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Intellectual Property (IP)

Intellectual property (IP) is a type of property that can be legally protected from being copied or sold.

What Is an Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind — things like novels, movies, musical pieces, software, and business methods. They're called "intellectual" because they exist only in the minds of their creators. But once they're created, they have a physical form — an original manuscript, a reel, or a source code. 

Intellectual property is legal protection for original creative works. A patent, copyright, or trademark provides exclusive rights to a product or concept for a defined period of time. A well-established IP tackles the "what ifs" of your business and protects your product from being copied by competitors.

Types of Intellectual Property

A trademark identifies the source of a product or service. 

A patent protects an inventor’s invention from being copied, made, or sold by others for a period of time in exchange for agreeing to disclose the invention to the public – upon the expiry of the patent.  

A copyright protects original works of authorship that are fixed in a tangible medium of expression; it grants the creator the exclusive right to reproduce the work or produce derivative works, sell its copies to the public, and perform or display work to the public. 

A trade secret is another form of intangible property. It includes formulas for commercial products and processes for producing things as well as information about business transactions. A closely related concept is know-how. Unlike a trade secret, which must be kept confidential to remain valuable, know-how is not protected unless it is recorded in some way.

What Are Intellectual Property Rights?

Intellectual property rights provide legal protection to the original creators. They provide an incentive to people to create new things by giving them a monopoly over the commercial use of their creations.

Intellectual property laws cover an enormous range of ideas and creations, including:

  • Copyrights (literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works)

  • Patents (new machines or products)

  • Trademarks (business names, logos, and slogans)

  • Trade secrets (methods and processes)

  • Domain names (like Twitter.com)

Copyright laws protect original works such as books, articles, plays, and computer programs. 

Treating your IPRs as an asset can have benefits for you as your business grows. They can be sold, licensed out, or assigned to partners to help grow the company's revenue streams while retaining the ownership of the brand and reputation.

Intellectual property rights are a global context and exist in most countries around the world. However, the laws aren't universal. 

But regardless of how intellectual property laws vary in different countries, they all serve similar purposes: they protect inventors' and artists’ creations from being stolen or copied without credit or compensation. As a result, this incentivizes inventors to unearth new ideas and inventions.