Intellectual property (IP) refers to the property that we’ve created in our minds, or ideas that we’ve distributed. This may include anything from trade secrets to a band’s hit song. Intellectual property is protected by copyrights, patents and trademarks.
Even though intellectual property often lacks tangibility, it is still not up for grabs and is given its own set of protections. What sort of rights are afforded to those to whom the intellectual property belongs?
What Sort of Rights are Afforded?
Intellectual property is protected by certain rights, at least for a limited period of time. These rights may be protected in the following ways, depending on the type of intellectual property in question.
Patents protect the rights of a particular invention. They disallow someone from stealing a completely original, unique idea that has been developed. Patents are issued for a specific period of time—typically this is 20 years.
Trademarks refer to the protections that are used by a business’s symbol, logo or slogan. As long as the creator of the trademark continues to renew the rights, a company may maintain trademark rights indefinitely. Typically, trademarks are indicated next to a brand name with either a small “TM” or an “R” with a circle around it, both located at the top right above the brand’s name.
These are less business-related and more pertain to a creative work, such as a novel or a digital program. These are typically protected as soon as a person creates the work; however, it is the responsibility of the creator to ensure that no one is duplicating the efforts or stealing the idea for his or her own use. Copyrights may also be formally issued, with proper application.
These refer to items such as plans for a particular computer chip, and they are protected under United States patent law.
Here’s a bit of an abstract selection that has come to the forefront in recent years. There’s some ambiguity between products named after the region they’re from—as in “Champagne” only being authentic Champagne if it is from the Champagne region of France. There are far less examples of these than most. However, they are protected under law not dissimilar from that of a trademark—though of course, it is not fully a trademark, as it is a geographical region as well.
Preventing unfair competition
There is some similarity to this and other protections; however, it comes down to a company who creates a product intended to be identical to another both in aesthetics and in brand name. In essence, this would be considered a fake Coach handbag, a pair of Oakley sunglasses, a Rolex watch or a MacBook computer. This prevents revenue from being re-routed from the companies who deserve it, and from companies profiting from the likeness of more-known commodities.
These six types of intellectual property rights are the most commonplace in today’s world, though there are new versions cropping up as IP protections become more complicated.