Intellectual Property Law
If you have an idea then that idea is yours and no one can take it from you. Your own mind is perhaps the only place where things are straightforward and where you live by the rules you make. There is no bureaucracy here, and no conspiracy (unless you're schizophrenic perhaps) and of course if you've come up with something then it's entirely your right to with it as you please and to make money from it and keep others from using it if you so wish.
That only seems fair and right, and you might think that that should be the way things work in the outside world as well. The problem is though, that as soon as you tell someone your idea or write it down things change and suddenly it's not so black and white. And while this might seem unfair, the complicated laws are actually there for a reason.
Take patents for instance. If you instantly had the patent on anything you invented and keep it forever, then you would be able to have ideas and keep them to yourself preventing others from making any business from them. Imagine if someone came up with the design for a chair and then instantly patented it forever - we'd all be standing up to this day.
That's why there are complications and limits regarding intellectual property law and why things aren't quite so black and white. However if you take the time to understand the system and the various laws then you can still make this work for you in order to protect your intellectual property. Here's how.
Understanding the Basics
There are three different ways you can protect an idea and each one is used in specific circumstances. For instance, if you produce a creative work such as a story or a poem then you can copyright this which will protect it for your entire life and even a time after you're deceased. Copyright goes into effect as soon as you create something, the only reason you might need a lawyer or legal help is to register that copyright so that you can prove that it was yours first.
Then there are patents. A patent applies to an invention or a process and here you are protecting the 'how' not the what. In other words then you couldn't in reality patent chairs, but you could patent the four legs design that we all know and love. Even then though this would require a lot of paper work and expense via the help of commercial lawyers and would only last for ten years.
Finally there are trademarks which are used to protect names and brands. For instance you could use a trademark to protect your business name or to protect the names of characters in your story. 'Superman' is a trademark for instance, as is 'DC Comics' and this doesn't prevent you from writing or saying those names (otherwise I'd be in trouble) but it does prevent others from making money from them directly.
Choosing the right type of protection is very important, as is making sure that you are protected against all situations. Find a lawyer to help ensure that only you can make money from your ideas and creations.