General term for the assignment of property rights through, for example, patents, copyrights or trademarks. These property rights give the holder the exclusive right to exploit the innovation. The holder thus has monopoly power on the use of the item, normally for a specified period of time and within a specific geographic area. This power allows the holder of an intellectual property right to restrict imitation and duplication of the product concerned. IPRs prevent free riding by other companies and constitute an incentive to undertake R & D efforts.

Source: Glossary of terms used in EU competition policy, Antitrust and control of concentrations, European Commission, 2002