Intellectual property (“IP”) is a term that describes a number of distinct types of intangible assets and is the currency of the business world in general and tech world in particular. Today, the world’s most valuable IP assets dwarf the value of their real-world counterparts. Apple’ trademarked brand was valued at over $100 billion as of 2017. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter franchise has generated over $25 billion to date. But how did the law come to create such enormous value in intangible assets?
IP rights (“IPR”) allows a rights holder to exclude others from interfering with or using the property right in specified ways. The main forms of IP are patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets. Each type of IPR is different, varying in the subject matter that can be covered, timeframe of protection, and total expense. Although some inventions may be covered by multiple types of IPR, it is important to consider a number of business and legal factors before selecting the best protection strategy. Some technologies require strong IPR to commercialize, but unnecessary costs can derail bringing a product to market. IP departments of organizations weigh these various considerations and perform essential IP protection functions. This primer introduces the main forms of IP and its legal aspects.
With as much humor as possible in such a complex field and using plenty of examples and trivia, Professor Ruiz introduced the various types of U.S. intellectual property:
- Patents, which cover inventions and process innovations
- Copyright, which protects original works of authorship
- Trademarks, which protect a business’ commercial identity as the source of valuable goods and services
He also addressed the area of domain names and how they differ from trademarks.