Intellectual Property (IP) is an umbrella term referring to several legal devices that enable a person or business to distinguish itself from its competitors through creations of the mind, such as inventions, literary and artistic works, designs, symbols, names and images used in commerce (to name but a few). IP can transform creative/inventive endeavors into property rights that in turn enable people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create.
IP laws have been established to foster an environment in which creativity and innovation can flourish.
Generally understood, there are four types of IP: Patents, Trademarks, Copyrights, and Trade Secrets. Each type protects the interests of an inventor or creator in a different way. It is not uncommon for a creative business to utilize all four types of IP to protect different aspects of its creative endeavors. Following is a summary overview of each type of IP.
What is a Patent?
A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention that provides a new way of doing something, or that offers a new technical solution to a problem. A patent provides its owner with protection for a limited period, generally 20 years.
What is a Trademark?
A trademark is a distinctive sign that identifies certain goods or services produced or provided by an individual or a company. Trademarks date back to ancient times when craftsmen reproduced their signatures, or “maker marks,” on their work products. Over the years, these marks have evolved into today’s system of trademark registration and protection. The system helps consumers identify and purchase a product or service based on whether its specific characteristics and quality meet their needs. A trademark will provide its owner with protection for an unlimited period, provided the mark remains distinctive and other formalities are observed.
What is a Copyright?
Copyright laws grant authors, artists and other creators protection for their literary and artistic creations, which are often known simply as “works.” Works covered by copyright include, but are not limited to: novels, poems, plays, reference works, newspapers, advertisements, computer programs, databases, films, musical compositions, choreography, paintings, drawings, photographs, sculpture, architecture, maps and technical drawings. A copyright provides its owner with protection for a limited period, generally the lifetime of the author plus an additional 70 years.
What is a Trade Secret?
Generally stated, a trade secret is any information that is not generally known or easily ascertainable to the public and that a business guards against disclosure in order to obtain an economic advantage over competitors (or customers). Trade secrets are sometimes known as “confidential information” or “proprietary information.” Trade secrets may include a wide variety of business-confidential information including formulas, practices, processes, instrumentations, patterns, compilations of data, marketing plans, pricing strategies, customer lists, etc. Most jurisdictions provide criminal penalties for misappropriation (i.e., theft) of trade secrets. A trade secret will provide its owner with protection for an unlimited period, provided the information remains secret and other formalities are observed.
It has been said that the progress and well-being of a society is directly related to its capacity to create and invent new works in the areas of technology and culture. IP plays a vital role to encourage innovation and creativity. The promotion and protection of IP, in turn, spurs economic growth, creates new jobs and industries, and enhances the quality and enjoyment of life. Be it in a business or a community or a state or a nation, we all benefit from an environment in which creativity and invention flourish.
Endurance Law Group PLC specializes in all forms of intellectual property. We would be pleased to answer any questions that you might have about IP and your particular circumstances.