What is Intellectual Property ?
What is Intellectual Property ?

Appropriately, one of the first post here seeks to define Intellectual Property (IP) so as to set the context and background.

As the name itself suggests, a ‘property’ pertaining to ‘intellect’ is in the domain of Intellectual Property. It is commonly understood that humans only have intellect ( a notion which is increasingly under challenge, leading to quite serious dilemmas and discussions in the IP field – but I digress !). Hence IP pertains to human intellect.

With that being understood, let us now turn to ‘property’. The Business Dictionary defines ‘property‘ , for the purpose of Law as :

“Article, item, or thing owned with the rights of possession, use, and enjoyment, and which the owner can bestow, collateralize, encumber, mortgage, sell, or transfer, and can exclude everyone else from it. Two basic kinds of property are (1) Real (land), involving a degree of geographical fixity, and (2) Personal (anything other than real property) which does not involve geographical fixity. Personal property is subdivided into tangible property (any physical animate or inanimate object) and intangible property.

And for most usual purposes, this definition does very nicely  Note that IP is a type of property and hence, carries the same attributes ( properties ! – but to avoid confusion, let us stick to the term attributes here :-)) as that of any other property. The major difference is that it is intangible.

This intangibility leads to laws that are quite distinct from the other, usual branches of laws addressing ‘physical ‘ property ( whether fixed as in a plot of land, or mobile as in a piece of jewellery)  as is commonly understood ( such as laws pertaining to land, theft etc. ) although at many, many points there is a commonality of procedures since all ultimately pertain to ‘property’.

And this intangibility is what makes the whole field of IP so interesting to any so inclined ! Take a simple example – a car is stolen. Car being tangible the fact of it being stolen can be readily established. But IP by definition is intangible. So, how do you establish its theft ? 🙂

Further, how can one have ” possession, use, and enjoyment” and can ” bestow, collateralize, encumber, mortgage, sell, or transfer, and exclude everyone else” of / from a ‘thing’ which is ‘intangible’ and hence not a ‘thing’ to begin with !!

At the same time this intangibility in no way takes away from the importance of IP. The intangible property ultimately finds expression in tangible articles. Be it, for instance, mobile phones, books, paintings, records and even sounds ! And multibillion dollar legal wars that may extend globally are often  fought as IP holders seek to protect their property since the stakes are even higher !

Intriguing, isn’t it ? And certainly not very easy to grasp. But stay the course and hopefully, we both will understand and also have fun along the way !

Bearing above in mind, here is how World Intellectual Property Organization sets out to explain IP:

“Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce. IP is protected in law by, for example, patents, copyrights and trademarks, which enable people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create. By striking the right balance between the interests of innovators and the wider public interest, the IP system aims to foster an environment in which creativity and innovation can flourish.”

I hope this preliminary introduction is useful. I will be adding to this post – or add other posts with time. Meanwhile, comments welcome !

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