This chapter provides the intellectual property law context and discusses a general overview of the key legal principles necessary for understanding the interoperability debate. Two forms of intellectual property—patents and copyrights—bear directly on the interoperability debate. The Library of Congress contains the Copyright Office, which handles the registration of copyrights. Congress accomplished this delicate balance by restricting the subject matter eligible for intellectual property protection and the duration of the protection. Utility patents are available for inventions in four statutory classes of subject matter: processes, machines, manufactures, and compositions of matter. The Semiconductor Chip Protection Act imported the copyright concepts of access, substantial similarity, idea/expression dichotomy, and merger. While federal law governs patents, copyrights, and chip protection, state law governs trade secret protection. Patents protect the processes implemented by the software, copyrights protect the software's expression, and trade secrecy protects features hidden from the public view.