What is 'Intellectual Property'

Intellectual property is a broad categorical description for the set of intangibles owned and legally protected by a company from outside use or implementation without consent. Intellectual property can consist of patents, trade secrets, copyrights and trademarks or simply ideas.

The concept of intellectual property relates to the fact that certain products of human intellect should be afforded the same protective rights that apply to physical property. Most developed economies have legal measures in place to protect both forms of property.

BREAKING DOWN 'Intellectual Property'

Companies are diligent when it comes to identifying and protecting intellectual property because it holds such high value in today's increasingly knowledge-based economy. Extracting value from intellectual property and preventing others from deriving value from it is an important responsibility for any company. Many forms of intellectual property cannot be listed on the balance sheet as assets, but the value of such property tends to be reflected in the price of the stock.

Intellectual Property in the News

In 2017, there was a widely publicized intellectual property case in which a company called Waymo sued Uber over alleged stealing and implementation of technology relating to Waymo's self-driving car program. The plans for the technology, although not yet completely viable, constituted significant intellectual property for Waymo. When they alleged that Uber had obtained their intellectual property, they were able to take action through the court system to attempt to keep Uber from utilizing the information to enhance their own self-driving car program.

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