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What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property is a broad term for the legal protection of creations, inventions, products or processes that originate from a person’s mind. Generally speaking, intellectual property falls into one of four distinct categories: patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. Intellectual property that can be protected includes inventions (patent), symbols and words that indicate the source of a product or service (trademark), creative works of art such as a painting, musical composition, or movie script (copyright), or secret business information that provides an advantage over competitors (e.g., formulas) (trade secret). National and local governments around the world—including the individual U.S. states and the federal government—have their own sets of laws and rules to protect intellectual property. With the exception of trade secrets, an individual or company can register with the appropriate governmental authority to protect its intellectual property rights.

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