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Intellectual Property

An introduction to intellectual property, such as patents, copyright, and trademarks

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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More Information

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


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