This multi-part series is adapoted from the ideas2money lecture I have been giving for several years, and will in theory serve as the basis of a forthcoming book on the subject.
A bit about basic terminology. Intellectual Property (IP) refers to two, and possibly three, things. In the study of programming languages, we would say the term is overloaded. The first two are:
1. IP assets – the stuff you create; and
2. IP rights – your ownership rights in that stuff.
IP assets include inventions, works of authorship, brand names, and confidential information. IP rights include patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets.
We typically say that IP rights “protect” IP assets. So:
• patents protect inventions;
• copyrights protect works of authorship;
• trademarks protect brand names; and
• trade secrets protect confidential information.
By saying that IP rights protect IP assets, we mean that IP rights give the holder the exclusive right to have, hold, and use the underlying IP asset. You can use IP rights to exclude everyone else from using IP assets.
Functionally, and in extraordinarily general terms (warning: gross oversimplification follows!), this means that the holder of an IP right can sue someone to make them stop using the underlying IP asset. That’s what IP rights give you, the right to sue people out of your way so you alone can profit from your IP assets.
Finally, 3. IP law is the set of rules established by and enforced by governments that more or less make the above true.