Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is a term that refers to a right in an intangible asset in the form of patents, trademarks, copyright or trade secret. Intellectual property rights determine the rights to make, use, sell, display and manufacture. These rights can be transferred, sold or licensed to others.

What is a Patent?

A patent is the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling in the country in which the patent applies. For example, if you hold a U.S. patent, you can stop others from making your invention overseas and selling it in the U.S. Patents are very powerful forms of intellectual property because they can prohibit others from making inventions that do the same thing as your invention ("functional equivalents") as well as protecting products that precisely copy it. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is an agency in the United States Department of Commerce that provides patent protection to inventors and businesses for their inventions, and trademark registration for product and intellectual property identification.

What Is a Trademark or Servicemark?

A trademark is a word, name, symbol or device which identifies the source of goods and services. Its primary value relates to branding and recognition in the marketplace. A servicemark is the same as a trademark except that it identifies and represents a service rather than a product.

What Is a Copyright?

Copyright is a form of protection provided to the authors of creative, expressive works. This covers a wide range of work, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works, both published and unpublished. It is important to understand that a copyright protects the form of expression rather than functional ideas or concepts. For example, a copyright on software would protect against copying of the computer code but generally won't protect others from creating their own code that accomplishes the same function. (In contrast, a patent, as discussed, protects functionality). The United States Copyright Office has detailed information available.

What is a Trade Secret?

Trade secrets are types of business and technical information that are generally known. Trade secrets are generally protected under state law, which is based on the Uniform Trade Secrets Act. Types of information that can be protected as a trade secret include formulas, patterns, programs, devices, compilations of information, methods, techniques, and processes.