Intellectual property refers to someone's original creation, but not something that is typically tangible. For example, when a singer writes a song, this is their original creation or property even though a song is not tangible, or something you can pick up with your hands. Intellectual property can refer to a book of any sort, artwork, music, a trademark, and the like. Because intellectual property is protected by law, it's good to know when you want to speak to an attorney about this issue in order to protect yourself.
1. Before you publish any book
It's easy to think that if you're the publisher of a book then no one would ever steal that work, since your name is on the cover of the book as an author. This isn't always the case, as it's very easy for people to take a book and upload it as their own work on any number of websites, and sell it as their own. Digital copies of books can be used to create new work, and covers can be scanned and then modified and altered very easily. This can make it difficult for ownership of that work to be proven. Before you publish your book and especially before you make it available through a digital copy, speak to an intellectual property attorney so you can take the steps necessary to ensure your ownership of that work is legally registered and protected.
2. When designing a new product for production
Unless you work for a company or someone else as a designer or engineer, you want to ensure that your design is protected by patent law. This keeps an outside company from manufacturing that product without your permission, since the design is considered your intellectual property. A patent attorney can note if your design is original or if it too closely resembles another design that is already patented, and can then walk you through the process of applying for patent and ensuring your work is protected.
3. When you want to collaborate with someone else
Because intellectual property is not tangible, it can be difficult to determine how that property should be shared when you collaborate with someone else on its creation. If you're thinking of working with someone else to write a book, design a product, or otherwise create intellectual property, you want to work with an intellectual property lawyer first. He or she can write up an agreement that clearly outlines how that property will be shared, including profits made as well as divisions of the intellectual property if you should ever end your partnership.