Intellectual Property, also used in its abbrevation IP describes a bundle of legal rights to protect creations of men. In some legal systems a differentation is made between copyrights (droit d'auteur) and industrial property. Industrial property rights usually comprise patent rights, trademark rights, and industrial design rights.
In some countries more specialised rights exist, like plant breeders rights or utility models. In the wider sense unfair competition laws can be seen as laws also protecting intellectual assests.
In contrary to tangible assets, like a hammer, a car, a horse, or a house, which are not arbitraribly increasable at no cost, intellectual property could be copied as often as desired, once it was created for the first time. Therfore some people do not accept that intangible assests should be protected by any property rights. This discussion became vital espacially in relation to computer implemented inventions. In the intellectual property rights system the first creator (or the first to file an application) will prevail those who are second, even if their creation has been conceived independently. In order not to block progress, intellectual property rights are granted only for a limited period of time or are bound to the obligation to use it (e.g. trademarks).
In order to help creators or inventors to assure their IP rights, attorneys spezialised in intellectual property will assist creators and inventors, or those owning the intellectual property. In some countries Patent Attorneys, sometimes called patent lawyers and Trademark Attorneys, sometimes called trademark lawyers have to pass seperate exams. Allthough a German Patent Attorney has only the word patent in his name, he has studied both major disciplines, patent and trademark law, as well as the others areas like plant breeding rights, utility models, or industrial design.