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What is “Intellectual Property”?

“All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States... the Congress shall have Power 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.” United States Constitution, Article 1, Paragraph 8, Clause 8.

The writers of the Constitution understood that a U.S. Citizen has the right to protect the useful products can result from mental labor as well as physical labor. Over the years, a number of federal and international laws and best practices have evolved to protect so called “intellectual property”. The table below compares “intellectual property” with “real property”.

Real PropertyIntellectual Property
ExamplePersonal AutomobileFormula for a Synthetic Compound
How AcquiredWith Cash Obtained Performing Physical LaborWith Time Spent Performing Mental Labor
Basic RightsOwnership of Your BodyOwnership of Your Mind
Physical AttributesYesNo
Value to Others Yes Yes 
What's Protected The Property ItselfProfit from Use 
How it's Protected Laws Related to Theft Patent and Copyright Law 
Can be Sold or Licensed YesYes 


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Joseph Hill, PhD
Vice President
Office of Technology Development

Kalpa Vithalani, PhD
Licensing Manager
Office of Technology Development

James Antczak, PhD
Licensing Manager
Office of Technology Development