Intellectual property refers to creations of your mind, such as inventions, literary works, and artistic works. Intellectual property is protected by law in two primary ways: patents and copyrights. Typically, patents protect ideas, and copyrights protect the expression of those ideas. Other forms of intellectual property protection include trademarks, trade secrets, and contractual use restrictions (e.g., for databases and materials).
Protecting intellectual property
Securing a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ensures that others cannot make, use, or sell your intellectual property without your permission. Patents can be awarded to a material, a new use of an existing material, a process or method, or an improvement to any of these—so long as it can be demonstrated that the material, process, method, etc. is useful, not previously known, and not obvious to other professionals in the field.
Not every discovery—even those that can be successfully commercialized—requires a patent, though. There are complex legal requirements that determine whether an invention is patentable, which should be addressed by an experienced patent attorney. IU's Innovation and Commercialization Office employs in-house and external patent counsel to ensure exemplary patent strategy, drafting, and prosecution.
Copyrights typically apply to works of art, books, software, and other intellectual property that may be easily reproduced. Copyright exists the moment the work is created. IU's Innovation and Commercialization Office may register copyrights with the U.S. Copyright Office before licensing them, but registration is not necessary in the early stages of commercialization.