1. Have students draw to create intellectual property.
Ask all students to paint or draw a picture that illustrates themselves involved in their favorite activity or hobby. Tell students not to put their name anywhere on their picture.

2. Display students' artwork.
Hang the finished pictures on the wall.

3. Have students claim pieces of artwork.
Have all students take turns choosing one picture that is not their own. Have them take the picture off the wall and write their name on it.

4. Ask students to present the artwork they claimed.
Ask each student to identify with the person in the picture by giving a one or two minute impromptu presentation to the class with a made-up explanation of what "they" are doing in the picture. Encourage students to have fun by creating a story around the particular images in the pictures they have selected.

5. Introduce the concept of intellectual property.
Explain to students that what they just did is an example of intellectual property theft. Tell students that intellectual property (IP) is an original idea or product that is protected by law. The law gives only the creator the right to use or benefit from the idea or product. Make sure students understand intellectual property by asking them for examples of the types of ideas or products that are considered intellectual property. Examples may include inventions, songs, stories, and logos.

6. Have students brainstorm real-world examples of intellectual property theft.
Ask students to brainstorm some specific examples of IP theft in the world economy. Write their examples on the board. Examples may include:

  • counterfeit brand-name purses
  • counterfeit pharmaceuticals
  • counterfeit car parts, such as brake pads
  • pirated movies, music, or computer software

Extending the Learning

If possible, have students watch the National Geographic film Illicit: The Dark Trade. An excerpt of the film is provided in this activity. Go to the PBS website to find out where you can get the full DVD.

Subjects & Disciplines

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • identify real-world examples of intellectual property theft

Teaching Approach

  • Learning-for-use

Teaching Methods

  • Brainstorming
  • Hands-on learning

Skills Summary

This activity targets the following skills:

Connections to National Standards, Principles, and Practices

National Geography Standards

  • Standard 16:  The changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution, and importance of resources

Voluntary National Content Standards in Economics

  • Standard 10: Role of Economic Institutions:  Institutions evolve in market economies to help individuals and groups accomplish their goals. Banks, labor unions, corporations, legal systems, and not-for-profit organizations are examples of important institutions. A different kind of institution, clearly defined and enforced property rights, is essential to a market economy.

What You’ll Need

Materials You Provide

  • Drawing paper
  • Paint
  • Pencils

Required Technology

  • Internet Access: Optional
  • Tech Setup: 1 computer per classroom, Projector, Speakers
  • Plug-Ins: Flash

Physical Space

  • Classroom


  • Large-group instruction

Background Information

In today’s global marketplace, intellectual property (IP) is important. Under IP laws, creations of the mind—such as inventions, songs, stories, or logos—are considered assets just like one’s home or car. Thieves steal this property from individuals and manufacture billions of dollars worth of counterfeit merchandise. Nearly every industry, from software to toys to pharmaceuticals, is being affected.

Prior Knowledge

  • None

Recommended Prior Activities

  • None



system of production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.

identity theft

use of someone else's personal data.

intellectual property

material created by creative thought that is protected by trademark or copyright.