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Definitions on the web:
As a type of property, Intellectual Property (IP) refers to the intangible. In contrast to real property and personal property, it refers to what the minds of men and women have created, usually expressed or translated into a tangible form that is assigned certain rights of property. Examples of IP include musical, literary, and artistic works; inventions; software; and symbols, names, images, designs, business methods, and industrial processes used in commerce.
Intellectual property laws include patent, copyright, trademark, and trade secret laws, which typically protect IP rights. Patents, copyrights, and trademarks are creations of statute, where the government recognizes and enforces the public expression of an original idea for a limited period of time. Trade secrets, established by common law, can protect IP through contractual and tort remedies. Copyright laws generally protect creative and artistic works such as books, movies, music, paintings, photographs, and software. Patents, trademarks and trade secret laws are used more often to protect industrial properties, as they are generally created and used for industrial or commercial purposes.
In the United States, these laws exist at both the state and federal levels. The laws vary somewhat from state to state. At the federal level, the Constitution and legislation authorized under the Constitution deal exclusively with patents and copyrights, and partially with trademarks and related areas of unfair competition. Intellectual property law is extraordinarily complex, and by its very nature, continuously evolving. Many registered patent attorneys represent themselves as intellectual property law attorneys, as opposed to merely patent attorneys.
International intellectual property law, with the exception of trade secrets, is governed by federal and international treaty legislation. In the era of globalization, with the worldwide internet and the subsequent ability for proprietary data to be copied and appropriated, IP rights need to be protected and regulated at an international level.