An intellectual property statement is a written document that spells out the rules of intellectual property (IP) for a certain company or individual creator. A business that hires independent contractors to create works for them might put a statement in their business contracts that clarifies the IP rights of the company and any of their hired contractors or employees. 

Intellectual Property Basics

There are provisions in the legal system for a handful of different IP types, but the two most common are copyrights and patents. 

Copyrights are agreements that protect works that are completely original and are created in a physical form. These works can be seen, copied, or somehow communicated to others either in person or via computer or another machine.  Some examples of works that can be copyrighted include:

  • books, periodicals, and manuscripts
  • plays and skits
  • musicals 
  • songs (lyrics)
  • computer programs
  • music (accompaniment)
  • choreographed works 
  • works of art (paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, etc)
  • technical drawings 
  • movies and documentaries 
  • architectural drawings and buildings

Patents are a different type of IP protection that pertain to inventions, discoveries, and specific processes. Typically, a discovery must be a brand new process, product, chemical (or material composition), or machine. Sometimes patents will cover a significant improvement of another patented invention or process. 

Computer programming is a less clean-cut field when it comes to IP law. To protect the IP of a computer program, your protection will fall somewhere between patents and copyrights. Depending on the type of program and how it has been created or how it improves on a pre-existing program, it may be protected by either a copyright or a patent

Patents last for 20 years after the patent is filed and the Patent and Trademark Office has officially issued it. Copyrights last as long as the creator is alive and then continues for another 70 years after their death. Before 1978 copyrights lasted for 75 years after the death of the author, and in 1998 the duration changed to 95 years. 

Copyrights are put into action once the work is completed in a physical form of expression like being written on paper or recorded. Works do not necessarily need to be registered with the Copyright Office nor do they need a specific IP statement on the work itself in order to ensure copyright protection or affect the duration of the protection. Being extra careful by including IP statements and contacting the Copyright Office can offer benefits.

What Is an Intellectual Property Statement?

Intellectual Property Statements make sure that the ideas, creations, and creative processes of a creator or inventor are protected from theft or plagiarism. With other businesses, creators, independent contractors, and consultants out in the marketplace it's important to ensure that your work remains yours. Copyrights and patents work to provide this protection. 

A thorough plan will keep your work well protected. Intellectual property statements are basically these plans spelled out by companies. They will write out all of their copyrights and patents detailing the IP that they own in a comprehensive statement. If a business wants to keep their trade secrets safe, an intellectual property statement is wise.   

What To Include in an Intellectual Property Statement

The more detail and clarity there is in an intellectual property statement, the better it will protect a company's work. First, you'll want to consider exactly what your business needs to protect. 

Certain types of work will require patents, while others might need copyright or trademark protection, so you'll need to determine the proper protection for each. 

Copyrights are used for things like:

  • Paintings created by artists
  • Poems or novels created by authors
  • Songs created by musicians
  • Plays created by playwrights

The protection under a copyright automatically begins when the work is created unless the creator has formed an agreement with another party who will own the IP for the work.

Patents are used to protect things like:

  • Newly invented machines, processes, or products
  • Newly invented designs to be manufactured
  • Newly invented plant varieties

Trademarks are used to protect specific words, symbols, or devices that represent a company or source of products. 

Intellectual property statements should cover trademarks, patents, and copyrights if not additional areas as well. 

If you need help with an intellectual property statement, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.