Intellectual Property Overview

Intellectual property (IP) is a category of property that includes intangible creations of the human intellect. There are many types of intellectual property, and some countries recognize more than others. The most well-known types are copyrights, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets. The modern concept of intellectual property developed in England in the 17th and 18th centuries. The term “intellectual property” began to be used in the 19th century, though it was not until the late 20th century that intellectual property became commonplace in the majority of the world’s legal systems.

The main purpose of intellectual property law is to encourage the creation of a wide variety of intellectual goods. To achieve this, the law gives people and businesses property rights to the information and intellectual goods they create, usually for a limited period of time. This gives economic incentive for their creation, because it allows people to benefit from the information and intellectual goods they create, and allows them to protect their ideas and prevent copying. These economic incentives are expected to stimulate innovation and contribute to the technological progress of countries, which depends on the extent of protection granted to innovators.


A trademark indicates to the buying public who is the source of the product or service and distinguishes you in the marketplace.

It forms part of your brand, and your brand is your reputation and allows you to establish a price premium for your products.

When you work with the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) this is the test they are going to use in evaluating your trademark.

Design Patents

A design patent gives its owner a 14-year monopoly in the appearance of an article of manufacture.  That is, a design patent protects the distinctive way a functional item looks.

A design patent must be novel, non-obvious, and purely ornamental, that is, the design can’t affect functionality.

Design patents cover only the features shown as solid lines. Items shown as dotted lines are not covered.

Trade Secrets

Some formula, practice, design, instrument, or compilation of information (1) not generally known (2) or easy to obtain (3), that gives a company a sustainable completive advantage.

Elements of a Trade Secret:

  • It is secret
  • It confers a competitive advantage on its owner
  • It is subject to reasonable efforts to maintain its secrecy

Utility Patents

The 800 Pound Gorilla of the IP world and the most common type of patent, is the utility patent. A utility patent is granted to new and useful inventions. It can protect how a new machine, chemical or process works.

Before filing a formal utility patent application, you may want to file a provisional application to secure your filing date and patent pending status.

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