First lets start off with what exactly is intellectual property? IP is the protection of creations of the mind in the same manner that you are physically protected with laws and regulations. This refers to artistic works including musical and literary, inventions, discoveries, and branding material such as logos, names and slogans. It is important to protect your IP for many reasons including deterring competition, marketing, and collecting damages from misuse. Here are the 5 main types, each offering unique protection:
Patents: are exclusive rights granted by the government to inventors in return for public disclosure of their invention, process or design. Patents typically last for 20 years and during this time allow you to either deny others the right to recreate and profit from your idea or sell them the right to use it. There are three types-
- Utility is the most common and protects the functionality of inventions with “useable” capabilities.
- Plant patents protect the discovery or invention of asexually reproduced plants.
- Design or Industrial Design are patents, which ONLY protect the ornamental design of the invention such as the look or style as opposed to a utility patent.
Trademarks: are “marks” which identify goods and services. Marks are recognizable symbols, names, phrases, logos, devises or any combination used to connect to a brand. They determine exclusive rights allowing owners to deny or sell permission to use their mark. Trademarks last for a minimum of five years and must be renewed subsequently there after.
Copyrights: restrict the rights of others to copy your artistic work such as music, books, and films among many other things. This also allows the creator to be credited for the work, decide who can use it, who can benefit from it, and who can adapt it into other forms. Copyrights typically last the duration of your life plus 50 to 100 years after death.
Trade secrets: are confidential information that provide competitive advantages over rival companies. They can be a recipe, formula, process, design or even a practice. Instead of making this information public through other forms of IP, trade secrets allow for the information to be protected from unauthorized use while not having to disclose publicly. (An example would be Coca Cola’s soda recipe.)
Trade Dress: is a broad term used to describe the distinctive visual elements of a product or service. This includes but is not limited to packaging, building design, décor, floor layout, employee uniform, or anything else that specifically connects to the source of a product.