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Intellectual Property at UT

Intellectual property is more than an idea—it has to be put into practice. You may have an idea for a song that celebrates traditional East Tennessee culture and is fun to sing at football games, but it doesn’t become intellectual property until you write “Rocky Top.”

Intellectual property can be an invented object, a process, a creative work, or a unique business that provides a product or service.

How is intellectual property protected?

The United States provides for three general types of intellectual property protection:

  • A patent protects inventions such as machines, manufactured objects, chemicals, and chemical. Patents generally last 15 to 20 years, depending on the type.
  • Copyright protects creative works such as writing, music, art, films, software (including apps), and architecture. For works created by an individual, copyright protection generally lasts 70 years after the creator’s death.
  • A trademark protects the words, phrases, and designs that describe the source of a product or service—for example, the name of a business or invention. Trademark protection generally lasts for as long as the mark remains in use.

For more information, see the US Patent and Trademark Office website.

IP for Students