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Intellectual property

Intellectual property is a broad category of property (and the related rights) the law recognizes to enforce ownership of creative inventions—often said to be creations of the mind or of human intellect—including patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets.

Intellectual property is sometimes referred to as intangible property or rights because it often exists in a person’s mind as an intangible creation of human innovation rather than in the traditional physical forms of real property (real estate) and personal property (personal belongings).

Despite often being created and protected in intangible form in the human mind, intellectual property is often converted to a more physical or tangible form—such as when a song is written on paper or in electronic format on a computer; when a company’s trademark is placed on its website or products; or when a patented process or design is embodied in a piece of machinery or equipment.

In Texas, as in other states, intellectual property laws are designed to protect the rights of creators and innovators by recognizing their ownership over their unique creations. These laws encompass patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets. Patents, administered by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), protect inventions and processes for a certain period, allowing the patent holder exclusive rights to use and sell the invention. Copyrights protect original works of authorship, such as literature, music, and art, for the life of the author plus 70 years, ensuring that creators can control how their work is used. Trademarks protect symbols, names, and slogans used to identify goods or services, and they can last indefinitely as long as they are in use and properly maintained. Trade secrets involve information that companies keep confidential to maintain a competitive edge. While these areas of intellectual property are governed primarily by federal law, Texas law also provides remedies for infringement and misappropriation, and Texas courts enforce these rights. Additionally, the Texas Secretary of State's office handles the registration of trademarks within the state. Intellectual property in Texas can be both an intangible creation and, when expressed or embodied in a tangible medium, a valuable piece of property with enforceable rights.

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