Intellectual property is a term used by publishers of non-free works to refer to copyrights, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets based on these vague similarities:
- they all arise from intellectual effort, and
- they are all forms of "property", or state-sponsored rights to exclude other people from doing certain things.
Opponents of intellectual
Why it confuses
Richard M. Stallman, founder of the project to develop the GNU operating system, has called the use of the term "intellectual property" by these publishers "a seductive mirage". As I understand it, his points are as follows:
- "Intellectual property" conflates the respective purposes and scope of copyright, patent, trademark, and trade secret law.
- "Intellectual property" further conflates the respective purposes and scope of these legal traditions with those of laws governing land use.
- Abbreviation as "IP" implies that these conflations should have been well accepted enough that the reader should take them for granted.
How to write more clearly
If by "intellectual property" you mean copyright, say "copyright" instead of "intellectual property" and "copr." instead of "IP". If by "intellectual property" you mean a bundle of disparate rights that are licensed as a unit, consider how they differ before writing.