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Copyright and Intellectual Property


The purpose of this guide is to facilitate the fair sharing of resources. You'll find answers to common copyright and intellectual property rights questions, information on the principles of fair use, and ways to get more help.


Intellectual Property refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions, literary and artistic works, and designs, including symbols, names and images used in commerce. Intellectual Property is protected in law by patents, copyright and trademarks, which enable people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create.

A Copyright protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. The duration of copyright protection depends on several factors. For works created by an individual, protection lasts for the life of the author, plus 70 years. For works created anonymously, pseudonymously, and for hire, protection lasts 95 years from the date of publication or 120 years from the date of creation, whichever is shorter.

A Patent is a limited duration property right relating to an invention, granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office in exchange for public disclosure of the invention. Patentable materials include machines, manufactured articles, industrial processes, and chemical compositions. The duration of patent protection depends on the type of patent granted.

A Trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. A service mark is a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than goods. Some examples include brand names, slogans, and logos.The term "trademark" is often used in a general sense to refer to both trademarks and service marks.


Definitions from the World Intellectual Property Organization and the U.S. Patent and Trademarks Office.