Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Intellectual Property Definition:

Ethereal property; of the mind, intangible, with no corporeal existence, though capable of being expressed in a tangible medium.

Related Terms: Copyright, Trademark, Patent, Trade Secret, Industrial Design, Piracy (Intellectual Property)

"Intellectual property ... a category of intangible rights protecting commercially valuable products of the human intellect. The category comprises primarily trademark, copyright, and patent rights, but also includes trade-secret rights, publicity rights, moral rights, and rights against unfair competition.

"A commercially valuable product of the human intellect, in a concrete or abstract form, such as a copyrightable work, a protectable trademark, a patentable invention, or a trade secret."1

These words were adopted by Justice Little of the Tax Court of Canada.

As a type of property, intellectual property (IP) has that unique characteristic of being ethereal; of the mind, intangible, with no corporeal existence; hence, intellectual property.

With a tangible object, property rights extinguish when the object is destroyed.

With IP, since there is nothing physical, property only lasts for as long as the law says it lasts.

Intellectual property (except for trade secrets or TS’s) is governed by federal and international treaty legislation (and not, local, state or provincial governments) and in the result, there is uniformity of law from coast to coast.

The federal government apparatus for the reservation and protection of IP rights is all federal or international including the relevant registrars and administrative tribunals.

What matters to the law are legal rights and on that score, IP are ownership or monopoly rights recognized in law in an original expression of an idea or concept, be it an invention (patent), this web page (copyright) or the Coca-Cola bottle (industrial design).

When a widget is stolen or destroyed, the owner is deprived of the object and prooerty rights, per se, have vanished with the item. Intellectual property rights, given their nature, cannot be destroyed by hammer.

Intellectual property is sometimes referred to in common language as "industrial property".

The three traditional intellectual property rights are patents, copyrights and trademarks. They are all creations of statute where, to encourage creativity and scientific spirit, the government recognizes and will enforce the public expression of an original idea for a limited period of time.

To this traditional list, depending on the jurisdiction, have been added industrial design and computer chips (integrated circuit topographies).

The common law has chipped in a unique form: trade secrets, which have no statutory parent but which, through contractual and tort remedies, can protect intellectual property.

With apologies to Albert Einstein, intellectual property, which I hereby declare a copyright© on (or would that be a patent?!) can thus be expressed as follows:

IP = P + © + ™ + TS + (ID + ICT)

Another tidbit of need-to-know IP info: although the theory behind IP is that the inventor owns the monopoly, IP created pursuant to employment are presumed to belong to the employer subject to an agreement to the contrary.

French: propriété intellectuelle.

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