Intellectual property law is a part of Commercial law dealing with those products of the intellect which are of a proprietary nature. Typically, authors or inventors are granted a legal monopoly over the use of their creations, but only for a limited time. The theory in support of this monopoly is that the author/inventor is rewarded for their work, while society benefits from the advancement of new ideas or technologies.

In the United States, the power to grant patents and copyrights is found in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.

The Congress shall have Power... To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries...

Classes of intellectual property laws Edit

Intellectual property law may be broadly categorized into four classifications: copyright, design, patent, and trademark.

Copyright law regulates the protection of the rights of authors and publishers. The protection of authors' rights normally includes provisions relating to the protection of a right of attribution of an author's work to the author of that work, and provisions relating to the protection of economic rights to the exploitation of the author's work. The protection of publishers' rights normally includes provisions for the exclusive right to exploitation of copies of a copyright work for a limited time (normally 70 years). In most jurisdictions, copyright is an automatic right established by the creation of a copyright work. In some jurisdictions, there is a pre-requirement that the copyright work be registered with a government agency in order to institute legal proceedings for infringement of copyright.

Design law regulates the protection of the rights of designers and manufacturers of products. Products having a design input will normally possess an appeal to the eye of prospective purchasers to encourage them to purchase those products instead of the products of a competitor. Thus, design law normally deals with the shape, configuration or ornamentation applied to three-dimensional products and the pattern or ornamentation applied to two-dimensional products. Some jurisdictions include an unregistered design right, but most require that there be a registration of the design applied to a product for protection to be established, whereupon the rights holder will be granted a monopoly in the design for a limited time. In order to be registrable, it is normally required that the design be novel.

Patent law regulates the protection of the rights of inventors or their employers by granting monopolies for inventions. A patent for an invention is a statutory monopoly granted for a limited time in exchange for providing either or both the teaching of an invention and the introduction of a manufacture into the economy. In order to be a patentable invention, it is nearly always required that the invention be novel, involve an inventive step and have industrial applicability, as well as satisfy a range of other requirements of the patent laws of the relevant jurisdiction.

Trademark law regulates the marks used by traders to distinguish their goods and services from the similar goods or services of their competitors. Founded in the public policy principle that purchasers of goods have a right to certainty of quality and origin of the goods or services that they purchase, certain rights a provided for in trademark law granting rights of limited scope but unlimited time in trade marks used by traders. Trade marks are normally considered to be a distinctive sign used in the course of trade to identify the goods or services of a trader. In order to be distinctive, the sign must either be inherently adapted to distinguish or have an acquired distinctiveness by virtue of either long term or extensive use of the sign. Trademarks may be registered, a facility which normally provides the trade mark owner with more cost effective protection. Thus, there are unregistered rights and registered rights, but in the law relating to competing interests in trade marks between traders, there is a dichotomy amongst jurisdictions between whether the mark is first to be used or first to be registered as to whether one trade will retain the rights to a trade mark.