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What is the Difference Between Copyright & Intellectual Property

Many of us techies, entrepreneurs, and even some legal folks I am sure can't even answer the question posed above, What is the difference between copyright and intellectual property?  But in all honesty for those of you out there building a product and company really need to know the subtle differences to be able to protect your investment.  Without this basic knowledge, you could very well find yourself on the wrong and/or losing end of a legal battle that you could very well avoid.

I decided to do a little studying on the topic and pass along some knowledge for our community.  

Lets start with the easy stuff, the straight definitions of each term:

Copyright– the exclusive right to make copies, license, and otherwise exploit a literary, musical, or artistic work, whether printed, audio, video, etc.: works granted such right by law on or after January 1, 1978, are protected for the lifetime of the author or creator and for a period of 50 years after his or her death.

Intellectual Property – property that results from original creative thought, as patents, copyright material, and trademarks.

Okay, that's the book definition, but what does it all mean?

According to Wiki Answers,

Intellectual property (i.p.) rights refer to a collection of rights that includes copyright among other rights such as patents.

Many intellectual property rights overlap to some extent.

You may think of Intellectual Property of an umbrella of sorts that encompasses thinks like copyrights, trademarks, and patents.  I found a really good blog that writes on many of these legal issues called Core Copyright and they had a good paragraph and visual I wanted to share with you:

Generally speaking, most people will agree that copyright, trademark, and patent law fall under the umbrella of intellectual property, mostly decided under federal law. As a general premise, I usually add licensing law and trade secret law under the intellectual property umbrella. Licenses and trade secrets are decided under state law.

Well I hope this helps a bit for you all.  Do any of you have other good explanations/advice for the est of us ?  Drop us a comment below.

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Written by:
Jimmy Gardner is a Senior Unix/Windows Engineer, a lover of technology and photography. Follow him online at @jjgardner3 and enjoy his portfolio at
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