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Patents, Copyrights, Trademarks

Intellectual property (or "IP") is a category of property that includes intangible creations of the human intellect, and primarily encompasses copyrights, patents, and trademarks. It also includes other types of rights, such as trade secrets, publicity rights, moral rights, and rights against unfair competition. Artistic works like music and literature, as well as some discoveries, inventions, words, phrases, symbols, and designs can all be protected as intellectual property. Intellectual property law has evolved over centuries. It was not until the 19th century that the term "intellectual property" began to be used, and not until the late 20th century that it became commonplace in the majority of the world.

The main purpose of intellectual property law is to encourage the creation of a wide variety of intellectual goods. To achieve this, the law gives people and businesses property rights to the information and intellectual goods they create, usually for a limited period of time. Because they can then profit from them, this gives economic incentive for their creation.

The intangible nature of intellectual property presents difficulties when compared with traditional property like land or goods. Unlike traditional property, intellectual property is indivisible – an unlimited number of people can "consume" an intellectual good without it being depleted. Additionally, investments in intellectual goods suffer from problems of appropriation – while a landowner can surround their land with a robust fence and hire armed guards to protect it, a producer of information or an intellectual good can usually do very little to stop their first buyer from replicating it and selling it at a lower price. Balancing rights so that they are strong enough to encourage the creation of information and intellectual goods but not so strong that they prevent their wide use is the primary focus of modern intellectual property law.

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