Protect Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is more than just patents. The term “intellectual property” or “IP” refers to any product of the human intellect that the law protects from unauthorized use by others. Use this page to understand some common aspects and notes related to intellectual property.

Patents are just one method for protecting your IP assets.

What is a Trade Secret?

Information that is not readily known or ascertainable by others that gives a business an economic advantage. Examples: Coca-Cola recipe; WD-40 formula. Trade secrets remain protected until they are disclosed.

Requirements of a Trade Secret

  • The information must be a secret.
  • The trade secret owner must take reasonable steps to maintain its secrecy.
Practice Tip:
“Reasonable steps” to maintain secrecy are different in every area of practice, and it is important to be able to show that the precautions taken to protect the trade secret were as reasonable as economically possible.

What is a Patent?

A set of rights granted to an inventor to protect an invention.

Invention Requirements

  • Patentable Subject Matter
  • Usefulness
  • Novelty
  • Nonobviousness
  • Disclosure

What Rights are Granted?

  • Exclusive rights to make, use and sell the invention.
  • Up to 20 years of protection.

Patent Approach

Review our patent approach information, here.

What is a Copyright?

A right that protects literary and artistic works

What Rights are Granted?

  • Exclusive rights to use and distribute the work.
  • Lasts for life plus 70 years

Copyright Requirements

  • Original
  • Fixed in a “tangible medium of expression”

Practice Tip:
Make sure to fix your work in some medium of expression. Just singing a song without recording it may not be fixed.

What is a Trademark?

Any word, name, symbol, or device that identifies and distinguishes the goods or services of a business.

What Rights are Granted?

Protection from others using your mark to sell their goods or services.

Trademark Requirements

  • The mark must represent to customers the source of the good or service identified.
  • The identifying mark must serve a identifying purpose.
  • It cannot be merely a description of the good itself or a generic term for the class of goods or services offered.
  • Use or intent to use in commerce.
Practice Tip:
A mark cannot be obtained unless there is a real intent to use the mark in commerce. Proof of use in commerce will significantly assist in getting Trademark protection.