Intellectual Property in practice is an area of law describing three elements of the concept. The first part is a protected thing, such as a novel product, artistic works, or identifying features of a brand. The second part is an owner of the protected thing, whether it is an individual working from their garage or at the lab at work on behalf of an organization. Finally, there is a time frame for which this creation is protected. For the duration of the time the owner of the intellectual property has monopoly control over the created thing.
For a patent this is a relatively modest time frame, approximately 20 years from the earliest filing, with 17 years guaranteed from the issue date. This of course changes depending on the type of patent issued, but is a good general rule.
Copyright is longer. Currently a copyright is good for the author’s life plus 70 years. If there is more than one author, then the 70 years starts once the final author has passed away. When it is a work for hire or anonymous work, the time frame is either 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation.
Trademarks, Trade dress, and trade secrets are effectively eternal. Trademarks do have a statutory time period, but there is an endless supply of renewals so long as the mark remains in use. This makes sense as these three types of intellectual property are intrinsically tied to an corporate entity. Corporations are legal fictions of eternal people and those identifying features should remain with the Corporation for so long as desired.
As a business or individual these registrations, filings, and needs for an attorney can seem daunting. However, the investments gives a strong return. Obtaining a copyright on a play will see returns for the authors entire life and some of the life of their children. A filed trademark will follow the company until the company changes the trademark. Creating a new product may result in enough years to make a return on investment for research and development. Intellectual property is worth obtaining because the monopoly granted by the government makes it valuable.