What’s Intellectual Property?

Regardless if you’re a rapper who’s looking to get signed to someone else’s record label or to solely function as an independent artist it’s absolutely critical that you understand what intellectual property is. In this article I will break down all the basics of everything you need to know out the gate.


So what’s the definition of intellectual property also referred to as I.P for short. It means
a work or invention that is the result of creativity, such as a manuscript or a design, to which one has rights and for which one may apply for a patent, copyright, trademark, etc.

Value Of I.P

A lot of a companies value is based on their intellectual property. For example if an artist is signed to a record label and then ends up leaving, the record label still owns the rights to their music and possibly even the artists name all of which depends on the specifics negotiated in the record contract. Since the label still owns the music they will always be able to make money off it. Skee-lo is one of the few artists who was able to leave his label while retaining the rights to his music and name after beating them in court.

Types Of Intellectual Property

Now let’s take a brief look at different types of intellectual property.
  • trademarks: A symbol, word or words representing a company or product (goods) such as McDonald’s and Big Mac which both are trademarked.
  • servicemarks: A symbol, word or words representing a service such as your rap name since you are providing a service when you perform on stage.
  • copyrights: Exclusive right to print, publish, record, etc.
  • trade secretsTechnique used in manufacturing a product such as the secret recipe to Coca Cola.
  • patentsRight to exclude others from making your product.
  • utility patents: Protects an articles function or mechanics and subject matter such as chemicals for example cologne and perfume.
  • design patents: Protects an article’s design for example its unique external appearance.

What’s your intellectual property?


It’s important to understand what your own intellectual property is. If you don’t know what it is you could be possibly infringing on someone else’s I.P. For example if you write a song to a beat you purchased with exclusive rights from a producer it’s your responsibility to find out if the instrumental is using any samples and to get the proper clearances before making money off it. Tho your lyrics may be original if the song uses samples you could be infringing upon someone else’s copyright.

Patented Inventions

And just because you have a patent still doesn’t give you the permission to produce your product without first checking to see if you are using someone else’s patents in your products. For example if you were to create a new device that uses the 3.5mm jack to plug into your phones headphone jack you would need to first make sure you’re not infringing on someone else’s patent for the 3.5mm jack.

Artist Names

The same concept applies to trademarks and servicemarks. There have been several artists who have been sued because they used a stage name that was already taken. For example in Dec of 2007 Soulja Boy (Tell’Em) was being sued By Souljah Boy (Mo’Thugs) who has been affiliated with Bone Thugs N Harmony since the 90’s for infringement of trademark.

How Did I Do?

Hopefully this all give you a basic idea of what intellectual property is. If you found this article helpful or have any questions or comments I’d love to hear from you so please drop your 2 cents in the comments section below!
    • Hey Mike,

      You’re right, any producer who is professional should disclose that information to you. Unfortunately all producers aren’t professional so it’s always a good idea to double check with the producer to see if any samples were used.

  • Awesome, important, valuable information.
    What would be the chances to remix instrumentals, and some dialogue from Disney’s the jungle book 1970’s? At least we can use music from the baroque, classical, etc. eras without infringement.

    • Thanks Tony! I’m not sure if the copyright laws are different for older recordings or not. Have you read anything about it that states it’s fair use? Feel free to drop a link. I’d love to check it out. 🙂

    • IF you both are making money off the song then it could fall on both of you. However if the producers gives you 100% exclusive rights and states in a contract that he doesn’t want a percentage of publishing then the responsibility will fall completely on you.

  • It caught my attention when you explained the intellectual property a company owns has a large effect on its value. Now that I think about it, I’d like to learn more about the conferences held between different countries to make sure there are no conflicts with the different IPs of their many companies. Thanks for sharing this interesting info about the definition and importance of intellectual property!

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