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Intellectual property, sometimes abbreviated IP, is a legal definition of ideas, inventions, artistic works and other commercially viable products created out of one’s own mental processes. In the same sense that real estate titles and bills of sale establish ownership of tangible items, intellectual property is protected by such legal means as patents, copyrights, and trademark registrations.

Intellectual property is generally handled in the same way as any other tangible product or piece of real estate. The Coca-Cola company, for example, has legal ownership of several factories, the bottling equipment, trucks for transporting their product AND the formula for the soft drink itself. The intellectual property known as the secret recipe for the Coca-Cola beverage is ‘owned’ outright. Obviously other beverage companies can produce a cola-flavored soda, but Coca-Cola’s formula is protected by trade secret registration.

Not every idea inside a person’s mind can be considered intellectual property, which can only be a good thing in some instances. There is usually a commercial viability angle which needs proper protection to prevent theft of the idea or outright copyright infringement. Hundreds of people throughout history may have conceived of a long-distance communication system, but Alexander Graham Bell needed to establish ownership of his intellectual property known as the telephone. Without a proper patent, dozens of other enterprising businessmen in the 1870s could have legally manufactured their own version of the telephone without penalty.

Intellectual property may or may not belong to the original inventor or composer, however. Individual scientists working for pharmaceutical companies or private laboratories may invent a formula for a new cancer drug or a zero gravity machine, but the actual intellectual property rights may be held by the company or laboratory as a whole. The inventor could not resign from the laboratory and begin marketing the miracle drug or machine on his own. Often when a company acquires another company, it receives intellectual property rights as well as the building and equipment.

Many court cases arise over improper use of intellectual property. This is why experts strongly recommend that inventors and those in creative fields seek protection through official registration of their ideas and trade secrets. Infringement on intellectual property rights can usually be proven if the owner of that idea or creation can establish a date of origination. Although intellectual property laws exist to protect the inventor or creator, court decisions have also made it easier for others to ‘borrow’ similar ideas or concepts. Humorists can parody a trademarked product or a copyrighted work if it is considered social commentary, for example.

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Comments
  1. Kevin has shown incredible passion while expressing views. Thanks for the great information, I have it bookmarked

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