What is Intellectual Property?
To encourage the creation of valuable ideas, and protect
them from being stolen, the U.S. legal system developed the
concept of intellectual property.
The four key classes of intellectual property are:
Patent: A grant issued by the federal
government giving an inventor the right to exclude others
from making, having made, using, leasing, offering to sell,
selling, or importing an invention in the United States. A
patent, however, does not necessarily guarantee inventors
the right to make, use or sell their inventions; in some cases,
utilizing a patented invention depends on another person's
prior, unexplored patent. Violating patent rights is known
as infringement and can be litigated. Patent infringement
occurs when one violates each element of at least one claim
in a patent.
Trademark/ ® : A non-functional
word, logo, slogan, symbol, designor any combination
of thesethat distinguishes a product or service. Essentially
brand names, trademarks promote competition by giving products
corporate identity and marketing leverage. Trademarks do not
need to be registered, but federal registration can help to
protect the mark legally.
Copyright/© : A right that protects
original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of
expression. Copyrights can include published and unpublished
worksliterary, dramatic, musical and dance compositions,
films, photographs, audiovisual works, paintings, sculpture,
and other visual works of art, as well as computer programsfrom
being copied. Copyright protects the expression of ideas,
not the ideas themselves, and gives their authors exclusive
rights to reproduce the copyrighted material.
Trade Secret: A formula, pattern, manufacturing
process, method of doing business, or technical know-how that
gives its holder a competitive advantage. Trade secrets cover
a wide spectrum of information, including chemical compounds,
machine patterns, customer lists and software. No federal
law protecting trade secrets exists; legal definitions vary
from state to state so inventors should make careful note
of the requirements depending on the location.