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Types of Intellectual Property and How they Fit Into an IP Strategy

When developing an Intellectual Property Strategy, it is important to understand the different types of intellectual property (IP) assets and how they are applied to business activities.  This article provides an overview of several types of IP assets.
  1. Copyright – Provides a legal right to exclude others from publishing, selling, or distributing a literary or artistic work.  Copyright protection applies to specific expressions of an idea, but not to abstract ideas themselves.  Consider copyright protection for books, articles, manuscripts, music, artwork and computer software.
  2. Trademark – Applies to a word, design, logo, picture, slogan, or other symbol used to identify a source of products or services.  A trademark is typically identified using a TM, SM, or ® notation.  The ® symbol designates a Federally Registered Trademark (registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office).  Companies commonly use trademarks to protect their company name, advertising slogans and corporate logos/identifiers.
  3. Trade Secret – Business information that is subject to reasonable efforts by the business to keep the information confidential.  This information has value to the company because it is not generally known in the marketplace.  Examples include recipes, formulas, customer lists, marketing plans and manufacturing techniques.
  4. Patent – A grant by the government to an inventor.  The inventor has the right to exclude others from making, using, or selling the invention.  Three general types of patents include utility patents, design patents and plant patents.  Utility patents are useful in protecting the functional aspects of a product or process.  A design patent protects the ornamental design of a product.  Plant patents protect new varieties of living plants.  Consider patent protection for  products, methods, computer software, manufacturing processes and chemical compounds.

These different types of intellectual property offer varying levels of protection and distinct procedures necessary to protect the IP asset.  A successful Intellectual Property Strategy considers each type of IP asset and leverages IP assets that are appropriate for the particular company and consistent with the company’s goals.

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