Many of us have heard the term “Intellectual Property,” but may not know exactly what it means. Intellectual Property, often shortened to “IP,” is an important part of the legal system that deals with who owns the rights to certain things. It is a complex, comprehensive field of law that affects so much of our lives. Read on to learn more about IP.

What Is It?

Intellectual property, in its simplest definition, is an invention or creation that is the product of unique creativity. IP is considered a type of property, which affords its creators/owners legal rights and protections. IP laws allow the owner/creator to decide how their ideas, products, and creations are used and monetized. These legal protections prevent inventions and innovations from being copied and exploited. There are several types of recognized and protected intellectual property.

Types of Intellectual Property

Within the United States legal system, there are four categories of protected intellectual property. These are patent, copyright, trademark, and trade secret. Different creations and inventions can fall under one, or multiple categories. These IP laws help protect things like art, technology, processes, machinery, logos, slogans, operational secrets, recipes, etc.

Who Oversees Intellectual Property?

In America, the United States Patent and Trademark Office, abbreviated USPTO, oversees intellectual property law and policy. The agency falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The USPTO issues patents, copyrights and trademarks. Inventors and creators can submit an application to the USPTO for legal protection of their intellectual property. Individuals can also search on the USPTO site for existing copyrights, trademarks, and patents.

Why Is It Important

Many might question the value of intellectual property law. In reality, it helps creators, inventors, and innovators protect what they have created. It allows them to profit from their creations, choose how their inventions are used, and protects them from imitators capitalizing on their hard work. Intellectual property protection encourages innovation and creativity. It helps drive industry, art, and manufacturing. Without IP protection, there would be no oversight or accountability for imitation or exploitation.

How Does It Affect Me?

If you have an idea, or invention, or original work of art, you should seek the appropriate patent or copyright for your creation. You can apply for the appropriate protection through the USPTO. If you are not sure whether or not your creation qualifies, or what category it falls under, or how to apply for the correct IP protection, you can reach out to an intellectual property lawyer. An attorney can help navigate the confusing world of Intellectual Property Law.