According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, intellectual property “refers to creations of the mind: inventions; literary and artistic works; and symbols, names and images used in commerce”

Perhaps can also be called intellectually monopoly

Property Rights

See also: rights

Proposed by John Locke

  • people have a right to property in their own person.
  • people have a right to their own labour
  • people have a right to those things that they have removed from Nature through their own labor
    • no person claims more property than he or she can use
    • when people remove something from the common state in order to make it their own property, there is still plenty left over for others to claim through their labor


  1. Trade Secret: intellectual property that provide a company with a competitive advantage
    1. They do not expire
    2. Not suitable for IP that needs to be viewed (e.g. a movie)
    3. Can be circumvented using reverse engineering
  2. Trademark: a word, symbol, picture, sound, or color used by a business to identify goods
    1. For establishing a “brand name”
    2. If the brand name becomes a common noun (e.g. yoyo, escalator) then the company loses it right to exclusive use
  3. Patent: limited period of time to machines, systems, and other inventions
    1. Provides a detailed description of the invention
    2. Lifetime is 20 years, after it expires, anyone has the right to make use of its ideas
  4. Copyright: protections for authors with certain rights to original works they have written
    1. The right to reproduce the copyrighted work
    2. The right to distribute copies of the work to the public
    3. The right to display copies of the work in public
    4. The right to perform the work in public
    5. The right to produce new works derived from the copyrighted work


Copyright protects the original expression of an idea, not the idea itself

Copyright usually protects the executable program, not the source program. Typically, the source code to a program is confidential, in other words, a trade secret of the enterprise that developed it.

Patent-holding companies aggressively use the courts to enforce their patent rights; these companies are sometimes referred to by their detractors as patent trolls. The Williamson v. Citrix Online decision sets a precedent for other courts to strike down software patents that are determined to be “too broad and indefinite”

Limits to IP Protection

There is a tension between the need to reward the creators of intellectual property by giving them exclusive rights to their ideas and the need to disseminate these ideas as widely as possible.

Congress addresses this by only granting exclusive rights for a limited period of time

Fair Use

Examples of fair use include citing short excerpts from copyrighted works for the purpose of teaching, scholarship, research, criticism, commentary, and news reporting.

  1. What is the purpose and character of the use?
  2. What is the nature of the work being copied?
  3. How much of the copyrighted work is being used?
  4. How will this use affect the market for the copyrighted work?

Digital rights management (DRM)

For protecting after-market IP

DRM refers to any of a variety of actions owners of intellectual property may take to protect their rights. As Christopher May puts it, “All DRM technologies are aimed at tracking and controlling the use of content once it has entered the market”

Many experts suggest that any technological “fix” to the problem of copyright abuse is bound to fail. All prior attempts to create encryption or anticopying schemes have been abandoned or circumvented.