Four Types of IP Protection for Businesses
Entrepreneurs and business owners need to understand the basics of intellectual property law to best protect their hard-earned creations and ideas from unfair competition. Following four main types of intellectual property can be used to protect your business.
protect original works of authorship, such as literature, music, artistic works, and computer software. As the holder of a copyright, you have the exclusive right to reproduce, adapt, and distribute the work. A copyright exists from the moment the work is created, so registration is voluntary.
A patent grants property rights on inventions, allowing the patent holder to exclude others from making, selling or using the invention. There are 3 types of patents: utility, design and plant. A utility patent is the most common type, and it covers any process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvements thereof. A design patent covers any new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture. A plant patent covers any new variety of asexually-produced plant. A design patent lasts 14 years, and a utility or plant patent lasts 20 years.
A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, or design that distinguishes the source of the goods of one business from its competitors. Although rights in trademarks are acquired by use, registration with the “Registrar of Trademarks” makes it easier to enforce those rights.
A trade secret is a formula, process, device, or other business information that companies keep secret to give them an advantage over their competitors. Unlike the other types of intellectual property, you can't obtain protection by registering your trade secret. Instead, protection lasts only as long as you take the necessary steps to control disclosure and use of the information.