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Intellectual Property

Intellectual property refers to the ownership of intangible and non-physical goods. This includes ideas, names, designs, symbols, artwork, writings, and other creations. It also refers to digital media, such as audio and video clips that can be downloaded online.

Since intellectual property is intangible, it is more difficult to protect than other types of property. For example, tangible property, such as a car, can be recovered or replaced if it is stolen. However, if intellectual property is stolen, it may be difficult to recover. Say for example, a person comes up with a great idea for a new invention. If someone else steals the idea, the potential profit of the invention may also be taken away. Similarly, if a digital recording of a new song is "leaked" on the Internet, thousands of people may download it and redistribute it to others. If this happens, the profit potential of selling the music may be substantially diminished.

Because of its monetary implications, intellectual property it is often used as a legal term to safeguard the rights of creators and inventors. It has also become increasingly important to media production companies who need to protect the distribution of their digital media. By defining and establishing intellectual property rights, innovators and creators can have legal protection of their ideas and creations. This may be done by copyrighting written works, applying for patents for inventions, and trademarking brands, names, and logos. Of course, the sooner these legal steps are taken, the better. After all, it is much easier to protect an idea before it is stolen than after someone else takes it!

First Published: 2008
Last Updated: November 30, 1999

Definition from the PC Glossary