Intellectual property refers to any creation, including things like inventions and art pieces, and how they are used in commerce. Any kind of intellectual property is protected by a series of items such as copyrights, trademarks or patents, depending on the type of property. These protective copyrights or patents also allow the person who created the property to be credited for it and to receive the financial benefits of its sale or use. If you have a trademark or copyright and the property is used by someone else, you could pursue a lawsuit requesting them to cease and desist or requesting compensation for using your product.
There are many kinds of intellectual property that are protected by law, and each is protected in a slightly different way. For instance, if you write a book and publish it, that publication is protected by copyright law. The story can't be taken and plagiarized, and your characters are protected. You own the copyright to the literary work even before it's published in many cases.
If you have an invention, the invention must be protected by a patent. A patent provides the owner of the invention the right to decide if the invention can be used by others and how it can be used if it is. Technical information about the product can be provided in the patent, but the owner can decide not to release that data, too, especially in cases where the invention could be recreated and used negatively.
Trademarks are another way to show ownership over a product. It shows that a particular person or company is the source of a good or service. Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson and other companies all have trademarked logos that is used on their products to exclusively identify what is provided by their companies.
Each type of intellectual property protection has its place and purpose.These types of protections (patents, copyright, and trademark) along with trade secret protection, overlap in a number of ways to protect the creative work and business efforts of organizations and individuals.
Source: World Intellectual Property Organization, "What is Intellectual Property?," accessed July 01, 2015