Intellectual property describes a wide variety of things created by musicians, authors, artists, and inventors. The development of technology and art is encouraged by granting certain property rights. These rights allow artists and inventors to protect themselves from infringement, or the unauthorized use of their creations. As you can see, the patent or trademark that you are interested in falls under the larger subject of intellectual property. Materials that can be protected include not just tangible things, but trade names, graphic designs, musical works, books, chemicals, plants, and even genetic codes.
Registering a patent for your invention with the United States Patent and Trademark Office is an application for a grant of property rights to the invention in this country for 20 years. This grant is subject to maintenance fees. In their pamphlet General Information Concerning Patents, the Patent and Trademark Office says, "The right conferred by the patent grant is, in the language of the statute and of the grant itself, 'the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention in the United States or importing the invention into the United States. What is granted is not the right to make, use, offer for sale, sell or import, but the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, selling or importing the invention."
Trademarks are used by their owners to identify goods that are sold or transported via interstate commerce. The mark itself is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of these that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.
A copyright protects an original artistic or literary work. Copyright registration is done by the Library of Congress. More information can be found on its web site, http://www.copyright.gov.
Other Internet sources for information on intellectual property: