What is Intellectual Property?

What is Intellectual Property?“Intellectual Property” involves creations of the mind. “Intellectual property rights” are protections allowing a creation’s maker/owner to benefit from work/ investment in the creation. Those rights are legally protected in order to: reward the maker/owner; encourage further innovation, by protecting the original maker/owner and inspiring others to make/own other creations; spur economic growth by creating jobs and industries; and protect consumers. For purposes of intellectual property rights, Intellectual Property is divided into two broad categories: industrial and copyright.

“Industrial Property” refers to: trademarks, patents for inventions, geographical indications and industrial designs. A “Trademark” is a distinctive symbol or group of symbols that identify a product/service made by a specific person/organization. For example, the Coca-Cola trademark is its name and unique design. Protection of Coca-Cola’s trademark by its registration gives that Company exclusive rights to use the trademark (or authorize others to use it) to identify a Coca-Cola product. Buying a product with the Coca-Cola trademark means you’re really getting a Coca-Cola product rather than someone else’s product. A “Patent” is a bundle of exclusive rights granted for an invention. An invention can be a product (e.g., Edison’s electric light or Popeil’s Pocket Fisherman) or a process that is either a new way of doing something (e.g., a new process for bonding metals) or uses new technology to solve a problem (e.g., reducing acid mine water by removing metals and sulphate from mine water). A “Geographical Indication” is a sign that a product/service comes from a specific place and therefore has certain qualities/reputation (e.g., the “Swiss” in Swiss chocolate). An “Industrial Design” is an object’s aesthetic or ornamental facet, which can be 3-dimensional, such as the shape or surface of the object, or 2-dimensional, such as a color or pattern (e.g., unique shape and colors of a milk carton), intended to make the object more attractive and commercially valuable.

“Copyright” is a bundle of rights involving many facets of literature, music, film, art and architecture. Think “gamut” because copyright covers such works as poetry, novels, plays, newspapers, reference books, musical compositions, sound recordings, choreography, films, screenplays, architectural designs, paintings, photographs, drawings, maps, sculpture, computer programs and databases. Copyright and some related rights protect the authors’, artists’ or architects’ exclusive rights to use their works and authorize others to use them. Through copyright and other related rights, works can be authorized or prohibited from such actions as: broadcast, translation, adaptation, reproduction, performance/communication, claims of authorship or changes to the work.

Creations of the mind encompass such a gargantuan area of global human productivity that a generalized method for protecting those creations is impossible. Industrial property, copyright and/or related protections can overlap each other and overlap jurisdictions, often requiring deep legal knowledge in one or more specialized areas. Consequently, don’t try to protect your work(s) on your own; rather, contact a lawyer who specializes in “Intellectual Property” and/or “Copyright/Trademark” Law to ensure effective protection of your work(s).


DON’T be intimidated by the process or the people.

DON’T try to protect your creative work(s) on your own.

DO contact a lawyer who specializes in “Intellectual Property” and/or “Copyright/Trademark” Law to ensure effective protection of your work(s).

By Kathy Catanzarite

[Note from This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information cannot be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither, or any of its affiliates, shall have any liability stemming from this article.].