Introduction to Intellectual Property


Understanding the rules around physical property is fairly straightforward. You have your stuff, and I have my stuff. We can choose to trade or sell our stuff to each other. I can borrow your stuff for awhile, but you’ll expect that I’ll return it. Please don’t take my stuff, and I won’t take your stuff. Intellectual property leaves room for more questions. When considering concepts like published writing, artistic output, and new inventions, what even qualifies as my stuff and your stuff? Can it be borrowed or taken? You’re probably familiar with the terms copyright, patent, and trademark. But how do these apply to you from a legal standpoint and on the University of Wisconsin Madison campus? Will you own the intellectual property you create as a student here? This micro course will attempt to answer some basic questions you may have about intellectual property. Including, what is intellectual property, and what is it intended to do? What are the legally recognized types of intellectual property, and how do they differ? What are the important things to know about intellectual property from a cultural, legal and University of Wisconsin policy perspective? And where can you find more help on campus in navigating intellectual property issues? We hope you’ll find this micro-course helpful as you create your own intellectual property and work with the intellectual property of others at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.


Whether we realize it or not, we engage with intellectual property every day. Unlike physical property, however, intellectual property resists easy definition, and the rules around it can often seem inconsistent, with our understanding coming from cultural contexts, laws around specific types of intellectual property, and institutional policies that further affect how we engage with our cultural understanding and the law. This micro-course is intended to clarify intellectual property as you may encounter it and produce it in your time at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

Learning Objectives

By completing this course, you will:

  1. Develop your understanding of the value of information and intellectual property
  2. Be able to identify and describe the various types of legal intellectual property
  3. Gain an understanding of the cultural, legal, and institutional policy frameworks that control intellectual property in context
  4. Learn about library and other campus resources on intellectual property and how to access them