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Intellectual Property: Introduction

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If you ever want to experience a lull in a conversation just say that you are an intellectual property law attorney or are working on an IP law project.  The word Intellectual property usually stops most conversations dead in their tracks.  The phrase is intimidating to even the most seasoned attorneys and yet it does not have to be. 

So, what is intellectual property and why does it matter? 

To put it simply, intellectual property is the way to protect innovation and creativity.  It’s the enforceable legal protection mechanisms used so that creative people and companies can profit from their ideas and talents financially.  Americans value idea people and companies.  We also respect and want to encourage new things.  We want people who create to be able to get paid for it.  Money is a big motivator and we want inventors to be able to create and to want to continue creating.  America wants the new ideas to keep coming and so we have set up legal systems to foster this growth.  This concept is so important it even played a role in the founding of this country.  Financial protections for inventors and artists were included in the U.S. Constitution.

Intellectual Property is an umbrella term and there are 4 main types which fall under it.  To put it briefly, patents protect inventions, copyrights protect different types of creativity, such as artwork and music, and trademarks and trade secrets protect things used in business.

When you hear the word “intellectual property”, do not get caught up on the mysterious term “intellectual” and forget the term “property”.  When you are talking about intellectual property, you are still talking about property.  It’s not real or personal property, but you can still own it, buy it, sell it or let others use it for a fee.  It’s an asset and can sometimes be an extremely valuable one.