Protecting your intellectual property through trademarks, copyrights or patents ensure your creative and business innovations belong to you and only you. Learn how to exercise your intellectual property rights in this guide.
Intellectual property (IP) is defined as any creation of the mind, like an invention or company name. It may not be a physical object, but it is still your property like any physical possession. Just like with a house or a car, there are rights and protections that come with any type of property ownership.
Intellectual property rights protect IP like designs, brands and artistic works which are the creator’s property as soon as they are invented. This means that the creator immediately has rights over their IP.
The purpose of IP protection is to prevent people from using your IP without your permission. IP is typically protected by one of the three most common protections: patents, copyrights or trademarks.
Copyright protections apply to any original creative work, while patent protection applies to an invention. A trademark applied to words, phrases or designs that belong to a brand. To obtain copyright protection, you must have the original work of authorship, whether it be an architectural drawing or computer software. Then, you can register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office.
Protecting your IP in the form of words, phrases, graphics or designs involved trademarks. Obtaining federal trademark rights involves registering your trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
The patent process has been a popular point of conversation recently given the COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing, but the American patent process has been in place so long that it is interwoven into our history. Patents protect new, useful and non-obvious inventions from being replicated by others without permission.
Some IP is difficult to categorize, or there might be overlap between a copyright and a trademark. Below, there are some examples of different kinds of IP and how to protect them.
Architectural drawings are protected by copyright and can be registered in this fashion, while graphic designs are protected by trademarks if they belong to a brand. If the graphic designs are uniquely yours, they are protected by copyright.
Much like any original written work, blog posts or entries are protected by copyright but they must be registered to enforce said protections. Websites are also protected by copyright law.
Original software is protected by copyright law but mobile apps should be patented. However, it's important to note that employee creations or innovations made at or because of work are owned by the employer.
IP protection exists to provide protection to ensure that you are the only beneficiary of your creation. Whether you’re just created your own store or you’ve written an original work, trademarking or copyrighting your innovations will make sure that you are the only individual reaping the fruits of your labor.
Infographic by LegalZoom