The four types of intellectual property are trade secrets, trademark, copyright, and patent. Securing the correct protection for your assets is very important, which is why consulting an experienced attorney is a must!
Trade secrets are specific, private information that is important to the creator or owner because it gives the owner a competitive advantage in the marketplace. In order to establish information as a “trade secret” and to receive the legal protections associated with them, the owner of a trade secret must actively behave in a manner that demonstrates their desire to protect the information.
Trade secrets are protected without official registration; however, when the rights of an owner are used without permission, i.e., infringed or misappropriated, the owner may ask a court to prevent the infringer from using the trade secret.
Trademarks are words, phrases, or symbols that identify the source of a product or service. As examples, take Nike® and the Nike® logo, the “swoosh,” both of which are recognized by nearly everyone. It is clear that when either of these trademarks are used on a product who created it. Trademark rights come from the use of the trademark and those rights can be held indefinitely.
Copyright protects original works of authorship that include literary works, music, art, photography, computer code, and many others. Copyright protections are automatic which means once you create something, the copyright is yours. However, if your copyright is infringed and you wish to file a lawsuit and recover damages, then you need to have previously registered for federal protection.
Patent is used to protect inventions (or discoveries) that are new, non-obvious, and useful, such as a new process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter. A patent owner is able to prevent everyone else from using, making, or selling the invention without permission.
Good business names and trademarks are those that are considered “distinct” under trademark law. The most distinct marks are coined words, for example, Exxon®, Polaroid®, and Xerox,® and the weakest are words that merely describe or are the generic name for your goods and services.