Ownership of physical property is immediately tangible, while intellectual property law has a little more difficulty in pinning down title on behalf of its true owner. Essentially this legal area refers to the conferment of rights on the ideas, information, and inventions that individuals have conceived and developed, but there is a nuance in the understanding of the form of rights being transferred. In fact, the ‘exclusive rights’ that creative individuals obtained pertain to the way or form in which ideas are expressed; the manner in which they are transmitted.
The conferment of rights involves constructs designed to protect rights to transmit ideas that are not easily tangible, therefore the constructs themselves require some discussion, and awareness of the subtleties involved in their nature and intentions. These constructs may not always be mutually exclusive, and overlap may be evident.
Intellectual property law relating to copyright refers to the establishment of rights to a creative individual to ensure that they, and only they, are legally entitled to reproduce or change their works for a specified time period. Breach of copyright can give rise to legal action, and such actions may take the form of manipulating the substance of creative works so their transmission is not in their original, intended form, or it may take the form of unsanctioned reproduction of creative materials.
Patent law involves the protection of an invention: that is, a creative concept or product or machine that undertakes a task. The invention should stand credibly as a new conceptual or mechanic enterprise. Patenting the invention gives the creative individual the right to market and profit from selling the invention, and protects them from competitors doing the same, for a specified period.
Trademark law refers to legal protection of a business’s name, or the names of brands associated with the business. This legal protection may be important, if customer loyalty towards a business is strongly associated with the specific brand or name involved. Competitors who attempt to market their goods or services using a highly similar name in an attempt to deceive customers, or who even try to register the business or brand name themselves, may thus pose a significant threat to the business’s wellbeing.
Intellectual property law also involves particular protective mechanisms. Industrial design rights, for example, ensure that the design or appearance of a product is protected. Trade secret protection is important in finance and commerce, and ensures that sensitive information remains undisclosed, with legal protection against its being revealed.
This branch of the law ensures that the transmission of original ideas and innovations are legally protected, and this may act as an incentive for those who have the capacity to develop commercially viable concepts. The legislation has also been criticised, it should be noted, as a form of protectionism that enables knowledge to be constrained and inaccessible; yet given the cut and thrust of the demands of a global competitive market, it is difficult to see how its existence as an important legal field might be realistically challenged.