Museum for Black Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Creativity catalyzes commerce

The Museum for Black Innovation and Entrepreneurship (MBIE) in consultation with the Institute for Intellectual Property and Social Justice (IIPSJ), a leading source of legal scholarship, is undertaking a nationwide effort to raise public awareness of intellectual property, how to protect it, create it, commercialize it, and share it.

Librarians: Download the latest IPFI Librarian's Handbook, which guides you to learning how to help patrons protect and share their intellectual property.

Before continuing on this page, test your knowledge of author rights here: Author Rights Challenge Quiz or music rights here: Music Rights Challenge Quiz. Then see the answers here.



Too few people, particularly youth and those in underserved communities, understand what intellectual property is and how their Constitutional right to protect their IP can lead to asset ownership and income potential. We aim to educate them about IP, how to protect it, and how to benefit accordingly. Our collective effort is called, IP For Innovation. We are in the process of:

  • Developing and testing print and video educational materials that will raise awareness of IP and how to commercialize these creations.
  • Collaborating with existing educational programs as a means to reach creative people. Such programs are engaged in teaching topics such as: Architecture, Art, Dance, Drama, Film, Jewelry, Mapping, Music, Photography, Poetry, Spoken word, and Writing.
  • Collaborating with legal firms and organizations willing to provide copyright services to underserved populations on a pro bono basis.
  • Creating IPTank, an open-access database of copyright content that can be searched by publishers seeking new material.
  • Collaborating with libraries, churches, community-based businesses, Small Business Development Centers and other organizations to disseminate information on intellectual property.

Please join us to raise public awareness of the Constitution's right to protect IP at least as widespread as public awareness of the Second Amendment. Librarians in schools, prisons, and public libraries are invited to participate in a new initiative to help librarians learn how to file copyrights and publish works on behalf of their patrons/users.

For more information, contact: John R. Whitman, Ph.D., Executive Director, Museum for Black Innovation and Entrepreneurship, whitman@mbiedc.org.

Constitutional Protection

The clause in the U.S. Constitution that protects individual creativity is in Article I, Section 8: "The Congress shall have Power ... To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries; …."

This clause authorizes the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to register patents and trademarks, and the U.S. Copyright Office, within the Library of Congress, to register copyrights.

Types of Intellectual Property

Please visit the sites listed here for details and instructions on how to protect your IP.

1. Copyright

The federal government office that registers copyrights is the U.S. Copyright Office in the Library of Congress.

According to this site, "Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works" (https://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-general.html, cited 7 July 2018).

You do not have to register your copyright to own your work; you automatically own the copyright to your work. However, your chances of winning in a court of law are greater if you have registered your work with the U.S. Copyright Office.

Some authors prefer to share their work without compensation, but may still set requirements, such as for attribution. For further information on how to share your work, consult the Creative Commons.

2. Trademark

The federal government office that registers trademarks is the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

According to this site, "A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. A service mark is a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than goods. Some examples include: brand names, slogans, and logos. The term "trademark" is often used in a general sense to refer to both trademarks and service marks." (https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks-getting-started/trademark-basics/trademark-patent-or-copyright, cited 7 July 2018).

3. Patent

The federal government office that registers patents is the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

According to this site, "A patent is a limited duration property right relating to an invention, granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office in exchange for public disclosure of the invention" (https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks-getting-started/trademark-basics/trademark-patent-or-copyright, cited 7 July 2018).

4. Trade Secret

A trade secret is information that is so valuable to a company that it is not made public, and often not made available to anyone within the company who does not need to know it. Examples might be a customer list, a product recipe, and a printed circuit design. The advantage of a trade secret is that it need not be disclosed to any external agency, such as for registration.


A Word About Plagiarism

What about plagiarism? Plagiarism is the act of taking someone else's work as your own. This is considered unacceptable by educational institutions, and can result in severe sanctions, including expulsion. Just as we are promoting awareness of intellectual property, everyone, especially parents and educators, can strive to educate young people about the dishonesty and consequences of plagiarism. No one should graduate from high school without this knowledge.