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Types of Intellectual Property

When discussing copyright, it is important to distinguish that from other types of intellectual property protections.

  • Copyrights: protects authors of original works against theft of their ideas by others. Selected copyrighted items include books and other literature; music and sound recordings; software; and works of art. The Library of Congress' Copyright Office administers U.S. copyrights.
  • Patents: protects inventors from having their ideas stolen by others. Ideas about inventions cannot be patented. Only the inventions themselves receive patents. Note: a written description of an invention that is copyrighted does not prevent others from benefiting from the invention. It only prevents others from benefiting from the description. The Office of Patents and Trademarks administers U.S. patents. See the subject guide to patents at .
  • Trade Secrets: Companies protect internal secrets through non-disclosure agreements with its employees. For example, the formula for Coca-Cola is a trade secret, not a patent. Thus, the Coke company does not have to file a description of its formula with the Office of Patents and Trademarks.
  • Trademarks: symbols, designs, and/or colors used by entities to advertise or mark their products. The McDonalds symbol is an example. The Office of Patents and Trademarks administers U.S. trademarks.

See Trademark and Other Intellectual Property Resource Guide ( for a good summary that compares copyright, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets.

United States

American Library Association
Topics cover anti-piracy legislation, copyright tools, court cases, digital copyright, fair use, the Google book settlement, open access, and distance education.

Copyright & Fair Use Web Site (Stanford University Libraries)
Provides access to primary materials; current legislation: legal cases; a summary of the Copyright Law; and related issues.

Intellectual Property Resource Center (VoiceNation Live)
Links provide background information about copyright, patents, industrial designs, and trade secrets.

United States Copyright Office (U.S. Library of Congress)
Provides an overview, as well as the full text of current U.S. copyright laws; information on how to register copyrighted works; and a searchable database of copyright records. Most Copyright Office publications are available full-text at . Search the Libraries Catalog for many of the same items, plus additional ones.

United States Code Title 17: Copyrights (Cornell University)
Reproduces the copyright law, United States Code -Title 17.


Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO)
The Canadian Intellectual Property Office administers and processes most Canadian intellectual property, including patents; trademarks; copyrights; industrial designs; and integrated circuit topographies. The following is a good overview:

Chapter C-42: Copyright Act
The Department of Justice of Canada provides full text of the Copyright Act, along with related regulations.


EU Copyright Office
Defines copyright and intellectual property, and links to the EU copyright database and frequently asked questions.

European Copyright Code (European Union)
Links to the Code, its background, and contact information.

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is the UN agency responsible for promotion and protection of intellectual property throughout the world. It administers multilateral treaties dealing with legal and administrative aspects of the subject. The WIPO Web site provides the full texts of its treaties ( ). See ASL subject guide, Treaties and Other International Agreements at for additional data about international agreements. See also:

    • Collection of Laws for Electronic Access (CLEA)
      Covers foreign national and international laws about all aspects of intellectual property.



Additional Information

Copyright Law (University at Buffalo. Law Library)
Lists introductions to the subject, legal practice guides, and related journals.

Patents, Copyright, and Intellectual Property (University at Buffalo. Arts and Sciences Libraries)
Describes major databases, national and international patent offices, copyright and patents, commercial patent services, and related UB services and policies.

Working with Scholarly Information (National Paralegal College)
Describes factors to consider when using copyrighted information and intellectual property.  Examples include plagerism, paraphrases and quotes, and fair use.