What is the difference between intellectual property, trademarks and copyrights.

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While these three things are all distinguishable from one another, there are ways in which they overlap.  Let us look at the similarities and differences between them.

Trademarks can be defined as words, symbols, or designs (or combinations of these) that are meant to identify the source of a given good.  Trademarks are markings that allow us to know that a given firm has created the good that we see.  For example, if we have an iPhone, the word “iPhone” on that device is a trademark of the Apple corporation.  This tells us that Apple, rather than some other company, made the phone.

A copyright is a set of rights that reside with the creator of a piece of art or literature.  Copyrights give their owner the exclusive right to profit from the piece of art or literature for a given time period.  For example, J. K. Rowling has the copyright on Harry Potter books.   This is one example of overlap.  Rowling owns the copyright on the books, but things like the name “Harry Potter” can be trademarked.

Intellectual property covers trademarks and copyrights.  Intellectual property is any sort of property created by human minds.  This category covers things like ideas, as opposed to physical objects like telephones.  The Harry Potter books are Rowling’s intellectual property.  The iPhone trademark is the intellectual property of Apple.  Thus, trademarks and copyrighted materials are types of intellectual property, but there are other types of intellectual property as well.

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