What is Intellectual Property?

Bill NaifehIntellectual Property - General

According to Wikipedia, Intellectual Property is “a number of distinct types of legal monopolies over creations of the mind, both artistic and commercial, and the corresponding fields of law.”  Wikipedia’s definition distinguishes between specific legal rights and the intellectual work itself.  According to Wikipedia’s definition, only the former is intellectual property.  The intellectual work itself is something else.

Wikipedia’s definition seems to be in minor conflict with the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO’s) definition, which states: “Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind: inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names, images, and designs used in commerce.”  WIPO’s definition is more in accord with the popular definition which generally equates intellectual property with intellectual assets.  However, even WIPO’s definition seems to add the unnecessary limitation of “used in commerce.”

According to InvestorWords.com, intellectual property is any intangible asset that consists of human knowledge and ideas.  This definition equates intellectual property with intellectual assets.

Obviously, many believe that intellectual property is generally afforded some legal protection.  So, perhaps a workable definition of intellectual property should be “intellectual assets which may be afforded some legal protection.”

In any event, this brief analysis of on-line sources indicates that the phrase “Intellectual Property” is somewhat ambiguous from a legal perspective.  Consequently,  the phrase should be a defined term when used in contracts or agreements. In the United States the common forms of intellectual property include: patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets.