Where does intellectual property come from? Different places. Patents and copyrights come from the U.S. Constitution — Article I, section 8, clause 8. It says Congress shall have the power to:
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
“To promote the progress of science and useful arts”
Patents can only be granted for scientific inventions. However, laws of nature and mathematical formulas are discoveries, not inventions, so they can’t be patented. Patents have reasonable terms — 20 years from the date of filing.
Copyrights can granted on most types of artistic works movies, songs, books, magazines, sculptures, and almost any other writing or work of art. Copyrights last much longer than patents — 75 years after death. Why? It sounds silly to say, “because of Mickey Mouse” — but every time Mickey Mouse’s copyright gets close to expiring, a certain company lobbies Congress to get its copyrights extended. Is it constitutional to keep extending copyright terms?
“by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries”
Owners can exclude others (in court) from making, selling, copying, or otherwise using their inventions and writings. Owners can sell, license, and transfer intellectual property just like other personal property (cars, jewelry, etc.).
Let us know if we can help with your patent and copyright needs.