The idea of “property” isn’t very tough to figure out. Many people apply this simple formula: if you paid for a house, that’s your property. If you bought a car, that’s your property.
The issue does get a little more complicated when you realize you don’t just own property because you paid for it. Sometimes you can create property. Perhaps you bought a lot of land and built a house on it, or fixed up an old used car you purchased.
But what about something that came from your mind – an idea, a discovery, a work of art? Writing laws to protect this kind of property must be impossible! As it turns out, there are a lot of laws protecting this kind of property, and they’re known as intellectual property laws.
If the idea of having property laws to govern music, literature, and art still sounds confusing, don’t worry – that’s exactly what this beginner’s guide is here to remedy.
Types of Intellectual Property
After all, it only makes sense that if you write a song then you should have certain rights and controls over that song. Creating an original piece of music is no less valid an endeavor than building something out of wood.
But understanding how the regulation of intellectual property works will require some knowledge of the relevant terms and concepts at play. Let’s take a look at a few.
- Copyright: Painting, sheet music, television shows, movies – they all can be copyrighted. A copyright is no more than exclusive rights to the intellectual property at hand. For example, if you own the copyright to a song that someone else steals and passes off as their own, you have grounds to sue the other party.
- Trademark: Phrases, words, symbols, logos. Trademarks might include an advertising slogan, thus protecting the creativity of one business’ advertising campaign from competitors. There are limitations to trademarks, of course, but the more distinctive the phrase or symbol, the better chance an organization has of acquiring its trademark.
- Patents: Inventions. Inventions could be considered a very unique piece of intellectual property because it combines creativity with discovery. Creating a new song means you have rights over that one product – creating an invention can mean you have rights over all of the products made from that single invention.
If you have a creation of some sort that hasn’t been seen before, there’s a good chance that you can register your creation under one of the protective terms listed above. A new movie screenplay, for example, can receive a copyright – while the invention of a new type of faucet and be protected as a patent.
Keep in mind that other protections exist: trade secrets and industrial design rights can still receive a lot of protection from the government provided all of the right paperwork has been filed.
Intellectual Property Rights in Action
The purpose of all of the terms explained in the previous section is to ensure the proper protections for your new creations. After all, if you invented a longer lasting light bulb and registered this idea with the government, you have the right to expect that the government will protect your property from theft, just as you would expect your tangible property (like a home) is protected by your local police.
That’s how property law usually works: these regulations are set in place so that you have legal recourse when someone infringes on your intellectual property rights.
What does “legal recourse” mean? Quite simply: you’ll have the power to take your case to court by suing the offending party.
There are many famous cases in which this happened – and the intellectual property rights won out. In such cases, it’s generally the court’s role to determine whether or not another piece of intellectual property (such as a similar-sounding song) is actually close enough to the protected property that it could be considered stolen.
Register Your Original Ideas
If nothing else, this article should give you incentive to register your original ideas and ensure that they’re properly protected. Intellectual property theft is not very common, but simply having the peace of mind that a trademark or copyright can offer can be well worth the cost. And if you compete in big business and corporate law, you know exactly how important the role of intellectual property rights can play.
After all, the profit motive is one of the engines of innovation – intellectual property law helps ensure that this engine continues to run.