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Intellectual Property

Property that is an invention, idea or process, that derives from the work of the mind or intellect

Intellectual Property

The term intellectual property (IP) came about as its own category after existing laws didn’t include specific wording for ideas and artistic works. It’s a board category that covers intangible assets, meaning anything that isn’t a physical product.

It plays an important role in legal protections for research, ideas, and creations. Understanding it is essential to maintaining rights and not infringing the rights of others.

What Is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property is a term used for any kind of intangible asset. Typically, it means something that someone has had to use skills, knowledge, and creativity to create. Designs are perhaps the most famous or common examples of intellectual property.

By phrasing it as property, the idea of ownership is introduced. It means that not just anyone is free to use the design or asset in any way that they choose. It also introduces the idea of the assets having value, which needs to be protected but also put to good use by the owner.

Types of Intellectual Property

Understanding intellectual property becomes easier when you look at the different types and examples for each category.


Copyrights give creators or authors exclusive ownership of their materials. It means only they can copy, use, or duplicate the works. Within copyrights, there’s the ability to grant authorization to others to use the work. That’s usually facilitated by a licensing agreement.

Examples of copyrights:

  • Books
  • Songs
  • Other pieces of music
  • Scripts
  • Plays
  • Poems

Digital Assets

Digital assets fall into different categories. For example, software might be termed as an idea that can be patented. On the other hand, digital content might be subject to copyright.


Franchises refer specifically to individuals or companies. The franchisee can purchase the rights to a name, process or proprietary knowledge from a franchisor. In this way, a company can share its rights with specific parties. The franchisee is often a smaller business operating a store and selling a product from the franchisor.

Examples of franchises:

  • Coffee shop chains
  • Designer clothing brands
  • Restaurants
  • Cell phone producers


The US Patent and Trademark Office reviews applications and grants patents to inventors. They submit their designs, improvements, inventions or processes and receive a patent as confirmation that it’s their original idea and that they have exclusive rights. 

Examples of when patents are issued:

  • Technological inventions
  • Products
  • Software
  • Machines


Unlike written works and creative ideas and inventions, trademarks are used for something that’s recognizable. It often involves a phrase, insignia or symbol that represents a product. Trademarks are assigned to companies to give them exclusive rights for use.

Examples of trademarks include:

  • Brand names
  • Logos
  • Slogans

Trade Secrets

Processes or practices can be protected as trade secrets. Often employers will ask employees to sign a non-disclosure agreement to ensure that a proprietary process is not shared outside of the company. These assets provide advantages or economic benefits to the holder.

Examples include:

  • Recipes
  • Formulas
  • Patterns

What Are Intellectual Property Rights?

Intellectual property rights (IPR) prevent unauthorized access to an intangible asset. Since you can’t keep ideas in your possession in the same way as traditional property, there need to be established rights on paper.

Who Is The Owner?

Intellectual property rights establish the owner of the asset. It’s often the creator. However, if the work was commissioned, it could be owned by the person paying for the work. In the case of employees at companies, the rights usually rest with the company.

How Are Rights Enforced?

When IP rights are violated, it’s known as an infringement. They can be criminal or civil matters depending on the type of rights, protection, and violation.

A first step would be to challenge the infringement by asking for work to be halted or any use removed. The second step is legal action, usually suing for an injunction. A lawyer can determine whether criminal charges can be brought.





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