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Intellectual Property   Tags: copyright, intellectual_property, ipro, patents, trademarks  

Last Updated: Feb 17, 2016 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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More Information

For more information about intellectual property, please visit the following websites and other publications.

  • What is Intellectual Property?
    Written by the World Intellectual Property Organization, this web resource discusses what intellectual property is, the different ways to protect intellectual property, and issues regarding the protection of intellectual property at an international level.
  • Owning Scientific and Technical Information
    This book, published in 1989 by Dr. Vivian Weil and Dr. John W. Snapper, gives a very good synopsis of what intellectual property is and some of the ethical issues raised. Available at the Ethics Center Library, call # CSEP.KF2979.A2O961989
  • U.S. Copyright Office
    The official web site of the United States Copyright Office. For a further description of what copyright is and laws protecting copyrights, visit the "Copyright Basics" section of the site.

Example Case Studies

Below are a handful of case studies exploring questions of intellectual property.  

  • Whose Intellectual Property?  
    A number of students working on an innovative technology are thinking about setting up a company. What questions about intellectual property do they need to answer? What are the rights of their advisor and others involved in the project?
  • A post-doctoral entrepreneur
    You and your supervisor may have found a way to block absorption of specific fats by the intestine, and both of you, as well as a colleague who has experience in setting up companies, think that this discovery could lead to the development of technology that might be marketable. How can your university help you with the patenting process, and who owns the intellectual property of this discovery?
  • The Case of the X979 Jumpstart
    Who owns ideas? That question comes up again and again in the start-up environment. This fictional case study asks us to consider the ethical boundaries involved in intellectual property

What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property (IP) is a term used to refer to “creations of the mind" that are protected under law. Intellectual property falls into two broad categories:

  • industrial property, such as inventions; words, phrases, or symbols used in commerce; or industrial designs, and
  • literary and artistic works such as novels, poems, plays, films, musical works, drawings, paintings, photographs,sculptures, or architectural designs.

Protection of intellectual property typically consists of granting creators exclusive legal rights to exploit and benefit from their creations. These rights are limited in scope and duration. The intent of intellectual property protection is to stimulate creativity for the benefit of society by ensuring that the creators can profit from their ideas.

The types of intellectual property protection commonly recognized are:

  • Patents to protect inventions and industrial designs
  • Trademarks to protect  words, phrases, or symbols used in commerce
  • Trade Secrets to protect confidential business information
  • Copyright to protect literary and artistic works

Each of these is described in more detail in its tab on this guide.

Misappropriation of IP

Misappropriation of intellectual property is the use or commercial exploitation of someone else's work without their permission, often while passing it off as your own work. Such misappropriation is referred to as infringement or plagiarism. Intellectual property law provides specific legal remedies for the owners of intellectual property whose work has been misappropriated. For more information on this, see the tabs in this guide relating to the different types of intellectual property protections, or the following:


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