IP is Intellectual Property.
Modern usage of the term intellectual property goes back at
least as far as 1867 with the founding of the North German
Confederation whose constitution granted legislative power
over the protection of intellectual property to the confederation.
The widespread use of the term “intellectual property” is
something that followed the 1967 founding of the World
Intellectual Property Organization WIPO, and only became
really common in recent years. WIPO was formally a
UN organization, but in fact, today, represents the interests
of the holders of copyrights, patents, and trademarks.
WIPO says, “Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of
the mind: inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols,
names, images, and designs used in commerce.
IP is divided into two categories: Industrial property, which includes inventions (patents), trademarks, industrial designs, and geographic indications of source; and Copyright, which includes literary and artistic works such as novels, poems and plays, films, musical works, artistic works such as drawings, paintings, photographs and sculptures, and architectural designs. Rights related to copyright include those of performing artists in their performances, producers of phonograms in their recordings, and those of broadcasters in their radio and television programs.
The innovations and creative expressions of indigenous and local communities are also IP, yet because they are “traditional” they may not be fully protected by existing IP systems. Access to, and equitable benefit-sharing in, genetic resources also raise IP questions. Normative and capacity-building programs are underway at WIPO to develop balanced and appropriate legal and practical responses to these issues.”
The term intellectual property is a term that lumps together creations of the mind and the laws pertaining to them. One who hears the term intellectual property, applied to the various laws associated with the term, tend to assume they are based on a common principle and function similarly.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The intellectual property laws originated separately, evolved differently, cover different activities, have different rules, and raise different issues.
The term intellectual property comprises copyright, patent and trademark related laws.
Copyright law was designed to promote authorship and art, and covers the details of expression of a work.
Patent law was intended to promote the publication of useful ideas, at the price of giving the one who publishes an idea, a temporary monopoly over it.
Trademark law, by contrast, was not intended to promote any particular way of acting, but simply to enable buyers to know what they are buying.
The first step in understanding the acronym IP and the term intellectual property is to recognize copyright, patent and trademark are separate topics.
The second step is to recognize that each of these topics is very broad in their complexity and not simplistic.
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