What are Intellectual Property Policies?

M. Lupica
M. Lupica
Businessman with a briefcase
Businessman with a briefcase

Governments all over the world have established laws with the purpose of protecting citizens’ rights in their intellectual property. There are four main types of intellectual property, each with different rationale behind their respective intellectual property policies. Copyright and patent policies are designed with the intent to promote the production of creative works and technical innovation, respectively. Trademark policies are geared toward protecting consumers. The less-discussed intellectual property policies — those having to do with trade secret — are generally to promote the interests of businesses who develop ways to increase their own efficiency.

Intellectual property policies regarding copyright are generally meant to grant ownership rights to the creator of a creative work, such as a book or a song. Copyright grants the owner the sole right of distribution and reproduction, among others. By giving people who create these works ownership rights in their existence, there is an incentive for others to create works of their own. Without the exclusive right to utilize the work for financial gain, a person would be less likely to write songs, poetry, or any other creative work as he or she would run the risk of putting the effort into its creation, only to see someone else make money on others’ enjoyment of the work.

Intellectual property policies concerning patent law are similar in nature to that of copyright. The basic idea behind such laws is to create an incentive for innovation — usually scientific innovation. Patent law grants in the patent holder the exclusive right to utilize his or her invention for the purposes of making money. Again, by granting this exclusive right in the innovator, it creates an incentive to create an invention, as he or she would have the sole right to utilize the patented invention for some business purpose for the duration of the patent.

The rationale behind trademark policy is much different than the previous two examples. Trademark exists for the benefit of the consumer, by granting the producer of a certain good or service the sole right to use an identifying mark or name in their marketing or sale of the particular product or service. By granting that sole right in that one producer, the aim is to minimize the consumers’ likelihood of confusion of the source of a product or service.

Trade secret law is the least prominent of intellectual property policies. Trade secrets are processes or collections of information that a company deems confidential as it somehow gives the company that developed the secret an economic advantage. For example, a company involved in sale of paper may have taken significant time and effort to compile a list of local distributors, along with the particular needs of those distributors that together allow the company to more efficiently execute its sales. As long as the company took measures to protect that information, it would garner protection in jurisdictions that recognize trade secret law. By doing so, governments create incentives for businesses to make efforts to find ways to increase their efficiency.

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