Intellectual property laws protect those create original works and inventions from copying or distributing those works without the owner’s permission. As such, intellectual property is a valuable business asset that if strategically utilized, can enhance a firm’s competitiveness domestically and globally. As explained by Nexsun Pruett
, intellectual property reflects the firm’s “know how.” Patents and trade secrets protect the firm’s innovations and confidential, proprietary information. Copyrights protect a firm’s or individual’s writings, compositions, and artistic work, giving the owner exclusive control over the right to publish, copy, perform, or license the work; in addition, copyrighted material can also form part of the firm’s message and brand. Similarly, trademarks operate to protect the firm’s name, logo, symbols, and slogans that we associate with its brand and reputation.
Experts estimate the value of these intangible property rights at more than 80% of the average firm’s value. Others estimate that intellectual property contributes more than $5 trillion dollars to the US economy annually. Unfortunately, it is much easier to copy and distributed intellectual property than it is to create. As a consequence, theft of intellectual property such as music and movie piracy costs American business roughly $250 billion annually and more than 750,000 jobs; similarly, the misappropriation or theft of trade secrets and be devastating to the firm. This module discusses intellectual property protected under state and/or federal law: patents, copyrights, trademarks (including the protection of domain names under anti-cybersquatting statutes), and trade secrets.