Updated October 29, 2020:

A violation of intellectual property can be a huge concern for a business due to the fact that intellectual property can be a valuable part of a company's marketing strategy, products, or services. Intellectual property is an extremely important part of a business.

What Is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property refers to any item created in the mind of a human whether it be a piece of artwork, music, a name, image, or design. There are four primary categories in which you can place intellectual property.

  • Trade secrets
  • Copyright
  • Trademark
  • Patent

When you have intellectual property rights, you have the exclusive ownership of the property and protection against the unauthorized use of those works. Copyright is most often used to protect a form of physical art, music, or writing and give the owner protection over the property they create.
The term copyright is used as a legal term to allow the creator to have exclusive rights to the material as the original maker of the content. Once you have filed for a copyright for your work, you will be able to reproduce it, require credit, or display it. You will also enjoy protection against others using it without your permission.

How Is Intellectual Property Defined?

Intellectual property is an intangible asset that covers a broad spectrum of ideas that are created by human intellect or imagination. While these intangible assets are protected by intellectual property laws, they are also entitled to other rights under the law such as:

  • Moral rights - Moral rights include the right to be able to publish work anonymously while still being able to require the integrity to be maintained and prevent the piece from being distorted. 
  • Utility model - This allows the owner to prevent others from using their invention for a limited amount of time. This is similar to a patent, though it has different time constraints.
  • Geographical indication - This refers to a symbol or a name that is used somewhere on a product to signify a specific geographic origin or location. 
  • Database right - A collection of reference materials is protected under U.S. copyright law
  • Indigenous intellectual property - This allows indigenous people to protect their cultural knowledge as intellectual property. 
  • Plant breeders' rights - These rights will give a breeder of a new plant variety exclusive control over propagation.

Intellectual Property Laws

Intellectual property laws were created to encourage progress and innovation by giving creators protection for the work that they create. With proper protection, creative individuals will be able to put their works out publicly for the benefit of society. Intellectual property laws act similarly to property ownership and use these exclusive rights to entice creative individuals to continue to pursue their work as they can be rewarded for their efforts with ownership.

Just the research and development for patented inventions, including the implementation and production of those inventions, helped to bolster the economy in the United States by over $5 trillion, according to a 2013 release by the United States Patent & Trademark Office.

Violation of Intellectual Property Rights 

If a third party were to assume ownership, copy, or sell someone's previously copywritten work, that would legally be considered a case of copyright infringement. Copyright law can still be enforced if others try to create simple deviations from the original source material.

When someone commits a violation or theft of intellectual property, it is referred to as infringement, if occurring with patent copyright or a trademark. The term misappropriation would be used if the theft or violation occurs with trade secrets and can sometimes be considered a criminal matter depending on the set of circumstances. 

In 2011, the use of counterfeit copyrighted and trademarked work was a $600 billion industry accounting for 7 percent of all global trade. Often, civil legal cases are settled to compensate the wronged party, but criminal sanctions can be used if deemed necessary.

Since an infringement case involves no tangible property, victims are often unaware of the occurrence until they are notified by authorities. To combat widespread infringement problems, the United States Congress continues to expand and strengthen the criminal laws against violations of intellectual property.

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