General Information On Intellectual Property
In general terms, intellectual property is any
product of the human mind that the law protects from unauthorized use by
others. The ownership of intellectual property inherently creates a
limited monopoly in the protected property. Intellectual property is
traditionally comprised of four categories: patents for inventions,
copyrights for literary and artistic works and symbols, trade secrets for
economically valuable business secrets and trademarks for symbols, names,
images and designs used in commerce. Each of these categories has specialized
laws that encourage creativity and fair competition by providing owners of
intellectual property with rights and protections in return for their
Protecting your intellectual property is
incredibly important. In our technology-driven society, for some organization's intellectual property can even be more valuable than physical property.
Patents are granted for inventing new and
useful processes, machines, articles of manufacture or compositions of matter.
The inventor is granted limited monopoly rights in return for public disclosure
of the invention. Getting a patent requires a long and complicated
process. However, the patent owner gains the right to stop others from
making, using, selling or distributing the patented invention without the
owner's permission. This bundle of rights is called a "limited
monopoly." In exchange, the patent has to fully describe the
invention and the owner's rights end about twenty years after filing the
There are three different types of
patents. By far most common is the "utility" patent, which
covers functional inventions. The rarest type is the plant patent, which
covers certain types of newly created plants. Design patents protect
non-functional, ornamental or decorative aspects of an object.
You can read more about patents here.
Trademarks are words, names, symbols, sounds,
or colors that allow customers to easily identify and authenticate the source
of a service or product. They are also the face of the company and have the
potential to be renewed indefinitely. You can read more about trademarks here.
Copyrights protect authors who create original
writings, music, and works of art, regardless of whether the works are
published. Copyrights protect only physical works and do not protect the ideas
behind the works.
While a copyright notice is not required, it informs the
public that the work is protected. You can read more about copyrights here.
Trade secrets include any information a company
keeps secret to give it an advantage over its competitors. The
information must have economic value and must be kept secret using a reasonable
level of security.
A famous example of that is the formula for Coca-Cola®
soda. Trade Secret law is controlled at the state, not federal level.