What is Intellectual Property?
You may hear the phrase “intellectual property” and wonder what it means. In the simplest sense, Intellectual Property deals with intangible rights, rather than tangible property. Put another way, Intellectual Property concerns the creative energies that are embodied in tangible property. Some examples of that creativity are: developing a slogan for your business or product; writing a book; inventing a new machine; or creating customer lists. However, it is only the underlying creativity that is protected as Intellectual Property, not the actual thing that results. So, while the slogan is protected as intellectual property, the billboard on which the slogan is displayed is not. Similarly, while the words comprising a book are protected, the physical book is not. And while the inventive concepts underlying the machine are protected, the physical machine itself is not. Thus, you can buy a book and read it, sell it, or throw it away without infringing on anyone’s Intellectual Property rights. But you cannot copy that book, since that would be taking the protected intangible portion (the words) and using it to create a new tangible object (a new book).
Intellectual Property Law has been developed to provide protections for Intellectual Property. There are four distinct areas of Intellectual Property Law: Trademark Law, Copyright Law, Patent Law, and Trade Secrets Law. Each of these is used to protect a different type of Intellectual Property, and in different ways. In brief, referencing the above examples, Trademark Law would protect the slogan, Copyright Law would protect the book, Patent Law would protect the machine, and Trade Secrets Law would protect confidential customer lists that are valuable to one’s business. Knowing which area of Intellectual Property Law applies to which Intellectual Property is important for determining the best way to go about protecting one’s Intellectual Property.
Anthony D. Pellegrini | Partner
The Graham Building|84 Harlow Street
P.O. Box 1401|Bangor, Maine 04402-1401
tel: 207.992.2412 |fax: 207.941.9715