An Introduction to Intellectual Property

I don’t know about you, but I’m not great with understanding abstract concepts. I need something tangible to grasp on to. Well, that’s the aim of intellectual property law. Intellectual property law is designed to protect abstract things like ideas, expressions, and the like by making sure they are in a tangible form.

Still a little complicated right? Let me break it down for you. One of my first intellectual property professors gave my class this hypothetical, which put intellectual property and its protection into a means I could understand, and I hope it does the same for you.

Now just follow me for a minute and it will all come together. Let’s say you have a plot of land and on this land you want to grow something. In my hypothetical we plant an orange grove (Hey! We are in Florida, after all!). Well, from the trees we get oranges. But this land is open and not protected. Anybody can come onto my land and steal the oranges, the trees, or even the nutrient dense dirt used to grow my trees. So how should we protect it? Well there are several options, some offer better protection than others, while others are less expensive but may not afford our land as much protection. The first thing I think of is, let’s put up a fence. Well, that could get expensive. We want a tall fence that won’t have any holes or gaps in it. Something strong enough to keep people out for a good long time. This is a lot of protection and may have a price tag. Another option would be to hire a rent-a-cop. Maybe not as expensive, but people could slip through the gaps as he’s making his rounds. I’ll discuss both of these protection scenarios in a later post, so remember these!

So how does this tie into Intellectual Property, you ask. Well, think of the land as your idea, and from your idea you get something tangible to trade in commerce – your oranges or your trees. Intellectual Property Law is the fence that you put up around your idea to keep it safe. Intellectual Property aims to protect your idea by keeping others from being able to use it without your consent. Intellectual Property Law requires a tangible form of your idea (the oranges) to protect and not just the idea itself (the land). Intellectual property protects your idea by protecting the tangible form of your idea.

I hope this gives you clarity on what exactly intellectual property law is and how to better understand the basic policy behind it. Next, we will dive into the different areas of intellectual property. Until then – be kind and promote progress, don’t stifle it!