Intellectual Property

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What Does Intellectual Property Mean?

Intellectual property (IP) is something of value (an asset) that is created from an original idea.


This includes creations of the mind such as software code, musical, literary, and artistic works; inventions; and symbols, names, images, and designs used in commerce. Under intellectual property law, the holder of one of these abstract “properties” has certain exclusive rights to the creative work, commercial symbol, or invention by which it is covered.

Intellectual property rights (IPR) provide certain exclusive rights to the creators of intellectual property so they can reap commercial benefits from their ideas. Copyrights cover works of authorship, such as books, logos and software and patents protect inventions. Other types of IP protections include trademarks, designs and trade secrets.

Preventing intellectual property theft and copyright infringement is a priority for both businesses and government. The FBI, for example, specifically focuses on investigating the theft of trade secrets and counterfeit products that would negatively impact consumer health and safety.

Techopedia Explains Intellectual Property

Generally, IP is divided into two categories: industrial property and copyright.

Industrial property covers:

  • Patents (inventions): Require public registration and provide up to 20 years of protection against any unauthorized use, likeness and unfair competition.
  • Industrial design: Protects creations that define or describe a product, including trademarks and commercial names and logos.
  • Geographical source indications

Copyright protects rights related to literary and artistic creations, including:

  • Art and literary works: Books, film, sound recordings, software, designs
  • Performances
  • Radio and TV broadcasters
  • Technology-based works, such as computer programs and databases

The International Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (Berne Convention, Berne or Bern) is an international copyright agreement that originated in Berne, Switzerland in the late 19th century. Berne governance requires that Berne Union members, or signatories, provide automatic protection for any work originally published in any Berne Union country, as well as any unpublished work of an author in other Union countries.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert
Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.