Your Intellectual Property Questions Answered

intellectual-property-questionsAs an Intellectual Property Law firm, we are constantly being asked about the types of intellectual property.

Many people know that they want their intellectual property (ie., inventions, ideas, art, writing, etc.) protected, but they are unsure as to what type of intellectual property protection they need.

The Intellectual Property Center is here to help.

We have put together this article to help you understand the types of Intellectual Property and what you can do to protect yourself.

Intellectual property is commonly considered to be made up of four underlying areas of law: Patent law, Copyright law, Trademark law and Trade Secret law.  Federal and State statutes give the owner of intellectual property various rights to use that intellectual property and also allow the owner to prevent others from using it.  As suggested by the areas of law, that intellectual property can be in the form of a patent, a copyright, a trademark, or a trade secret.  A description of each type of intellectual property is below.


Utility patents are granted to anyone who invents or discovers “any new useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof” that is also novel and non-obvious.  In other words, a patent protects new and significantly different inventions.  In addition, design and plant patents can be obtained.  Design patents are granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.  Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.

 Here are some examples of patents that were granted for famous inventions:


Copyrights are given to authors of “original works of authorship” that includes but is not limited to literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and other intellectual works, both published and unpublished.  Essentially, a copyright protects artistic expressions of abstract ideas.  It’s important to note that copyright protection is limited to an artist’s actual expression.  For example, a copyright in a book such as Romeo and Juliet would prevent others from copying the text of that book and the book’s unique artistic expressions, but it would not prevent others from writing their own love stories about a young couple whose parents forbid them from being together.

Some examples of copyright registrations for famous works of art include Michael Jackson’s album Thriller and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.


Trademarks are brand names and can consist of any word, name, symbol, device, or any combination thereof.  Unlike patents and copyrights, trademarks are primarily intended to identify and distinguish the goods/services of one seller or provider from those of others.  In short, trademarks indicate the source of goods or services, which allows providers to protect the integrity of those goods or services and also allows consumers to know who is providing those goods and services.  Trade Dress also falls under trademark law and protects aesthetic, non-functional design elements of a business and includes things such as the layout out design of a store, such as an Apple store, and the shape of a package, such as a Coca-Cola bottle.

Here are some famous Trademark registrations:

Trade Secrets

Trade secrets are commonly defined as a secret that is used in business and includes secret information such as a formula, patter, compilation, program, device, method, technique or process.  In some instances, a customer list can be considered a trade secret.  Even though the definition of a trade secret is simple, obtaining protection can be difficult as it requires that the information actually be secret and provide an economic advantage.

Some famous trade secrets include the recipes for Coca-Cola, Dr Pepper, and Thomas’ English Muffins as well as the formula for WD-40.

How The Intellectual Property Center can help

Choosing which type of intellectual property protection to pursue can be complicated.  Some cases may require a combination of copyright, patent, trademark and trade dress protection for your work, and depending on the nature of your business, multiple, overlapping forms of intellectual property protection may be advantageous.

Our experienced staff of attorneys has been assisting clients in intellectual property protection for years.  We have helped clients acquire patents, trademarks, and copyrights and have advised others on how to manage their trade secrets.  If you are in need on intellectual property protection or simply would like to know more about your options, please feel free to contact our office to schedule an initial consultation.