Your intellectual property (IP) has the potential to be an extremely valuable asset, and understanding the fundamentals of IP rights is crucial for safeguarding and leveraging your innovations and creations.

So what constitutes IP? What should you consider protecting? 

 Let’s explore the basics of the three main sets of IP rights: patents, trademarks, and copyrights.


Key purpose: Protecting Innovations

Patents provide inventors exclusive rights to their inventions for a specific length of time.

Two main types: Utility patents for useful processes, machines, or manufactured articles (e.g., software, electronic goods, and product packaging) and design patents for ornamental designs (e.g., what an invention or creative work looks like, its shape and configuration, and any specific ornamentation or coloration).

Utility patents protect how something works, while design patents protect how something looks.

Utility patent protection lasts 20 years, and design patent protection lasts 15 years.


Key purpose: Protecting Your Brand 

Trademarks serve to identify a source of goods and services. 

Trademarks can be logos, names, symbols, sounds, and even product shapes and designs, product packaging, and colors.

A trademark protects against consumer confusion in the marketplace, and when used and maintained correctly, can build valuable goodwill for the trademark owner. 

You don’t need a trademark registration to own or enforce a trademark in the U.S. (ownership comes via use), but trademark registrations can provide significant additional legal protections and benefits. 

Trademark rights can last forever if you continuously and correctly use the trademark. 


Key purpose: Protecting Creative Works

Copyrights protect original creative works like literature, art, music, and software code fixed in a tangible medium. A work that is fixed in a tangible medium could, for example, be written on paper, saved to a computer hard drive, or recorded by a camera.

Copyright protection is automatically granted when a work is created and fixed in a tangible medium, although a copyright registration provides significant additional legal protections and benefits.

Copyright owners have the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, publish, perform, display, and adapt their works.

Copyright protection generally lasts for the length of the author’s life plus another 70 years. 


Understanding these fundamental aspects of IP can help you navigate the complex world of protecting your ideas, products, and creative works. Each type of IP serves a unique purpose, and knowing how to leverage them can be a game-changer for your business.

Remember, IP rights can vary by country and industry, so it’s essential to consult with legal experts or IP professionals to ensure your IP is adequately protected.

Do you have any questions about your IP? Contact us to see how we can help you protect and leverage your IP rights. 

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