks (provided the trade mark is maintained and continually renewed). This protection gives value to your invention, and will increase the technology transfer opportunities available to you.
The state grants such protection in order to provide incentives to investors to develop technologies, products and ideas to bring to market. This ultimately benefits the consumer. In the extreme case of pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals, where regulatory bodies require a substantial testing and development regime, and investors may spend millions before a product reaches the market, it is important that this protection exists otherwise few companies would make the efforts required.