Intellectual property (IP) can be anything from a particular manufacturing process to plans for a product launch, a trade secret like a chemical formula, or a list of the countries in which your patents are registered. It may help to think of it as intangible proprietary information. The formal definition, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization is creations of the mind — inventions, literary and artistic works, symbols, names, images, and designs used in commerce. IP includes but is not limited to proprietary formulas and ideas, inventions (products and processes), industrial designs, and geographic indications of source, as well as literary and artistic works such as novels, films, music, architectural designs and web pages.
For many companies, such as those in the pharmaceutical business, IP is much more valuable than any physical asset. Authoritative sources report that each year, intellectual property theft costs U.S. companies about $300 billion.
From a legal standpoint, there are four types of intellectual property. IP registered in one of those categories with state and federal agencies is protected by law, and if infringed upon or otherwise abused, the infringers can be prosecuted.
The four legally-defined categories of intellectual property are:
- Patents When you register