Intellectual Property

Overview

Intellectual property (IP) law developed over time to protect different forms of intangible subject matter. The concept is not new: Jewish law early on prohibited plagiarism, calling it "g'neivat da'at," or stealing the mind. The earliest use of the term "intellectual property" was in an 1845 Massachusetts Circuit Court ruling in a patent case.

The term intellectual property did not come into common usage in the United States until December 1980, when Congress enacted the Bayh-Dole Act or Patent and Trademark Law Amendments Act, 35 U.S.C. § 200-212. The Act gave U.S. universities, non-profits and small businesses control over their inventions resulting from federal government-funded research. Since then, the protections afforded intellectual property have expanded exponentially.

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