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Copyrights, patents, and trademarks are the most common types of intellectual property (IP). Each type is vital to economic growth and employment within our local, state, and national economies, as revealed by a U.S. Department of Commerce report entitled “Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy.” These IPs continue to drive the economy, supporting more than 45 million workers, or roughly 30 percent of all jobs in the United States, such as inventors and their inventions, artists and musicians and their creations, news media and software publishers, radio and television broadcasting outlets, sound recording and motion picture industries, computer and electronics products, and medical equipment and pharmaceuticals, among many others. IP contributes more than $6 trillion dollars, or 38 percent, of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP).
Intellectual property is not just smart property, but when applied to creative works, it could be considered a return on investment to protect one’s intellectual works; and it is associated with one’s legal ownership and exclusive rights to authorize reproduction of one’s intellectual works. However, IP may also include original authorship or invention in relationship to the actual legal ownership. For example, an author or inventor could sell some or all of their IP rights to others. Or an author or inventor could be hired by an organization to create intellectual works, known as work-for- hire, where the rights belong to the hiring organization. In another scenario, the invention or intellectual work may be carried out by a researcher in a university, working either alone or with a team, and the rights belong to the university.
Several kinds of works may be protected by IP. The first is copyright protection for the creative works of authors, musicians, or artists. The second covers a documented idea for an inventor’s invention, a patent. The third type is an entrepreneur’s new business or service name which could be registered as a trademark. The fourth type of IP listed above is a Trade Secret. Although there are other types of IP, this site concentrates more on these basic, most prevalent types, because they are more often associated with IPAC customers as IP creators and customers.
Read more about the Difference Between Copyrights, Trademarks and Patents in New York Times article by Alexander Webb. Finally, Nolo provides an insightful guide on Which Protection Do I Need: Patent, Copyright, or Trademark?
To help understand the differences between the three major types of IP, it is helpful to think of something protected by all three IPs. The ever-popular board game Monopoly® had a utility patent, and it currently has trademarks, and copyrights associated with it.
U.S. utility patent 2,026,082 was issued in 1935 and has passed into the public domain. Hence, there are many regional and specialty “-opoly” games now available through various sources. The patent protected the functional invention of the game, and copyright still protects the expression of the published rules of the game and other creative expressions. Registered trademarks of the Monopoly game are still active along with other branding logos or game pieces.
Learn more about Board Games and Intellectual Property Law by Daniel Schaeffer published in Landslide, Vol. 7, No. 4, March/April 2015. Contemporary video games and mobile apps may apply multiple IPs as well. See Computer Programs section of YIP site for details.