Intellectual property is important to all businesses and artists-large or small. It can be a very valuable part of any portfolio if properly maintained. Intellectual property covers patents, trademarks, copyrights and to some extent trade secrets. Patents, trademarks and copyrights are all governed by federal statutes. Trademarks and copyrights will also have some state protections. Trade secrets are governed by state laws.

Patents protect inventions and improvements to existing inventions.

Trademarks are brand names and/or designs that are applied to products or used in connection with services. A trademark clearly identifies your product as unique. It might be a single word or combination of words, a symbol, a logo, a design or even a color. Because people make buying decisions based on a trademark, it can be an infinitely valuable business asset. Companies like McDonald's or Kimberly Clark (Kleenex brand tissues) will go to any lengths to protect their trademarks.

Copyrights cover literary, artistic and musical works. Copyrights are grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. A copyright protects creators of original works in the categories of literature, drama, music and artistic expression. A copyright is meant to keep others from copying the work, distributing it, displaying it or performing it without permission.

Trade secrets are proprietary information. This may include a confidential formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique or process. It is not common knowledge, but it is not protected by a patent.

Patents and trademarks are registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Copyrights are registered with the Copyright Office, which is part of the Library of Congress.

Our use of cookies

We use necessary cookies to make our site work. We would also like to set some optional cookies. We won't set these optional cookies unless you enable them. Please choose whether this site may use optional cookies by selecting 'On' or 'Off' for each category below. Using this tool will set a cookie on your device to remember your preferences.

For more detailed information about the cookies we use, see our Cookie notice.

Necessary cookies

Necessary cookies enable core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility. You may disable these by changing your browser settings, but this may affect how the website functions.

Functionality cookies

We'd like to set cookies to provide you with a better customer experience. For more information on these cookies, please see our cookie notice.