Intellectual property is anything created by a person's mind that is protected by law from being used without permission. Some examples of intellectual property include paintings, written works of fiction, trademarked symbols, new plant varieties and newly discovered genes, in addition to new inventions and song lyrics.
Intellectual property is protected by copyrights, trademarks and patents. Some forms of intellectual property are automatically protected at the time of creation, while other types only acquire protection when the creator files for and receives a patent or trademark.
Copyright laws cover artistic and literary creations, such as music, movies, sculptures and novels, in addition to maps and technical drawings. A copyright holder can prevent others from reproducing, selling, distributing, displaying or creating derivative works using the protected work.
Trademarks protect signs, words and symbols that identify a particular manufacturer or seller. Holders of a trademark can prevent other companies from using the identical or similar logos or mottoes.
Patents, which are granted for inventions, are used to keep other companies from making or selling that invention for a given period of time. Patents usually last 20 years.
Intellectual property owners can opt to license their protected properties. Licensing involves granting permission for a specific person or organization to make, use or distribute the protected property, usually for a fee.