Basics

What is intellectual property?

It's not smart property, but when applied to creative works it could be considered a return-on-investment to protect one’s intellectual works. Intellectual property (also known as IP) is associated with one’s legal ownership and exclusive rights to authorize reproduction of one’s intellectual works. However, IP may also include original authorship or inventing in addition to legal ownership. For example, an author or inventor could sell some or all of their intellectual property rights to others. Or an author or inventor could be hired by an organization to create intellectual works known as work-for-hire, where the rights belong to the employer.   

Intellectual property encourages creation of new literary, artistic, and informational works for the ultimate benefit of society. The U.S. Constitution in 1791 (Article One, Section Eight) gave Congress the power “to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”  Without this right, authors and inventors might not be rewarded for creation of their intellectual works and most likely would not invest their time in such efforts. The IPAC offers information related to the rights of the creators and consumers of intellectual property, including copyrights, trademarks, and patents.

What kinds of things may be protected by intellectual property?

A documented idea for an inventor’s invention could be patented. An entrepreneur’s new business or service name could be registered as a trademark. Creative works of musicians, artists, or authors could be copyrighted. These are some examples of the most common types of intellectual property applications.

To help understand the differences between the three major types of IP, it is helpful to think of something protected by all three IPs. The ever popular board game Monopoly had a patent, and currently has trademarks, and copyrights associated with it. The U.S. utility patent 2,026,082 issued in 1935 has passed into the public domain. Hence, there are many regional- and specialty-opoly games now available by various sources. The registered trademarks are still active, along with the copyrighted game rules and other related works.

This IPAC website also covers Fair Use, public domain, Creative Commons, and more.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: Information on this page and other content from the IPAC website, programs, or services is provided for informational purposes only. Any information provided should not be considered legal advice. The IPAC seeks only to facilitate related information and community connections to further IP awareness. Any information received from IPAC should not substitute for securing legal advice from a licensed attorney.