The term intellectual property (IP for short) broadly refers to property rights vested in the intangible. The property rights associated with real property (land) and personal property (everything else) are fairly straightforward: the owner of such property has a right to possess it, to prevent others from possessing it, and to preserve its integrity, hence our laws against theft, trespass, and vandalism.
Intellectual property law, on the other hand, protects entities which have no physical form. This includes names and logos attached to products, inventions, and original works of authorship. Because nobody can physically possess these things, the laws of personal property cannot, and do not, apply. Accordingly, rather than protecting possession, intellectual property law generally protects exclusive rights to use or reproduce the intellectual property. IP laws may also, in some circumstances, protect secrecy.
Usually the person who first creates or invents something is the owner of the intellectual property, but often employers contract to own what their employees create on the job. Also, rights to intellectual property can be given away temporarily through a licensing agreement.
There are 4 broad forms of intellectual property, and they all protect different things: they are copyright, trademark, patents, and trade secrets.
The short answer is "almost everybody." However, there are a few types of people who should be particularly concerned:
When intellectual property has been infringed, the owner can seek damages against the infringer who has violated the intellectual property. The damages may include any lost profits, punitive damages, and statutory damages. Additionally, some types of infringement might also incur criminal fines or require the confiscation of all infringing goods.
An infringement lawsuit may be filed in connection with intellectual property that is protected under state or federal laws. This may include material that is protected under copyright, trademark, patent, or other laws. These types of laws provide exclusive rights to own, sell, use, or distribute various items, logos, inventions, works of art, music, and certain words or phrases.
If you are an artist, author, engineer, or manager (especially in industries with a great deal of employee mobility), you are likely to encounter intellectual property issues at some point.
With that in mind, it is a good idea to consult with an intellectual property lawyer early in the stages of any major project. It is often the case that very minor intellectual property issues turn into large ones because they were not addressed early enough. An experienced lawyer can advise you on what isn’t and what is intellectual property, so that you understand your legal rights with regards to a project.
Last Modified: 07-13-2016 06:38 AM PDTLaw Library Disclaimer
We've helped more than 4 million clients find the right lawyer – for free. Present your case online in minutes. LegalMatch matches you to pre-screened lawyers in your city or county based on the specifics of your case. Within 24 hours experienced local lawyers review it and evaluate if you have a solid case. If so, attorneys respond with an offer to represent you that includes a full attorney profile with details on their fee structure, background, and ratings by other LegalMatch users so you can decide if they're the right lawyer for you.