In any modern economy, intellectual property rights are very important. Intellectual property includes books, films, software, and ideas for new products or new ways of producing products. To protect intellectual property, the federal government grants a patent that gives an inventor-often a firm- the exclusive right to produce and sell a new product for a period of 20 years from the date the patent was filed. For instance, because Microsoft has a patent on the Windows operating system, other firms cannot sell their own versions of Windows. The government grants patents to encourage firms to spend money on the research and development necessary to create new products. If other companies could freely copy Windows, Microsoft would not have spent the funds necessary to develop it. Just as a new product or a new method of making a product receives patent protection, new books, films, and software receive copyright protection. Under US Law, the creator of a book, film, or piece of music has the exclusive right to use the creation during the creator’s lifetime. The creator’s heirs retain this exclusive right for 50 years after the death of the creator. In providing copyright protection for only a limited time, Congress provides economic incentives to creators while eventually-after the period of copyright has ended- allowing the creators’ works to be freely available. The longer the period of copyright, the more likely it is that some consumers will not gain access to the copyrighted work and the longer the wait before others can use the copyrighted work in their own work, for instance, by writing a sequel to a copyrighted book. Enforcement of Contracts and Property Rights Business activity often involves someone agreeing to carry out some action in the future. For example, you may borrow $20,000 to buy a car and promise the ban by signing a loan contract- that you will pay bac the money over the next five years. Or Facebook may sign a licensing agreement with a small technology company, agreeing to use that company’s technology for a period of several years in return for a fee. Usually these agreements take the form of legal contracts. For the market system to work, businesses and individuals have to rely on these contracts being carried out. If one party to a legal contract does not fulfill its obligations-perhaps the small company had promised Facebook exclusive use of its technology but then began licensing it to other companies-the other party can go to court to have the agreement enforced. Similarly, if property owners in the United States believe that the federal or state government has violated their rights under the Fifth of Fourteenth Amendments, they can go to court to have their rights enforced.