Like tangible goods, intellectual creations can constitute property which is designated "intellectual property". Intellectual property traditionally covers two areas:
- industrial property which mainly comprises patents, designs and models, manufacturers and service brands and protected designations of origin;
- copyright and related rights which apply to all literary and artistic works.
This field covers cultural, social and technological issues of great importance which have to be taken into account when drawing up a coherent policy in this area. Thus, on the question of industrial property, Community regulations have endeavoured to harmonise the conditions for the registration of trademarks and extend to holders the protection conferred by a single set of rules. A Regulation introducing a Community design was also adopted in December 2001. In order to encourage innovation, the Union is also working on the creation of a Community patent.
On the question of copyright and related rights, harmonised Community legislation was drawn up in areas where legal uncertainty was likely to dissuade holders from exploiting rights in certain territories (computer programmes and databases, satellite broadcasting and cable retransmission, rental right and lending right and certain related rights). European legislation was then adapted to take account of the new challenges posed by technological progress and the information society. Measures aimed at combating counterfeiting and piracy have moreover been taken at European level.